The McCain-Palin campaign is running an advertisement "accusing " Barack Obama of once training ACORN members in Chicago. Obama should be proud of that. I've done it myself and am proud of it. I trained Chicago ACORN members in how to talk to the media about the wonderful work they do.
What sort of work? Chicago ACORN has worked to improve local schools, reducing class sizes, providing teachers with mentors and assistants. Chicago ACORN has worked to prevent predatory lending and reform predatory lending corporations, the opposite of what ACORN is accused of in the right-wing myth that blames Wall Street's troubles on Wall Street's victims. Chicago ACORN and its partner, Service Employees International Union Local 880, have worked to raise wages and working conditions for everyone -- yes, including all immigrants; there's no other way to do it. And ACORN has done work we should all appreciate in registering citizens to vote.
Here's something I wrote about Chicago ACORN five years ago that gives an idea of the creative and successful work they were engaged in:
Turning Up the Heat on Bush
January 9, 2003
By David Swanson, Democratic Underground
Yesterday afternoon three elderly women out of a group of 50 protesters were arrested in Illinois Republican Party headquarters in Chicago where they had settled in with blankets and declared that they were spending the night. These families, many without heat in their homes, were demanding that President Bush release money for energy assistance and not slash funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) this year. At least the jail had heat.
Bush is speaking in Chicago today about how he can pretend to try to stimulate the economy without doing the only thing that might work, namely putting money in the hands of people who need it. Bush believes that those who work for a living should go on being taxed, but that money gained from investments in the stock market should not be taxed. And why not? Surely there's nothing useful our government could do with $600 billion. I guess no one would be pleased if this money were used, for example, to create good public schools?
This president has an amazing power to make people feel physically ill by the sheer force of his cynical cruelty. But some people are ill for a less intellectual reason: they have no heat.
Mahaley Somerville, 81; Gwendolyn Stewart, 68; Beatrice Jackson, 53; and Virginia Goldman, 27, were arrested for trespassing at 32 W. Randolph, 17th floor, the offices of the Illinois and Cook County Republican Party yesterday when they went to call on President Bush to rescind his proposed cuts in federal energy assistance.
"I'm 81 years old, and these old bones would be more comfortable in my own bed tonight," said Mahaley Somerville, longtime leader of the community group ACORN and organizer in Chicago's Westside Lawndale community. "But as long as there are other senior citizens living without heat tonight, we will not stop until the President hears us."
Because President Bush will make his national speech on the economy in Chicago today, ACORN members called on him to add two things to his speech: Release the $500 million in emergency energy assistance funds that are at his disposal; Fund the Low Income Home Energy Program (LIHEAP) at the same level as last year: $1.7 billion (instead of the $1.4 billion or less that Bush has threatened).
"It's too bad when the Republicans have to put senior citizens in jail and leave other seniors without heat," said Beatrice Jackson, president of Illinois ACORN. "But we won't stop until Bush understands that a leader should not let his people freeze."
More than 50 members of ACORN joined in the sit-in at Republican headquarters on Monday afternoon. The security guard in the lobby stood with his arms out as everyone trooped in, got in elevators, and headed to the 17th floor. The ACORN members went in, put down their blankets and pillows, and announced they were spending the night.
The leaders, Mrs. Somerville, Gwen Stewart and Bea Jackson, made statements. "We're willing to go to jail if that's what it takes to win heating assistance for seniors and children and families who are freezing," they said.
Doris Rodgers spoke. She is 81, has been without heat for two years, and still owes $2,400 on her bill, though the gas company confirmed today that she had been paying every month.
The police arrived and arrested four ACORN leaders on charges of misdemeanor trespassing.
While the 50 ACORN members were in the Republican Party headquarters, the phone rang, and an ACORN member answered it "ACORN, Can I help you?"