- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 19, 2009

A lawyer for a whistleblower on the activist group ACORN is prepared to tell a House panel Thursday that the group provided liberal causes with protest-for-hire services and coerced donations from the targets of demonstrations through a mob-style “protection” racket.

ACORN called it the “muscle for the money” program, according to prepared testimony Pittsburgh lawyer Heather Heidelbaugh plans to deliver at a hearing of the House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, civil rights and civil liberties.

A copy of her prepared testimony was obtained by The Washington Times.

The protest shakedowns are among a slew of accusations that Ms. Heidelbaugh intends to make against the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. She also will accuse the nonprofit group of violating tax, campaign-finance and other laws by sharing a list of President Obama’s maxed-out campaign donors to solicit more funds for a get-out-the-vote drive.

The accusations, which are based entirely on sworn court testimony late last year by ACORN whistleblower Anita Moncrief, range from unlawfully coordinating campaign activity with Mr. Obama’s presidential campaign to deliberately engaging in voter-registration fraud and misusing federal grant money.

ACORN officials say none of the charges is true, though they declined to respond to any of the separate claims.

“None of this wild and varied list of charges has any credibility, and we’re not going to spend our time on it,” said Kevin Whelan, ACORN deputy political director. He said the group’s voter-registration drive succeeded in bringing many disaffected minority and low-income voters into the democratic process.

Ms. Heidelbaugh, a member of the executive committee of the Republican National Lawyers Association, spearheaded an unsuccessful lawsuit last year seeking a court injunction in Pennsylvania against ACORN’s voter-registration drive for the 2008 presidential campaign.

Republican members of the committee invited her to appear as a witness.

Ms. Moncrief, who worked for years as a clerk at the ACORN office in the District before being fired for charging about $2,000 in personal expenses on an ACORN credit card, is not scheduled to testify. Ms. Heidelbaugh said the whistleblower will be present as a guest at the hearing.

ACORN’s Mr. Whelan said Ms. Moncrief was never a part of the organization’s management and was fired for stealing.

“Nothing she says has any credibility,” he said.

Ms. Heidelbaugh called Ms. Moncrief a “courageous woman” who has withstood threats of violence to shed light on what goes on at ACORN.

The prepared testimony described two facets of the “muscle for the money” program, an official and unofficial program.

The “official” program is the name of the ACORN voter-registration drives. The Obama campaign paid an ACORN affiliate group more than $800,000 for these get-out-the-vote services during the primary race, though the expenditure was initially misrepresented to the Federal Election Commission as for “sound and lighting equipment,” but later corrected.

The “unofficial” program collected payments to organize protests. For example, the Service Employees International Union hired ACORN to harass the Carlyle Group, a global private equity firm. Other paid protests targeted Sherwin-Williams, H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt and Money Mart, according to the testimony.

The protests then became a way to extract corporate donations.

“The protesting was used to get companies to negotiate. The companies would pay money to get the protesting to stop,” Ms. Heidelbaugh said, quoting Ms. Moncrief’s court testimony. “In addition to calling this activity ‘Muscle for the Money,’ the insiders at ACORN called it ‘protection.’ ”

The hearing likely will rekindle criticism of the financial ties and close cooperation between Mr. Obama’s campaign and ACORN and its sister organizations Citizens Services Inc. and Project Vote.

The groups came under fire during the campaign after probes into suspected voter fraud in a series of presidential battleground states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Mexico and Nevada.

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