Politics & Policy

Who Was behind the Flake Set-Up?

Jeff Flake exits elevator to a flock of reporters after incident with a protester, September 28, 2018. (J.D. Durkin/Cheddar/via Reuters)
ACORN’s tactics live on in the senator’s elevator confrontation with activists from a Soros-backed group.

On Friday morning, two women raced past reporters and security officers and blocked a senators-only elevator in the U.S. Capitol. They cornered Arizona senator Jeff Flake, who had just announced he was going to vote yes on moving Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination out of the Judiciary Committee and onto the Senate floor for a full debate. The women wouldn’t let Flake leave until they had yelled at him, face to face, for several minutes. Anyone who thinks the two left-wing activists acted without a well-thought-out plan hasn’t read The Intimidation Game by Kim Strassel of the Wall Street Journal.

A CNN camera broadcast the event live, and from there it went viral. “Thank you,” Flake said, as he was finally allowed to exit after one of the women revealed, apparently for the first time, that she’d been sexually abused:

I was sexually assaulted, and nobody believed me. I didn’t tell anyone, and you’re telling all women that they don’t matter. . . . That’s what you’re telling all of these women. That’s what you’re telling me right now. Look at me when I’m talking to you! You are telling me that my assault doesn’t matter. . . . Don’t look away from me. Look at me.

The New Yorker reported that, after the incident, Flake “looked more withdrawn than ever, eyes wet, voice a little frayed, chin tucked down in the somber knot of his tie.” Shortly afterward, Flake voted to refer Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate but with a sudden proviso: He wouldn’t vote for the judge on the floor unless the vote was delayed to do an FBI investigation, “limited in time to no more than one week,” into “current allegations that are already there.” Democrats rejoiced.

A reporter for the Washington Examiner asked Flake, “Did the women who confronted you this morning, did they have any role in changing your mind?”

“No, no,” Flake said as he shook his head.

Fair enough, but liberals certainly have convinced themselves to believe that the in-your-face strategy worked. So no doubt we’ll see more of it in these uncivil times. As an example, liberal journalist Ana Marie Cox tweeted out video of the Flake incident, praising the success of the confrontation:

Ana Maria Archila and Maggie Gallagher were the two women who confronted Flake inside the elevator to express, as the New York Times put it, “a rising anger among many who feel that, too often, women’s voices are silenced and their pain ignored.”

Perhaps because the women expressed such raw emotion, few media outlets dug into their political activism. Archila is an executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy; she had spent the previous week in Washington engaged in protests against Kavanaugh. Gallagher is a 23-year-old activist with the group. The Center is a left-wing group that is heavily funded by George Soros’s Open Society Foundations. Indeed, as of 2014, the Open Society was one of the three largest donors to the group.

Make no mistake. The Center for Popular Democracy is at the heart of the effort to stop Kavanaugh. A source forwarded to me an email forwarded to them from someone within the organization:

Last week, you saw protestors interrupting the Kavanaugh hearings, trying to slow it down and show the Judiciary Committee how much they/we care. Those protests were organized by the Women’s March and the Center for Popular Democracy and other groups.

Archila has another role beyond her duties as co–executive director of the Center. She is also a member of the national committee of the Working Families Party (WFP), a New York–based fringe political party that exercises outside influence in the Empire State because of the state’s unique law allowing candidates to run on more than one party line. This quirk has been a key factor in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s being driven toward the left: In 2014, the WFP endorsed him for governor, but this year it nominated farther-left actress Cynthia Nixon as its candidate in the general election and backed her effort to defeat Cuomo in the Democratic primary.

The WFP scored a big win in last month’s Democratic primary in New York when New York City public advocate Tish James won the primary for state attorney general. Bertha Lewis, the co-founder of WFP and the former leader of ACORN, has boasted, “I was there with Tish James in 2003 when she was first elected to the city council — not as a Democrat, but on the Working Families Party line.”

The WFP was founded in 1998 by the leaders of ACORN, the now disbanded and disgraced group of community organizers for whom Barack Obama served as a lawyer, in Chicago in the 1990s.

As Human Events magazine reported in 2009:

New York Executive Director of ACORN, Steven Kest, was the dominant muscle in the WFP’s formation. Chief ACORN organizer, Bertha Lewis, is the WFP’s Co-Chair. The WFP and ACORN are both housed at 2 Nevins Street, Brooklyn, NY. Fascinating coincidences, no?

Matthew Vadum of the Capital Research Center bluntly concluded that the WFP was “ACORN’s political party” in 2011, as he reported on how four Democrats associated with the Working Families Party had entered guilty pleas in an elaborate voter-fraud scheme in Troy, N.Y.

ACORN was one of the most disreputable, amoral, and sleazy groups every to darken American democracy. It used street demonstrations and boycotts against banks to force lower credit standards for home loans, which a congressional report found had contributed to the subprime-loan mess.

But ACORN ultimately became best known for its voter-fraud misdeeds. In 2012, in an article published at American Thinker, Vadum summed up the group’s record as follows:

At least 52 individuals who worked for ACORN or its affiliates, or who were connected to ACORN, have been convicted of voter registration fraud. ACORN itself was convicted in Nevada last year of the crime of “compensation.” Under the leadership of ACORN official Amy Adele Busefink, who was also convicted of the same crime, ACORN paid voter-registration canvassers cash bonuses for exceeding their quotas. This is illegal because it gives people an incentive to commit fraud by adding Mickey Mouse and Mary Poppins to the voter rolls.

Under Busefink’s leadership, ACORN and its affiliate Project Vote generated an impressive 1.1 million voter registration packages across America in 2008. The problem was that election officials invalidated 400,000 — that’s 36 percent — of the registrations filed.

In 2009, ACORN finally ran off the rails. Guerrilla videographer James O’Keefe secretly recorded employees in ACORN’s offices in Brooklyn, Baltimore, Washington, and San Bernardino, Calif. O’Keefe and a colleague posed as a prostitute and a pimp and said they were planning to import underage women from El Salvador for the sex trade. They asked for and received advice on getting a housing loan and evading federal taxes.

ACORN claimed that the videos were “doctored” and accused critics of a smear campaign and “racist coverage” of the incidents.

But that didn’t fly with the U.S. Senate, which quickly voted 83 to 7 to strip ACORN of more than $1.6 million in federal housing money meant to help low-income people obtain loans and prepare tax forms. That dramatic step followed the decision by President Obama’s U.S. Census Bureau to sever its ties with the organization. Within weeks, ACORN’s donors fled the group and it was forced to close its doors, with many of its affiliates reforming under new mismanagement and new names — such as the Working Families Party.

I have no doubt that the vast majority of protesters who want to stop Brett Kavanaugh are sincere and are merely exercising their constitutional rights. But imagine if two women had cornered a Democratic senator in an elevator and demanded an investigation of who had leaked to the media Christine Blasey Ford’s letter alleging that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her. (Senator Lindsey Graham said today that he planned to investigate the leak.) There would have been sputtering outrage in media circles, and reporters would have breathlessly hunted down any ties between the women and outside groups.

It’s a sign of media bias that the people from the well-funded groups behind the anti-Kavanaugh protests are described merely as “activists” and that their political motives and origins are largely unexplored.

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