Planned Parenthood, ACORN Video Frauds Are All About the Ballot Box

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Republicans Aim for Low Turn-Out on Election Day, 2016

What a sad state of affairs for the beacon of democracy that is America. One of our country’s two major political parties–the Republicans–seem to be basing their entire 2016 election strategy to keep the vast majority of people from exercising their right to vote. It worked for them in 2014.

The fear-mongering over immigration and Syrian refugees is just one example. The Republicans seem intent on intimidating and demoralizing traditional Democratic constituencies such as women and minorities by, among other things, demonizing the organizations that lead them. I guess onerous voter ID laws weren’t enough for these guys.

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Case in point: It is widely reported that a “competitive intelligence” team–a spy agency, that is–has set up shop at a  Koch Brothers network political office in Northern Virginia. The team consists of 25 operatives, including an ex-CIA agent. According to the magazine Esquire, the team is tasked to provide the conservative billionaires with documents

…detailing confidential voter-mobilization plans by major Democrat-aligned groups. It also sends regular “intelligence briefing” emails tracking the canvassing, phone-banking and voter registration efforts of labor unions, environmental groups and their allies.

It is known that the Koch Brothers are ready to spend $889 million on conservative Republican candidates in this coming election. So why the paranoid spy game? Could it be that they fully understand that the Republican policy agenda–privatizing Social Security, turning Medicare into a voucher program, tax schemes that favor the wealthy, war in the Middle East–is loathed by most Americans? Why not keep them home?

thWBHSNO7EIn the 2014 mid-term election, Republicans made solid gains across the electoral landscape, including taking back the US Senate. The 2014 election held another distinction: It was the worst voter turn-out in 72 years…since 1942, when this country was fighting a world war. Overall, the average turn-out among all states was a measly 36.3 percent. Low turn-out. Republican success. Do the math.

Planned Parenthood Takes a Stand in North Carolina
Incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan and Republican Thom Tillis battled for US Senate seat.

Incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan and Republican Thom Tillis battled for US Senate seat.

North Carolina’s 2014 US Senate race between incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan and Republican Thom Tillis was said to be “ground zero” in the battle for Senate majority. (My election-day article about the race, which the Republicans stole, is here.) The Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a part of the Koch Brothers’ political network, bombarded the state with advertising for Tillis a full year before the election, and carried out “the largest field campaign in its 10 year history in the state.”

Planned Parenthood took on the challenge to support Hagan, setting up an office in Raleigh bearing the sign, “Women Are Watching.” Planned Parenthood volunteers in their bright pink t-shirts were among the nearly 10,000 Hagan partisans canvassing the state. They came up breathtakingly short in a nationwide Republican rout, but Planned Parenthood left no doubt that it remained an electoral force to be reckoned with.

Deceptive Videos

Your are no doubt familiar with the video story. David Daleiden and his shady, virulently anti-choice Center for Medical Progress shot undercover videos which he deceptively edited to implicate Planned Parenthood staff in a scheme to profit off the sale of fetal tissue. The charge sparked investigations in five states–Pennsylvania, Georgia, Indiana, South Dakota and Massachusetts–which all cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing. But even as PP president Cecile Richard triumphed in a House Oversight hearing, the issue was being kept alive by conservatives desperate to find a smoking gun. They’re still trying.

It reminded me of another time and place…another organization ripped apart (this time permanently) by lies, deception and a McCarthy-esque disregard for decency and the truth.

Once upon a time...

Once upon a time…

ACORN–The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now–was in its day the premier advocate for low-income families. Among its many programs was registering to vote hundreds of thousands of people…mostly poor, many minority…many who had never exercised their Constitutional right at the ballot box.

This set off alarm bells in Republican circles. These were not GOP voters.

In 2009, a conservative “sting” videographer pretended he was a “pimp” and went undercover to several ACORN offices. He made suggestive comments about illegal activity. Most gave him the heave-ho, but he still managed to make wholesale edits to the film to make it seem like ACORN was enabling the underage “sex trade.” There were also accusations of “voter fraud.” Of course it was all a ruse. A very effective ruse.

While under investigation, ACORN lost several partnerships with private donors and was denied federal funding. Starved for money, it disbanded, even though several authorities, including the US Government Accountability Office, eventually found no wrongdoing. A law enforcement official publicly stated that the videographers “edited their tape to meet their agenda.” No voter fraud was ever substantiated. But low-income families lost their most effective voice.

Coda

The demise of ACORN should be a life lesson to Planned Parenthood and others like it that can find themselves in the crosshairs of right wing zealots. In this day and age, there is much less accountability for those making wild accusations. The mainstream media, usually the arbiter of political truth, is weakened by its transition to…whatever it will become.

Writing in the Huffington Post, Anhvihn Doanvo describes it perfectly:

Unsubstantiated ideas…are frequently published in the news media without a rigorous investigation into their veracity. Following their initial publication, these ideas are cited and re-cited by other news media and sometimes the originators themselves, creating a phenomenon known as “circular reporting,” repeatedly breathing life into lies as long as they’re not fact-checked.

Accusations, lies, deceptive videos: they’re all designed to discourage and demoralize people…and keep them home on election day. It’s a tried and true formula. But nothing works forever.

Don’t get mad, folks. Get voting.

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Andrew Goutman

Andrew Goutman is the editor of Enter, Stage Left.

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