Nearly everyone has heard of the corruption-plagued organization ACORN. Yet many gun owners are unaware of the organization's strong anti-gun activities and ties

America's 1st Freedom, Dec. 2009

By Dave Kopel

Question: Who is responsible for the worst anti-gun law so far in 2009?

Answer: the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now--ACORN--perhaps the most notoriously corrupt organization in American politics.

This unfortunate story begins in Jersey City, N.J., which, like ACORN, has a long history of corruption and of suppression of liberty. From 1917 to 1947, Frank Hague was the mayor of Jersey City. In The Soprano State: New Jersey's Culture of Corruption, Bob Ingle and Sandy McClure call him "the granddaddy of Jersey bosses."

Although he never had any legal income other than his mayoral salary of $8,500 per year, Hague amassed a multimillion-dollar fortune.

His political machine, known as "the organization," made him a powerhouse in national Democratic Party politics. Like ACORN, Hague's "organization" perpetrated massive voter fraud.

For example, in 1937, there were 147,000 people of voting age living in Jersey City, but there were 160,050 registered voters there. Though impressive for its time, the scale of this duplicity was tiny in comparison to ACORN's alleged submission in 2008 of at least 400,000 fraudulent registrations nationwide.

"Boss" Hague held the Constitution in contempt. "I am the law!" he declared in 1937.

In a 1938 speech to the Jersey City Chamber of Commerce, he railed, "We hear about constitutional rights, free speech and the free press. Every time I hear those words I say to myself, 'That man is a Red, that man is a Communist.' You never heard a real American talk in that manner."

In the 1939 case Hague v. Committee for Industrial Organization, the Supreme Court ruled against a Hague ordinance that forbade labor unions from holding meetings or distributing leaflets in public places in the city. Hague v. CIOis one of the founding cases for Supreme Court use of the 14th Amendment to require local governments to obey the Bill of Rights.

The victory of the Constitution over the Jersey City "organization" helped pave the way, in the long run, for the current Supreme Court case that will decide whether Chicago and other local governments must obey the Second Amendment.

Jersey City enjoyed a period of competent government and genuine reform from 1993 to 2001, with Mayor Bret Schundler. Schundler ran for governor in 2001 but was defeated by James McGreevey, a determined anti-gun advocate who later resigned in disgrace after the exposure of his corruption.

The year after Schundler left the mayor's office, Jersey City reverted to its anti-constitutional habits, participating in a Brady Center junk lawsuit against lawful firearm manufacturers.

In June 2006, the Jersey City government put itself in the vanguard of rights suppression, adopting a "one handgun per month" law. The rights-rationing law applied solely to the one licensed firearm dealer in the city, Caso's Gun-a-Rama.

NRA Director Scott Bach, Caso's and the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs (ANJRPC) fought back. They brought a lawsuit that argued the New Jersey state legislature had pre-empted local laws on gun sales. The New Jersey state law regarding licensing for firearm owners and police permission for gun purchases had set up a comprehensive scheme of regulation.

The legislature had determined when and how guns could be sold in New Jersey, and a city government had no authority to override the legislature's decisions. After all, local governments derive all their powers from the state government.

Under New Jersey law, if you want to buy a gun, you need to get a permit from your local chief of police. According to New Jersey law, "Only one handgun shall be purchased on each permit, but a person shall not be restricted as to the number of rifles or shotguns he may purchase."

If you wanted to buy a second handgun, you would have to ask your police chief for an additional permit. If the police chief considered a person's repeated requests for permits to buy handguns to be suspicious, he could refuse to issue the permit.

Nobody ever provided evidence that the very few people in Jersey City who had ever bought more than one handgun in a 30-day period were engaged in illegal firearms trafficking.

Recognizing that the Jersey City rationing ordinance was pointless, City Council President Mariano Vega Jr., called it "feel-good legislation that will probably not reduce crime, but we have to start somewhere, so I am voting yes."

After Bach and the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs sued Jersey City in state trial court, ACORN showed up. Yet the group did more than just file a friend-of-the-court (amicus) brief in support of Jersey City. ACORN actually intervened in the case, becoming a party.

ACORN told the trial court that its reason for intervening was that "ACORN has a strong interest in supporting the gun-control ordinance at issue in this case, because it can help reduce the number of handguns in Jersey City and therefore reduce the level of gun crime in our neighborhoods."

While some anti-gun groups deceitfully claim that they support gun ownership, and are only opposed to gun misuse, ACORN was more frank. Its goal is to "reduce the number of handguns in Jersey City." That's like intervening in the Haguecase and announcing a goal "to reduce the number of labor meetings in Jersey City."

Among the ACORN legal team was Seton Hall law school professor Linda Fisher, author of a 2000 article in the Yale Law & Policy Reviewpraising anti-gun lawsuits.

In December 2006, the state court judge ruled against the rights-rationing ordinance. Hudson County Judge Maurice Gallipoli held that the gun rationing law was pre-empted by the state's pervasive gun-control system. Further, the judge found, gun rationing was arbitrary, capricious, irrational and a violation of equal protection of the law.

ACORN and Jersey City took the case to the appeals court. In the oral argument, Jersey City's lawyer pointed approvingly to the New York City law that forbids more than one handgun purchase in a 180-day period. But the appellate court unanimously ruled against Jersey City and ACORN.

Not to be dissuaded, ACORN and Jersey City then made a final appeal to the New Jersey Superior Court, the state's highest court. At this time, the case is still pending.

Yet ACORN and the rest of the gun-ban lobby didn't wait for a final decision. ACORN lawyer Linda Fisher had admitted that rationing firearms only in Jersey City would just result in handguns being bought elsewhere. "We would be more than happy if Bayonne or Hoboken would enact similar ordinances, but in this business it's one step at a time," Fisher said.

This summer, ACORN got what it wanted. ACORN's involvement in the Jersey City case helped keep the issue in the news and on the political agenda. New Jersey's incumbent Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine--who is widely disliked by the citizens of New Jersey for breaking his 2005 campaign promises, for raising taxes and for making the state government more bloated, wasteful and expensive than ever--decided he needed an accomplishment to tout for his 2009 re-election bid.

Because of the structure of New Jersey's Constitution, the state's governor has far more power than the governor of any other state. With Corzine's nearly limitless ability to offer inducements and make threats, the New Jersey legislature narrowly imposed gun rationing on the state's citizenry.

While the law-abiding citizens of New Jersey are the greatest victims of ACORN's anti-gun campaign, other ACORN offices have also been very active foes of the Second Amendment Right to Keep and Bear Arms.

The North Carolina ACORN chapter has been lobbying to require all handgun ammunition purchasers to go through the same background check as firearms purchasers. Such a law could overwhelm the state's background check system and result in a wait of many hours just to buy a box of .22-caliber rimfire ammunition at the local sporting goods store.

According to a Dec. 13, 2008, report by NBC17 television in Raleigh, "ACORN's initiative ... may even include a requirement for bullet permits."

In Chicago in March 2006, ACORN and its local organizer, Rev. Robin Hood, participated in an anti-gun rally featuring prohibitionists such as Mayor Richard Daley, Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Congressman Bobby Rush demanding prohibition of self-loading firearms, which Hood inaccurately described as "automatic weapons."

The fact that ACORN is widely involved in anti-gun lobbying and litigation should not be surprising, since some of the organization's wealthiest donors also fund other gun-ban groups.

George Soros is the kingpin of the global gun-ban movement. In addition to ACORN, he has also donated to many other gun-ban organizations. He is the sugar daddy of the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), the international gun prohibition lobby run by his former staffer Rebecca Peters.

The Bauman Family Foundation has funded both ACORN and Physicians for Social Responsibility, a group that promotes various extreme-left causes, such as unilateral military disarmament, the D.C. handgun ban and many other items on the Brady Center and Violence Policy Center agendas.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation showers money on ACORN and on the Appleseed Foundation. In District of Columbia v. Heller, the D.C. branch of Appleseed filed a brief in support of the D.C. law banning handguns and outlawing the use of any gun for self-defense in the home. The New Jersey branch of Appleseed provided legal assistance to ACORN's anti-gun work.

Another ACORN funder has been the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, which has also given money to the Appleseed Foundation 

Last September, ACORN's sleazy modus operandiwas put on public display by filmmakers James O'Keefe III and Hannah Giles. (Giles' father is the popular pro-gun columnist and minister Doug Giles.) Using an undercover camera and microphone, O'Keefe and Giles posed as a pimp and prostitute who wanted to set up a brothel using underage girls illegally smuggled into the United States from El Salvador.

They went to ACORN offices in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Brooklyn, San Bernardino, Philadelphia, Brooklyn and San Diego. The Philadelphia office called the police after the pair left, and said that O'Keefe had caused a "verbal disturbance." The other offices, however, provided advice about how to run the whorehouse and conceal its operations, how to deceive the Internal Revenue Service and how to smuggle the El Salvadoran victims into the country.

The resulting public furor resulted in the Census Bureau and the Internal Revenue Service immediately severing their programs to pay ACORN for "community outreach."

Yet the White House still maintains close ties with ACORN. The director of the White House Office of Political Affairs is Patrick Gaspard, who formerly served as National Political Director for the Obama presidential campaign.

A Sept. 28 article in The American Spectatorby Matthew Vadum calls Gaspard "ACORN's Man in the White House." The article notes that ACORN founder Wade Rathke wrote that Gaspard once served as "ACORN New York's political director." (Rathke later retracted the claim, and noted the political trouble it was causing Gaspard.)

In any case, Gaspard indisputably served as acting political director in 2006 for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), an organization with such a tight working relationship with ACORN that some local SEIU affiliates were actually run by ACORN. According to a July 9 article in the Washington Examiner, based on disclosure forms filed with the U.S. Department of Labor, SEIU "contributed $7.4 million between 2005 and 2008 to the national organization, state chapters and allied groups" of ACORN.

SEIU, like Bank of America, recently said that it has cut ties to ACORN.

Over the years, ACORN has received tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer funding. Indeed, this year the Department of Homeland Security granted $997,402 to ACORN for the department's Fire Prevention and Safety Program. This money has traditionally been allocated to organizations that know something about fire safety, such as fire departments, which use the money to distribute smoke alarms to poor people.

The DHS grant to ACORN was rescinded in October after the bad publicity. Additionally, there have been efforts in Congress to cut off all federal funding for ACORN. As of this writing, however, none of them have become law.

There's much more that could be written about ACORN's web of corruption and its major and malignant influence in modern American politics. Websites such as the Capital Research Center, Consumer Rights League, BigGovernment.com, StopACORN.org and Discover the Networks have much more detailed reporting on ACORN corruption.

ACORN has many friends in high places. That's no surprise, since it put them there. Perhaps by this time in 2010, ACORN will have weathered today's controversies and be just as strong as ever, working hard against the Second Amendment.

Given the Obama-friendly media's longstanding lack of interest in covering or investigating ACORN's misdeeds, public pressure to cut off the taxpayer spigot for ACORN will probably depend on genuine grassroots community organizers and alternative media.

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