Project Vote: Extended Profile By Richard Poe
Project Vote is the voter mobilization arm of the radical cult ACORN. It is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose alleged purpose is to carry out “non-partisan” voter registration drives; to counsel voters on their rights; and to litigate on behalf of voting rights – focusing on the rights of the poor and the “disenfranchised.”
Its web site claims that Project Vote has “registered and turned out to vote over 3 million low income and minority citizens” since its founding in 1982.
The stated purpose of Project Vote is to work within the system, using conventional voter-mobilization drives and litigation to secure the rights of minority and low-income voters under the U.S. Constitution. However, Project Vote’s actions suggest that its true agenda is more radical.Its activities appear to be aimed at overwhelming, paralyzing and discrediting the voting system through fraud, protests, propaganda and vexatious litigation.
In this respect, Project Vote appears to be following the so-called “crisis strategy” or Cloward-Piven Strategy pioneered during the Sixties by Columbia University political scientists Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven.
During the 1960s, the Welfare Rights Movement which Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven created succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Exactly as they predicted, mobilizing masses of poor people to storm welfare offices – both literally and figuratively – demanding every penny to which the system entitled them by law caused a wholesale collapse not only of the social services bureaucracy, but of the larger economy which supported it. New York City, where NWRO’s legions hit hardest, actually went bankrupt in 1975 as a direct result of the hemorrhage of city funds into welfare payments.
From the radical perspective of Cloward and Piven, this was success. It demonstrated for all to see that welfare did not and could not eliminate poverty. The ruling classes would never allocate enough money to make a difference. If the poor wished to better their lives, they would have to demand fundamental change – a new social compact guaranteeinga living wage for all Americans, whether or not they worked.
This was a distant goal, however. Cloward and Piven were realists. They knew that America was not yet ready for socialist revolution. It was necessary to be patient.
For the time being, poor people would have to live with a little “repression,” as Cloward and Piven called it – society’s inevitable backlash against the crime, drug abuse, indolence, broken families, and economic chaos that their strategy had created. The backlash came in the form of cutbacks, workfare and finally the “end of welfare as we know it,” in the form of the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, which imposed time limits on federal welfare, along with strict eligibility and work requirements.
Plainly, Cloward and Piven had pushed the welfare gambit as far as it would go. But they had not yet run out of tricks. They still had their “crisis strategy.” And they knew it worked. The only question was where to apply it next?
Cloward and Piven answered that question in 1983 when they founded the Human Service Employee Registration, Voting and Education campaign Fund (Human SERVE Fund). Its purpose, they said, was to increase voter turnout among the poor. But they chose a unique way of achieving this purpose. Unlike Project Vote – formed the previous year by ACORN – Human SERVE would not waste time on conventional door-to-door canvassing or even on the more effective method of registering people in food stamp and unemployment lines which Project Vote had pioneered. Human SERVE would “promotereform through executive action,” wrote Cloward and Piven in The Nation of November 23, 1985.
They would lobby government officials directly to enact laws and regulations requiring “directing public employees to offer to register citizens applying for services at government agencies. This would make it possible to register in welfare and unemployment offices, Medicaid and food stamp recertification centers, or in libraries and departments of motor vehicles.” This tactic proved remarkably effective. Cloward and Piven write:
“[B]etween March and September of this year , Human Serve helped obtain six gubernatorial executive orders permitting registration assistance in state offices. The Governors of Texas, Ohio, New York and Montana directed that such services be provided by all agencies; in New Mexico and West Virginia they limited the services to public welfare offices. Governor Rudy Perpich of Minnesota publicly endorsed the plan but did not mandate it. Orders were also issued in two dozen counties and cities, including such metropolitan centers as Austin, Texas; Newark; Dayton, columbus and Cleveland, Ohio; Portland, Oregon; Miami and Tallahassee, Florida. There were even some legislative victories. Washington, Florida and Maryland passed bills directing state employees to offer to register citizens.”
Cloward and Piven’s final victory came on May 20, 1993, when President Clinton signed the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 – commonly called the “Motor-VoterAct.” It ordered every state to provide resources enabling people to register to vote at state agencies, at the same time they applied for drivers’ licenses, welfare, Medicaid and disability benefits.
When President Clinton signed the bill, Cloward and Piven stood behind him, in tacit acknowledgment of their role in formulating the new law. Their work was now done. On June 2000, they dissolved Human SERVE, confident that the juggernaut they had set in motion could no longer be stopped.
ACORNand Project Vote were still in the game, however. The task would fall to them to figure out how to make Motor Voter work in the streets. Much as Cloward and Piven had turned George Wiley loose to implement their “flood-the-rolls, bankrupt the cities” in the Sixties, they now released ACORN and Project Vote to put the “crisis strategy” to work at the polls.
Cloward and Piven had appointed National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO) veteran Hulbert James executive director of Human SERVE. He went on to play a major role in other voting rights organizations. Other NWRO veterans had found a home in ACORN, including ACORN’s founder, former SDS militant and NWRO activist Wade Rathke. ACORN co-founder Zach Polett also came out of George Wiley’s NWRO. He founded Project Vote in 1982 and leads it to this day, while simultaneously serving as ACORN’s political director.
The Motor Voter law led quickly to a crisis in our voter registration system – as indeed its formulators may have intended from the start. Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund makes these observations in his book Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy:
“Perhaps no piece of legislation in the last generation better captures the `incentivizing’ of fraud… than the 1993 National Voter Registration Act… Examiners were under orders not to ask anyone for identification or proof of citizenship. States also had to permit mail-in voter registrations, which allowed anyone to register without any personal contact with a registrar or election official. Finally, states were limited in pruning `dead wood’ – people who had died, moved or been convicted of crimes – from their rolls. … Since its implementation, Motor Voter has worked in one sense: it has fueled an explosion of phantom voters.”
In an investigative report published just two days before the 2000 election, Bill Theobald of the Indianapolis Star warned that the epidemic of “phantom voters” could cast a cloud of doubt over the upcoming elections. And he was correct. During the election crisis of 2000, major media kept our eyes focused on the hanging chads in Broward County, Florida. But the dirty secret of 2000 is that our vote-counting system from coast to coast had already broken down under the weight of the Motor Voter law and its perverse incentives.
Theobald reported that, on Indiana’s voter rolls alone, “hundreds of thousands of names, as many as one in five statewide… are bogus since the people behind those names have moved, died or gone to prison.” Each and every “dead wood” registration was a potential “phantom vote” in the hands of an unscrupulous political operative. The system was out of control.
In 1996, Project Vote became involved in Teamstergate – a criminal conspiracy to embezzle funds from the Teamster treasury, launder them through outside organizations, then siphon them back into the re-election war chest of Teamsters president Ron Carey in 1996. According to trial testimony, the operation was approved by high-level White House and DemocraticParty officials.
Teamster president Ron Carey is known to have laundered at least $1 million through a daisy chain of leftwing non-profit groups that included Project Vote; Citizen Action; the National Council of Senior Citizens and Teamsters for a Corruption Free Union – not to mention the AFL-CIO and the Democratic Party itself. The various “pass-through” groups received kickbacks and barter arrangements for their money-laundering services (Michael Ledeen and Mike Moroney, “The White House Joins the Teamsters,” The American Spectator, November 1998; Moroney, “Union Corruption and Campaign Contributions”).
Carey won the election. Unfortunately for him, one rank-and-file union member resented the misuse of his dues and decided to blow the whistle.In the end, seven conspirators were convicted in federal court for involvement in Teamstergate,but almost all were low-level players. Trial testimony directly implicatedTeamsters president Ron Carey; AFL-CIO president John Sweeney; AFSCME president Gerald McEntee;SEIU president Andrew Stern; UMW president Richard Trumka and 1996 Clinton-Gore reelection manager Terry McAuliffe. Of these, only Ron Carey would be indicted. The rest got off scot-free.
ACORN and Project Vote learned nothing from their run-in with federal prosecutors in the Teamstergate matter – except perhaps for the dubious lesson that those who make themselves useful to the organized Left often escape criminal indictment. A persistent pattern of lawlessness follows ACORN/Project Vote activists wherever they go. For example,one Project Vote contractor – a single mother of three – forged 400 voter registration cards in 1998. “Some of the addresses listed on these applications were traced to vacant lots, boarded-up buildings, abandoned buildings, and nonexistent house numbers,” notes a report by the Employment Policies Institute (The Real ACORN: Anti-Employee, Anti-Union, Big Business, Employment Policies Institute, October 2004).
Supervisors offer excuses when their canvassers are caught cheating. They blame such misconduct on a few bad apples. Yet the supply of “bad apples” never seems to run out.
Former Miami-Dade field director for ACORN’s 2004 voter mobilization Mac Stuart has testified that fraud is standard procedure for ACORN/Project Vote canvassers --behavior which is not only tolerated but encouraged by supervisors. “[T]he voter registration project has been operating illegally since it started,” Stuart told investigators.
In the 2004 election cycle, ACORN and Project Vote canvassers fanned out by the thousands across battleground states, turning up repeatedly in press reports and on police blotters in connection with fraudulent petitioning and voter registration. Canvassers were caught or accused of filing registrations in duplicate, filing them for deceased or imaginary people or, in some cases, destroying large numbers of Republican registrations.
Meanwhile, protesters, press agents and attorneys for these organizations have kept up a ceaseless clamor over Republican “voter intimidation,” “minority disenfranchisement,”electronic voter fraud and various other issues – valid or otherwise – which tend to muddy the waters and distract attention from their own transgressions.