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The trouble with witch hunts

Tuesday, Sep 29, 2009

* One of the problems with witch hunts - aside from the fact that they’re too often used for nefarious purposes - is that they eventually start to burn those who merely associated with the alleged witches. Things can get way out of hand because it becomes impossible to stop the endless strings of associations that can be made.

And so it goes with this ACORN thing. Not content to just bash the organization, it’s now been deemed necessary by some that those who’ve associated with the group must also be demonized.

Enter Republican US Senate candidate Mark Kirk.

You’d think with all the boasting about how Kirk is the heavy-duty GOP primary front-runner, that someone known as one of the most liberal Republicans in DC (which is somewhat of a misnomer because DC GOPdom is so rightwardly skewed) wouldn’t have to prove he’s just like those bloggers at Illinois Review.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. IR does a very good job on many, many things. But the site has been obsessed with ACORN lately and has been pairing the group with the Service Employees International Union in a single name for weeks. Kirk eagerly jumped on the IR bandwagon yesterday and produced a complicated flow-chart to demonstrate why the US Census should disown SEIU because the union has supported ACORN in the past.

ABC7 didn’t cover the presser, and neither did NBC5 or CBS2. The Olympics coverage is pretty much drowning out almost everything right now. Fox Chicago had a preview of yesterday’s Kirk presser on its early morning show, but nothing else has been posted on its site.

The Tribune ran a brief story…

U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, a Republican Senate candidate, said Monday the Census Bureau should drop any involvement with the Service Employees International Union for the 2010 population count. But at the same time Kirk had to acknowledge receiving past campaign donations from the union at the center of a partisan firestorm.

The Sun-Times mixed in a foreign policy angle…

On the heals of a congressional vote to de-fund ACORN, U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) is calling on the U.S. Census to sever all ties to Illinois’ largest union, the Service Employees International Union, because that union, Kirk says, is too close to ACORN.

Kirk also urged the firing of the National Intelligence Officer for the Middle East, who he blames for under-estimating Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

* Obviously, Kirk is following the classic GOP presidential election strategy. Move way right in the primary and then move to the center for the general. Reassure the Downstaters and the more right-leaning suburbanites that he’s with them now. Then worry about assuaging the moderate independents later. He’s also obviously taking advantage of the fact that SEIU has endorsed the Democratic frontrunner, Alexi Giannoulias.

But, as I’ve pointed out before, this SEIU thing is a landmine for Illinois Republicans.

State Rep. Beth Coulson is considered the best bet to hold onto Kirk’s US House seat, but she’s been endorsed by SEIU in the past.

GOP gubernatorial candidate Kirk Dillard received an SEIU contribution earlier this year.

The Republican State Senate Campaign Committee accepted $10,000 from SEIU in March.

House Republican Leader Tom Cross took a $10K contribution in February from SEIU Healthcare, which was once a brother/sister of ACORN Illinois, back when the group existed (there are actually two $10K contris listed from SEIU to Cross on the same day, but that could be a duplicate computer entry).

As explained at the top, it’s dangerous to conduct a guilt by association witch hunt of SEIU when so many of Kirk’s fellow Illinois Republicans have been taking the union’s cash over the years. If SEIU is guilty of its associations with ACORN, then what does that say about the Republicans who have associated with SEIU? Where does the witch hunt end? Does he want to burn them all?

Maybe that’s why yesterday’s presser was so lightly covered.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 11:57 am:

    this SEIU thing is a landmine for Illinois Republicans

    Especially when you stomp your feet for attention.

    Like I said earlier, it is unbelievable when a party takes a misstep, then their opposition decides to stumble around instead of making a statement, then moving on. Remember that crazy “You lie!” stunt? Everyone thought that was water under the bridge by the next day, but instead the opposition party decided to turn it into a week of stupid stunts. They turned the congressman into a rock star with millions, when they should have ignored the fool. Now you see the conversation regarding the President enhanced with “You Lie!” signs. Stupid!

    These things always backfire when the opposition, sensing a political moment, expose themselves as political fools.

  2. - fedup dem - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 12:04 pm:

    Kirk wants higher offic in the worst way, and is obviously seeking it in like manner. I hope he remembers that when it is time for him to give his concession speech.

  3. - Shore - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 12:14 pm:

    Rich, you need to be fair and balanced here. Democrats for the last 10 years have taken every 1,000 contribution mark kirk got from a random congressman from the south and said, AHAH! he’s a pro-life jerry falwell republican. I don’t remember any outrage over that here.

    I don’t get the hit on intel. Our guys knew about the plant. Seems to me like it was a great intel coup to get spies to uncover this.

    As for beth coulson, the woman was endorsed by blagoyevich, a flyer of which was posted on this website 5 years ago by you. For those of you not from the 10th, our republicans maybe a little prochoice here and there but if there’s one thing we are NOT it’s pro-state worker union-she was backed by afscme, pro-blago, or pro-worker union. We are business and fiscal conservatives and in the same way that Bush was pro-life and kirk pro-choice there’s nothing wrong with mark being anti-acorn/seiu and coulson’s opponents destroying her for being pro-seiu/acorn.

  4. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 12:21 pm:

    Shore, please correct me if I’m wrong, but I just don’t remember that issue ever becoming a gigantified national outrage like this acorn-seiu stuff.

  5. - just sayin' - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 12:22 pm:

    Mark Kirk knows the GOP base is very gullible. He’ll say what he thinks he needs to say to pacify the hicks and rubes for a few more months and then morph back to his former self.

    He’s doing the same thing on cap & tax.

  6. - Quinn T. Sential - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 12:29 pm:

    {Obviously, Kirk is following the classic GOP presidential election strategy. Move way right in the primary and then move to the center for the general.}

    Apparently you haven’t seen any reports back from the 10th District Town Hall meeting on Healthcare Reform in Northbrook yet from earlier today. This is apprently the 15th such forum he has held; and citizens came from a wide range of other districts (Melissa Bean; and Danny Davis were mentioned)where the elected representative was not holding any forums in their districts on this subject.

    Any notion of being “far right” on this issue; at least at this particular forum, could be summarily dispatched.

    The Chairman from his district medical advisory board (a cardiac surgeon) got up and made a presentation in which he essentially promoted place regulatory wage or cost caps on just about element of the health care system; except of course the doctors! Not a very “far right” or free market approach at all.

  7. - Shore - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 12:32 pm:

    I’m not trying to go after you-this isn’t one of those screeds. The point was that hits on Mark in his district haven’t been taken apart with such urgency. I see your point though.

    As for the rest of the state party, It’s not Mark Kirk’s fault if Illinois Republicans down ballot have made bad choices. He’s got a senate campaign to win. No one forced those guys to take that money and I have no problem with them being held accountable.

  8. - Shore - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 12:33 pm:

    quinn, in all fairness the chairman of his advisory board is a longtime donor.

  9. - Quinn T. Sential - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 12:36 pm:

    P.S. to the issue; SEIU, or any other labor union for that matter, has no business being involved in the U.S. Census process. The same holds true for fundamentalist christian organizations, or any other enterprise in between with a pre-disposed agenda. Both the process and the outcome could be infiltrated; and co-opted by their organizational bias, and the impact of the outcome on the allocation of resources is far too great to be siphoned off by those that are more interested in helping themselves, than they might be with obtaining an independent and objective count; and analysis on the dispersion of citizens of all colors, shapes, and sizes.

  10. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 12:40 pm:

    The current manufactured scandal is morphing into a mini Red Scare, except in this case, there is no scare there. Already there are calls to determine how many ACORNistas work in the White House.

    “Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of ACORN? SEIU? Are you a sympathizer?”

    How long before the GOP demands hearings on this? Where is Joe McCarthy when you need him?

    This is about dirty effing poor people. That’s why no one will say exactly what is wrong with ACORN and SEIU that should make us all afraid. It’s implied, because even wingnuts won’t say it publicly. Yet.

  11. - Brennan - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 12:42 pm:

    =* Obviously=

    Is the asterisk supposed to link to a footnote? I was hoping I might get a summary of the Rich Miller GOP Primary view.

    And shouldn’t Hoffman’s name be typed at least once in the post?

    I think this much ado about nothing. This is just good strategy for the GOP that the Democrats should have no trouble redirecting to their advantage. The only hole is if there actually is something more to connect ACORN and the SEIU. There is in other states like New York and Louisiana. There even is connections here. They’re just not demonstrably evident in Illinois.

    The press could answer these questions, but I seriously doubt they have the resources to cover Everywhere Obama, the economy, the 2016 bid, and the approaching holidays. If they are at all its on the back burner for future editorial review.

    PS: Good luck trying to get questions answered by the former backers of the New Party, the Rosetta Stone to this story.

  12. - Quinn T. Sential - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 12:46 pm:


    I can understand and appreciate that.

    The point that I was trying to make was that; while he talked about how much his mal-practice insurance costs per doctor, and how much the medical insurance for their own employees was due to the insurance industry which he referred to as a “criminal enterprise”, somehow he forgot to make any reference to the per-capita W-2 income for the heart surgeons in his 12 physician practice.

    While almost everyone wants to position themselves as altruistic on this issue, the truth of the matter was that it is not much different than all others, one’s position is most often influenced and determined based on who’s ox is being gored.

  13. - Abe Froman - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 12:48 pm:

    What’s interesting about all the McCarthy analogies here is that you are ingnoring one simple fact: It has been proven that there were quite a few actual Soviet agents embeded in the US Government in the 30’s-50’s.

    That being said, this isn’t a new tack for Kirk. SEIU and their ACORN allies were in his district last year engaged in one of their voter registration drives that was shown to be rife with illegalities. Kirk knows that SEIU is nothing more than a Democratic Party offshoot.

    It is nothing more than a distraction to talk about any GOP donations from SEIU. That has nothing to do with Kirk and the Republican’s desire to hold SEIU and ACORN accountable.

    Kirk has a clean record that most politicians would kill for. He has credibility on this issue and it is not just piling on the issue of the day. If you did any homework you would know how SEIU/ACORN went after him in 2008.

  14. - cover - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 12:48 pm:

    Rich, your “where does the witch hunt end” question is a fair one. I think the answer goes something like this: “What do you burn apart from witches?” “More witches!” - until the residents of Salem realize what they have done and stop looking for them.

  15. - Shore - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 12:55 pm:

    Quinn, to be quite honest, I am not over 40, and really don’t use my health insurance all that much so the debate has mostly gone over my head.

    As to why the local t.v stations didn’t cover Mark’s/Roskam’s event, I would urge any republican or journalist to go read the column in the new york times by their inspector general of journalism over the weekend where the guy basically says “we are the liberal media, don’t take or watch fox news or the conservative movement seriously and therefore totally missed the ball on this and screwed up and the gop was right”.

    For the record there was a vote on the floor of the senate to strip this group of funding. How many times does that happen? Also if it had been some rightwing group caught using federal funds to shutdown abortion clinics, there would have been huge coverage and a chicago tonight roundtable on it.


  16. - George - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 12:59 pm:

    Shore, there is everything in there that you said except “the gop was right”.

    Sometimes you have to report the folks yelling “fire”, even if there is nothing there.

  17. - Deep South - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 12:59 pm:

    ACORN/SEIU is just another distraction…another method to keep the rabid right foaming at the mouth.

    Sooner or later, the Republicans are gonna have to break away from the rightwingnutjobs and start forumlating election strategy. It seems they have no real ideas…nothing on which to base a campaign. Oh, I guess they’ve got the “Vote for me, I’m not a Democrat” strategy down pat. But they’re really going to need more than the “ACORN/SEIU/Obama is evil because he wasn’t born in ‘Merica” talking points. I mean, does anyone really think that’s going to work for them?

  18. - George - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 1:02 pm:

    Also Shore, you said:

    “No one forced those guys to take that money and I have no problem with them being held accountable.”

    You missed the part of the report up there where Kirk, too, accepted their money. So he should be held accountable, too, then?

  19. - Quinn T. Sential - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 1:04 pm:

    {to be quite honest, I am not over 40, and really don’t use my health insurance all that much so the debate has mostly gone over my head.}

    while healthcare may not be your greatest priority, count yourself blessed, as one with good health.

    On the other hand it is precisely the people under 40 that are going to suffer the greatest impact as a result of whatever “reforms” are made, because regardless it is ultimately the under 40 generation that is going to pay for it all.

    I recommend you start paying closer attention because the outcome of tis debate is going to dictate the entire future of your quality of life; from an economic standpoint, even if it has limited impact on your life and health now.

  20. - Will Done - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 1:13 pm:

    SEIU/ACORN has been grotesquely undercovered for years by Dem media in Chicago. Are our memories that short that we’ve forgotten how SEIU got Blago elected? We’ve never had a major media expose on the leftwing funding tree in Illinois or nationally because the media is so hopelessly blind to one side of the aisle.

  21. - Louis G. Atsaves - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 1:20 pm:

    “You did it too!” “You did it too!”

    So what? WIth ACORN and the SEIU, the Democrats get far more money and service than Republicans do. And the public seems to have figured that one out. I’m not a big fan of mud slinging, but the few drops of mud on Republicans pale in comparison to the mud sticking to Democrats right about now.

    And as a Republican, I can only be pleased! :-)

    It’s pretty amusing to see all the politicians scramble away from ACORN these days, save for the die hards, Schakowsky, Durbin, Burris, Davis and a few others. That mad scramble makes this story far more important than it should be!

  22. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 1:23 pm:

    ===How many times does that happen?===

    Rarely. Why? The Constitution forbids bills of attainder.

  23. - Small Town Liberal - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 1:33 pm:

    Abe Froman - Yeah, but not anyone McCarthy ever accused. Maybe you should try a real history book instead of Anne Coulter once in a while.

    Louis G. Atsaves - The Dems aren’t the ones doing the slinging, Kirk is.

  24. - beth - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 1:47 pm:

    This is a huge distraction, and it is ridiculous in state with so many issues (jobs, health care, education) that could be addressed with a new Senator that this is what we’re focusing on.
    I don’t even really understand what they are accusing SEIU of, other than having friends who in other states hired employees who acted stupidly.
    ACORN, the community group, was disbanded and ACORN Housing has not been caught on tape or accused of any wrong doing.
    I want to hear from BOTH sides (that includes the dems who have denounced ACORN) how they will go to DC and tackle issues that affect my daily life in Illinois.

  25. - Louis G. Atsaves - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 1:47 pm:

    Small Town Liberal: Are you telling me that the push back on SEIU contributions to Republicans DIDN’T come from any Democrats?

    If that’s the case, then the Democrats should be ashamed of their political operations!

  26. - Small Town Liberal - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 1:56 pm:

    I’m saying Kirk and other GOP members started making lots of accusations and if they’re going to use the argument that ties to SEIU and ACORN equal corruption, they probably shouldn’t have any ties themselves.

  27. - Shore - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 2:29 pm:

    beth, if you want to talk about distractions, there has been more energy put into Obama’s presidential campaign and this olympics effort to make sure uzbekistan can participate in greco-roman wrestling 7 years from now, than job creation, ensuring that kids at chicago public schools don’t come home from school with bullets in them, and restoring fiscal sanity to Illinois.

    Mayor’s had how many press conferences on the Olympics when just last week we feel 8 spots in business climate. give me a break.

  28. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 2:32 pm:

    It seems that overall there is a belief that right wingers are nutjobs, are easily led, don’t know much about nothin’ but hate, and will swarm like a bunch of rabid gophers if a GOPer points at a Democrat. You want to believe that? Then you guys are toast.

    People are not as stupid as you want to believe they are. If an issue resounds politically, it isn’t because people are stupid. It is because it resounds politically for a reason. Figure out why everyday people are willing to drop everything and march. Figure out why people are listening to what radio or television personality.

    Then open your narrow little minds and listen. You will learn that those people you want to denegrate as sub-human are just as smart as you are.

  29. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 2:40 pm:

    What did SEIU do? Why are people mad at them?

  30. - census - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 2:53 pm:

    SEIU, or any other labor union for that matter, has no business being involved in the U.S. Census process.

    Do you even know what the involvement is? It is about education, saying a) you should take the census, and b) the census is hiring.

    There is no direct involvement in actual census taking by SEIU, ACORN, or any of the other dozens/hundreds of community groups who have agreed to partner with the census. Further, there is NO money changing hands.

    Why don’t people know what they are talking about before launching such silly attacks?

  31. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 2:55 pm:

    They made themselves a target by claiming they were political players. This isn’t unusual. Worse for them, Rod Blagojevich had a relationship with them which went bad when the Governor was arrested.

    Then they have a close relationship to ACORN. That was OK until ACORN lost it’s nuts. So, now SEIU is being yelled at. It’s kinda like they were married to Blagojevich and then to ACORN. Although they may be innocent - it’s hard to claim innocence when you’re sleeping in the same bed with these players.

    It’s all an ugly political game that needs to stop. The deal with ACORN is on track to do it’s own thing without yelling any more. Thankfully the Congress dropped them like a hot potato, so hopefully that’s history. I hope there is nothing with SEIU, but I have a bad feeling. I’m just not interested in creating a controversy when there are so many others out of control now.

    I remember back in ‘88 when Bush made the ACLU a big deal. That was one crappy stupid election! We don’t need stupid stuff like that and I hope the GOP has had it’s fill with it, because it is getting really old. If they come up with nothing by the end of this week - they look bad.

  32. - Small Town Liberal - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 2:59 pm:

    - People are not as stupid as you want to believe they are. -

    Maybe they shouldn’t regurgitate idiotic statements about death panels, czars, and CO2 being “plant food”.

  33. - David Ormsby - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 4:04 pm:

    Kirk is mangling the very credibility and moderation that made him viable among middle-of-the-road Illinois voters with his nonsense.

    Keep it up, pal.

  34. - irving & ashland - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 4:48 pm:

    Well, I think that Local 880 of SEIU has been nearly synonymous with ACORN, going back to the days of Keith Kelleher and Madeline Talbot.

    On the other hand, I never got the impression that Local 880 was anywhere near the power centers of SEIU.

    I’m not clear whether Republicans really think ACORN is powerful, or whether they just think they’ve found a horse they can ride. Demonizing ACORN makes about as much sense as me deciding that my retired uncle, conservative though he may be, is secretly the mastermind behind the Bush torture policy.

  35. - have Issues? - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 5:04 pm:

    ACORN is a GREAT organization. I mean that. They were the first to shed light on sub prime lending, which now has caused one of the greatest economic meltdowns ever. They have taken on every entrenched fat cat special interest there is. That is the origin of the GOP opposition.

    They paid homeless people money to register people and some of the people they hired faked the registrations. True. it is ALSO true that ACORN highlighted the fake registrations and cooperated with all investigations.

    of course, this never gets mentioned. I always bring this up with my conservative friends who think the media is “liberal”. Bunk. The media is more consolidated and owned by fewer corporate entities then at any other time. If anything, the media is conservative.

  36. - have Issues? - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 5:07 pm:

    one more thing. Of course the Republicans don’t want ACORN, SEIU or anyone else for that matter assisting with the census. Why? Because they would assist in counting traditonally undercounted people in urban areas, which conservatives certainly don’t want when it comes time to draw congressional and legislative districts.

  37. - census - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 6:05 pm:

    Because they would assist in counting traditonally undercounted people

    Wrong. As I already pointed out, neither SEIU or ACORN were going to be doing any actual census taking. They were and are never going to assist in any counting.

  38. - beth - Tuesday, Sep 29, 09 @ 8:21 pm:

    Well, they (community organizations including ACORN, until they were taken off the list of partners, a non-funded agreement) would/will assist in that they would do canvassing pre-census to encourage participation before the counting began. There is still resistance, confusion, and apathy towards to census in the very communities who need to be counted most, and so the alliance between the government and organizations that are already known in these neighborhoods was established. Either way, it’s assistance in making sure folks are counted (even if they aren’t the ones doing it).

  39. - Tampabaygreg - Wednesday, Sep 30, 09 @ 8:06 am:

    Your view is slanted exp. GOP election tactic. Pander to base in the primary and center in the election is a political tactic both parties have mastered.
    SEIU’s association with ACORN demonstrates their questionable judgement. ACORN does not answer even simple questions and raises many concerns thru their actions, not to mention accepting federal funds with no accountability. That was before the aporn video’s which confirmed the allegation toward ACORN’s conduct.
    SEIU has had a questionable history of less than professionable conduct. Starting with their failures to be open about the way they conduct day to day buisness. There is the questionable campain contributions. In the age of transparency they hide in the shaddows in a similar fashion as ACORN. Now when mention of ties to ACORN is raised the screams of conpiracy witch hunt are hurled at the media. That only strengthen the argument against SEIU. The real question is the one SEIU doesn’t want to be asked. Why not address the allegations, open their books, explain their process for campain contributions, and give the American people a breakdown of how federal funds have been spent and will be spent. That is not a tall order if you are legit. These question have not been pressed and yet SEIU is stalling hiding and attacking. Another similarity to ACORN. Questioning SEIU base on their conduct is accepted and exspected. Their response is not. If congress deos not address the issues concerning SEIU, then they themselves will raise questions about their ability to do the job they were elected to do. Maybe that helps to explain their latest approval rating.
    SEIU needs to come clean or exspect an investigation. If misconduct for a sports hero is good enough for a congressional investigation, thenfederally funded organizations should fair no better.

  40. - SpfldJimbo - Wednesday, Sep 30, 09 @ 8:32 am:

    Aren’t “witchhunts”, long, drawn out affairs alleging things that are not true?

    Where’s the “witchhunt”?

  41. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Sep 30, 09 @ 8:51 am:

    $5k, $10K donations are pretty small time compared to the $900,000 + that the SEIU gave Gov. Blagoyevich for his 2006 re-election. When they start kicking hundreds of thousands, if not millions to the GOP like they do the Dems, then I would say it would be a bit of a landmine - until then, meh?

  42. - 10th District Elephant - Wednesday, Sep 30, 09 @ 8:57 am:

    Is Coulson going to give those SEIU contributions back?

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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