In his latest video release, investigative journalist James O’Keefe of Project Veritas calls Battleground Texas “the new ACORN.” O’Keefe and his team recorded Jennifer Longoria, a field organizer for Battleground Texas, apparently instructing volunteers to copy, unlawfully, the telephone numbers of voters they had registered so that they could enter those numbers in a database for future use in get-out-the-vote efforts to help Democrats.
O’Keefe is attempting to draw parallels to the voter registration controversies for which ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) became infamous, and which led to investigations or convictions in many states. His work with Andrew Breitbart and Hannah Giles in 2009 helped expose ACORN’s willingness to break the law, and led to ACORN and its successor organizations being cut off from federal funding (in theory).
Yet ACORN has enjoyed something of a revival in recent months. Bertha Lewis, the former CEO of ACORN, has been involved with the Working Families Party in New York, which helped organize the Occupy Wall Street protests of 2011 and helped elect New York Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2013. Wade Rathke, ACORN’s founder, now runs United Labor Unions Local 100, which helps provide Obamacare “navigators” in Texas and elsewhere.
Rathke is quoted in a Jan. 26 article about Battleground Texas by Jonathan Tilove of the Austin American-Statesman. Tilove quotes a recent blog post in which Rathke described how he had gone to great lengths to thwart O’Keefe, including “weekly staff-wide calls for all of organizers,” “an early warning system in all of our offices,” and “office by office training sessions on how to handle O’Keefers,” among other defensive measures.
It is not clear that there is any direct link between Rathke and ACORN on the one hand, and Battleground Texas on the other. Battleground Texas is a Political Action Committee founded by Jeremy Bird, who was the national field director for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, with the intention of turning Texas “blue,” cutting off one of the Republican Party’s most important sources of presidential electoral votes and power.
Battleground Texas is focused on elections, not Obamacare. However, O’Keefe’s video also includes undercover footage of a speech by an official from Enroll America Texas–which, like Rathke, is working with Obamacare navigators–who suggests Enroll America may be sharing the “same data.”as Battleground Texas. O’Keefe also taped a local Enroll America employee official allegedly conspiring to abuse data for political purposes last year.
That raises questions about whether Battleground Texas is part of a coalition of groups busy mining data–the new gold currency of politics–for future use. It is worth recalling that when then-community organizer Barack Obama was leading voter registration with a group called Project Vote in Chicago in the early 1990s, his efforts were coordinated with ACORN and a coalition of radical groups, as Stanley Kurtz amply documented in 2010.
Questions about data use demand investigation–especially after the NSA scandal, in which the administration was found to have operated (and lied to Congress about) a large data harvesting operation. Now the government is collecting more data through Obamacare, using methods that raise privacy concerns. It is no stretch to ask whether an Obama-inspired voter registration drive might be applying new data tools to ACORN’s old methods.
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