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Thursday, June 4, 2009
Vadum Distorts ACORN, Unhappy About Getting Busted For It
Topic: Capital Research Center

Matthew Vadum got caught hurling a load of BS, and now he's complaining that he got caught. wrote a fact-checking item about the distortion inherent in a claim, originated by Vadum's work at the Capital Research Center, that ACORN is eligible to receive $8.5 billion under the economic stimulus bill, which it describes as "false." How does Vadum respond? By going after PolitiFact, of course in a June 2 NewsBusters post. (In NewsBusters, Vadum has found bretheren with a similar fondness for shooting the messenger.)

Vadum kicks off by asserting that PolitiFact is "carrying water for the radical left-wing activist group ACORN and attacking Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) for trying to warn the public about the group." He also asserts that PolitiFact has a "liberal bias," but could only come up with three alleged examples (to which he fails to link so that readers could judge for themselves):

"On Oct. 24, PolitiFact gave then-vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's statement that Obama would 'experiment with socialism' a 'Pants on Fire' ruling." In fact, PolitiFact backed up its ruling. Palin's claim centered on Obama's plan to increase income taxes on those making more than $250,000 a year; as PolitiFact pointed out, "His desire to 'spread the wealth' through progressive taxation makes him no less a capitalist than McCain, or Lincoln."

"On Sept. 14, an editorial attacked Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign. 'McCain's straight talk has become a toxic mix of lies and double-speak,' it said." This is actually an editorial in the St. Petersburg Times, which operates PolitiFact. Vadum does not contradict any of the claims in it.

"Last month it praised President Obama's selection of radical jurist Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court because she was someone with a 'powerful intellect who demonstrates compassion and a common touch.'"Again, this is an St. Petersburg Times editorial, not a PolitiFact item.

So Vadum has demonstrated himself to be disingenous by misleadingly conflating a research group with newspaper editorials -- indeed, Vadum has found only one item at PolitiFact with which he disagrees, and he provides no evidence that anything in it is wrong. He's similarly disingenuous when criticizing PolifiFact's ACORN findings, selectively quoting from it and failing to provide the full context (and, as with his other attacks, refusing to directly link to the PolitiFact so that readers can judge for themselves).

Vadum writes:

There is no legal impediment of which I am aware that would prevent ACORN taking in the whole $3 billion sum from the stimulus package, which has already been enacted. There is also no bar to ACORN taking in the entire $5.5 billion from the HUD budget, which is pending before Congress.

In other words, ACORN is indeed eligible for the whole $8.5 billion, as Bachmann said.


Bachmann never said ACORN alone was going to receive $8.5 billion, but [PolitiFact's Robert] Farley then proceeds as if she had, writing a news article that depicts something quite different from what actually transpired.

But Vadum fails to acknowledge his deliberate use of the overbroad word "eligible," which he's a little more candid about to PolitiFact:

"The key word here is eligible," Vadum said. "Eligible is a pretty expansive word. I made it clear they are not going to get that full amount."

Yes, he made that point in the Washington Examiner. But when Bachmann says ACORN could get that amount, it assumes the group would get every single dime in the stimulus for fixing up abandoned homes. And remember, they said they don't even have plans to apply for any of it.

Vadum tries to discount that denial, calling it a "dubious statement." He then suggests that restrictions on federal housing funds that bar them from being used for political purposes are meaningless because of purportedly "suspicious transactions" made by ACORN's housing division to other affiliates in " the nebulous ACORN network."

PolitiFact points out, meanwhile, that "if ACORN Housing was to apply for and receive CDBG money, it would be for a very specific project. And legally, it could not be transferred to other ACORN affiliates to perform political activities like voter registration," though Vadum offers no evidence that federal grant money specifically designated for housing-related purposes was ever shifted to another "nebulous" ACORN affiliate for forbidden purposes. Vadum's main response is that "neither Bachmann nor I actually said ACORN Housing was necessarily going to be the protagonist in this publicly funded drama."

Vadum also fails to mention that the federal grants for which ACORN is eligible are up for competitive bid, which meanst that, if it was indeed seeking those grants, it would be competing with other organizations to receive them.

Vadum ultimately complains that PolitiFact is trying "to depict her as a shameless liar. That's reprehensible." Here's how PolitiFact summed up its piece:

Charges of voter registration fraud by members of ACORN during the 2008 elections are a serious matter. Investigators allege ACORN employees tried to fraudulently register thousands of ineligible voters. Among them, one Mickey Mouse.

But Bachmann's statement is irresponsibly misleading on several levels. She says the group under indictment for voter registration fraud could tap into billions of federal dollars. In fact, none of the federal money can be used for voter registration activities.

An affiliate like ACORN Housing could conceivably apply for a grant to build an affordable housing project, or to buy, fix and sell abandoned homes, but that's exactly what the money would have to be used for. Suggestions that one of the affiliates might funnel money to ACORN for political activity is, so far, unsubstantiated conjecture. And then there's the matter of trying to make a splash by throwing out the massive $8.5 billion number, suggesting ACORN "could get" it, as in all of it. That's absurd. We rule Bachmann's statement False.

Vadum is basically taking refuge in deliberately overbroad statements like "eligible" as a way to portray his attack on ACORN as somewhat true. By that same overbroad standard, both Vadum and us are "eligible" to receive that money too.

Now you see why Vadum had to resort to shooting the messenger -- he got called out on his BS and now has to cover for it.

UPDATE: Vadum takes his fight to the comments section of the Minnesota Independent, which cited the PolitiFact article in criticizing Bachmann.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:16 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, June 4, 2009 4:54 PM EDT

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