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Was Steve King for ACORN before he was against it?
U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, has become one of the nation’s most outspoken opponents of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). He and other congressional Republicans organized a forum labeling the grassroots organization a “criminal enterprise,” and King even appeared on a national cable network to discuss the acorn-shaped cookie he discovered at a White House holiday party.
On Monday, he told the American Spectator, a conservative political magazine, that the problems associated with ACORN are “thousands of times bigger than Watergate because Watergate was only a little break-in by a couple of guys.” He added that “by the time we pull ACORN out by its roots America’s going to understand just how big this is.”
Media Matters, an organization that plays watchdog for conservative talking points in news reporting, latched on to King’s statement and distributed a group of votes by the Iowa congressman that, at least in part, supported ACORN:
- FY 2005 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, HR 4818, included a $140,000 teen delinquency prevention earmark for ACORN along with appropriations for foreign operations, export financing and other related programs.
- FY 2006 Department of Transportation, Treasury, and Housing and Urban Development appropriations, HR 3058, included $61 million for the Self-Help and Assisted Homeownership Opportunity Program, which provides ACORN with funding.
- The same bill, HR 3058, also included nearly $2 billion for the HOME investment partnerships program. Of that amount, $42 million was earmarked for housing counseling, which ACORN employs and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development trains and certifies.
Despite the tongue-in-cheek headline above, these votes do not make King a supporter of ACORN or their programs. Mostly, they simply add up to a Congressman who approved a very large slate of appropriations. It is, however, notable that King and other members of Congress now scrutinizing ACORN have made it a point to strip the organization of as many streams of federal funding as possible.
King’s recently piqued interest in ACORN’s funding, however, does follow a pattern outlined by Dr. Christopher R. Martin, a professor at the University of Northern Iowa and co-author of a study on the media’s coverage of ACORN. Martin and Dr. Peter Dreier, a professor at Occidental College in Los Angeles, found that prior to 2008 few Americans had any real knowledge about the organization, despite the fact that it was the largest community organizing group in the nation.
Within the study the two men present their case that the news stories about ACORN, which were predominantly focused on possible wrongdoing by the organization, were crafted and tested within the right-wing echo chamber before being pushed into the mainstream media during October 2008, just weeks ahead of the November presidential election. It was, in their estimation, a classic “October surprise” that would have garnered more reaction had it not been for the economic downturn — something the strategists, according to the two researchers, tried to link to ACORN via the foreclosure crisis.
“ACORN has become this huge kind of proxy for going after [President Barack] Obama,” Martin told The Iowa Independent in September.
Just days before, King stood on the floor of House with a Soviet-styled depiction of Obama behind him. With a metal pointer, King made the point that he believed Obama was ACORN’s “lead, chief organizer.”