Voodoo ACORNomics, Part One

Well, I’m delighted to see that other people have finally come to the same conclusion I did a while ago, and have filed a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization) lawsuit against ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) over their long-standing and increasingly blatant fraudulent voter registrations.

I’ve been keeping a jaundiced eye on ACORN for some time, and they’ve bounced around in my subconscious quite a bit. I’ve given quite a bit of thought to just what they do, what their model is, and trying to grasp just what they are all about. This is all utterly half-assed speculation and a bit of fantasy mixed together, but I think it hangs together fairly well.

I’m no economist, but I’ve often found that an economic model is often a reliable way of understanding things like motives and goals and whatnot. At their essence, every single individual and organization is governed by the profit motive: they want to maximize their benefits.

That even works for non-profit organizations like ACORN. In those cases, you just have to recognize that their definition of “profit” is not purely economic. Once you figure out just what it is, then the rest falls into place.

Their stated goal is not very helpful. “Reform Now.” That’s as vague as an Obama speech or a Bill Clinton promise. And looking at their ideals — helping the poor acquire political power as a step towards economic and social advancement — is equally pointless.

No, what I think is important is to tune out their words and look at their deeds. Their wonderful intentions don’t really matter much; it is what they do, not what they say, that truly shapes events.

And since the activities that have earned my ire — and that of so many others — has been the gross violations of voter registration laws, corrupting the electoral process, let’s look at just what they are doing in that field in hopes of understanding how they are doing it, why they are doing it, and what possible consequences might come.

First up, let’s bring back the profit motive here. In our society, once an organization declares itself a non-profit, it doesn’t automatically become exempt from the basic laws of economics. It simply redefines those terms. They still need to take in money to operate, and they still need to show some productive results to sustain that income. The differences are that the productive results are not financial, and the people who supply them with the money are not the actual consumers of those productive results. In other words, they don’t have to produce something of value, just convince their backers that they have — because those backers aren’t actually buying the product or service for themselves.

In ACORN’s case here, they have chosen to define their “profit” as gross numbers of new voter registrations. The bigger the number they can claim to have registered, the greater their success and “profit” they can boast about and convince their backers that their money was well spent. It’s a simple equation: more voters registered equals more success.

There are complications, of course. There are only a finite number of eligible voters out there to be tapped. And while that number is always expanding as people are either turning 18 or becoming citizens faster than they are dying or giving up their citizenship or becoming convicted felons, it’s nowhere near as fast a growth as ACORN needs.

But it’s raw numbers that ACORN is interested in, not confirmed numbers. There is absolutely no incentive for ACORN to perform any kind of quality control on those numbers. Indeed, in many states, that is barred by law — they are obligated to turn over any and all voter registrations to local officials, even if they are utterly convinced that it is fraudulent. Sure, they can indicate those they think are suspicious, but they don’t have to.

And just how does ACORN collect these registrations? By having its people — both volunteers and hired representatives — go out and get people on the street to fill out the forms.

Now, these people have no assigned quotas — at least, not officially. Just like police officers and traffic tickets. But there are often unofficial quotas, and those that ACORN hires are those with very poor employment prospects of their own — they’ve been caught many a time hiring convicted felons to do registrations, which is illegal. Even more appalling is that these felons have included such savory types as sex offenders and identity thieves, two groups who should absolutely NOT be allowed anywhere near this sort of thing.

So here we have a bunch of people working for ACORN who are told that their job is to collect voter registrations. A large percentage of them have no proven track record for reliability or trustworthiness. They are told that they are “expected” to produce a certain number of registrations each day they work. And they are told that the people who give them their paychecks will not be checking on their work to make sure that they don’t cheat.

Is it any wonder that, in those circumstances, that so many of them will just start filling out the forms themselves, making up any old names (such as, say, “Mickey Mouse” or “Tony Romo”) and filling in whatever information they feel like? The end result of doing so will be just the same as if they actually went out and tracked down twenty unregistered voters, and a hell of a lot easier. Especially when they KNOW, as an absolute fact, that the people giving them their paychecks won’t be verifying a single detail.

Again, we see the danger in the economic disconnect: there is no direct tie between those who will be verifying the quality of these people’s work (the public officials in charge of maintaining the voter rolls) and those paying the people producing the work (ACORN). With absolutely no incentive to produce quality registrations, and no penalty for generating bogus ones, it should come as no surprise that a lot of them will take the easy way out. Lord knows I’d be tempted, and most people — if they were honest — would admit the same.

So here we see that ACORN has set up a business model to generate tremendous numbers of voter registrations, with absolutely no quality control to catch and prevent bogus ones. And, indeed, a hefty incentive to allow them — they increase the gross total of registrations that they can claim as their “profit,” knowing that those rejected by government officials will not affect their “profits” in the least. The question of malicious intent is largely moot — remember, we’re judging them not on their words or intentions or goals, but actual deeds here. Remember the aphorism about the road to hell, and the pavement thereof.

OK, that covers what they are doing, and why. That still leaves the consequences of their actions. What harm is all this causing?

I’m closing in on 1200 words here already, so I think I’ll save the rest of that for later today.

Bye Bye Tim Mahoney
What Voters Need to Know