Last year, right-wing activists masqueraded as a pimp and a prostitute and used a phony storyline and a hidden camera to take down the community group ACORN. ACORN was eventually absolved and the unsavory tactics of the right exposed, but that hasn't stopped the right from moving on to a new target: the Berkeley, California-based Greenlining Institute. Like ACORN, the Greenlining Institute is a progressive organization that advocates for the poor and works for economic justice. It also supports implementation and enforcement of the Community Reinvestment Act, a federal law passed in 1977 to mitigate deteriorating conditions in low and moderate-income neighborhoods by addressing the practice of redlining -- denying credit or insurance to people based on their ethnic background or neighborhood. Groups like ACORN and the Greenlining Institute draw the wrath of wealthy corporate interests because they seek government regulation of lucrative but abusive or harmful business practices.
Anti-ACORN Tactics Dusted off, Used Again
In April, the Examiner, a conservative news operation owned by one of the world's richest men, Denver businessman Philip Anschutz, ran a five-part series of accusatory articles that manufactured a supposed "scandal" involving the Greenlining Institute. The articles had titles like "Examiner Special Report: Greenlining Institute's intimidation of banks in the name of 'social justice," "Radical group perfects legal bank heists," and "Greenlining and ACORN: Two peas in a pod?" One of the series' two authors, Tori Richards, wrote that the Greenlining Institute has been called "a bunch of shakedown artists, a growing menace and a cousin" to ACORN. The articles contained provocative but unsubstantiated charges against the organization and accused the Institute of "political extortion." The authors did not, however, provide factual evidence of malfeasance.
Attacker's Corporate Backing
The second Examiner author, Mark Tapscott, started his journalism career as a national staff reporter for the Washington Times. He now works for CalWatchdog, a project of the Pacific Research Institute, a conservative organization funded by Altria/Philip Morris, ChevronTexaco, ExxonMobil, Microsoft, Pfizer, Verizon and AT&T, among other large corporations.
The Examiner articles about the Greenlining Institute support conservatives' long-sought goal of de-funding progressive organizations and repealing the Community Reinvestment Act. They also use the same tactics the right used to de-fund ACORN, specifically baseless accusations and innuendo. Supporters of the Greenlining Institute fear that conservatives' promotion of misinformation and broadside, baseless attacks will have the same effect on the Institute as they had on ACORN.