Smashing ACORN

The Express-News ran two pickup stories this week -- one from the New York Times, the other from the Associated Press -- about ACORN's potentially fatal fiscal problems. Below, you'll find a story by Current sister paper Metro Times that details the crimes against an organization that surely (legally and fairly) helped elect Barack Obama, and was just as surely targeted for destruction by elements on the right (with an assist from mainstream media). More related reading: the Current's early look at attempts to bring down the social-justice organization during the 2008 election.

Smashing ACORN

by Curt Guyette

You haven't seen Carrie Guzman on the television shows hosted by archconservatives Bill O'Reilly or Glenn Beck. Her name hasn't appeared on the op-ed page of The Wall Street Journal. And she hasn't shown up in any surreptitiously videotaped sting operations conducted by youthful right-wing zealots.

In fact, Guzman represents a face of the group ACORN that has been largely absent from the media in general since various factions of the right wing set out to discredit and cripple the anti-poverty organization.

At least she used to be a part of Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. As head of the Lansing office, she worked out of a small office in that city for four years, putting in long hours while making just $30,000 a year. Given that Guzman holds a Ph.D. in community development, the pay is exceptionally meager. But she loved the job nonetheless, seeing it as a way to continue providing a public service after retiring from Michigan State University, where she previously served as director of the undergraduate social work program.

But late last year, after the federal government illegally cut off funding to the nonprofit and threatened to do the same to any other entity either affiliated or even associated with the group, ACORN in Michigan shut down all operations.

One year before the ax fell, Michigan ACORN had offices in Detroit, Lansing, Saginaw, Flint and Grand Rapids. At its peak, it had more than 20 full-time staff and represented more than 10,000 member families around the state.

In 2008, according to organization officials, it helped more than 1,000 families get their taxes filed, saved some 75 families from foreclosure, and assisted more than 150,000 people in filling out voter registration applications.

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