The Family Research Council has caught wind of a new theory percolating in the right-wing blogosphere and in certain circles on Capitol Hill: that the Department of Health and Human Services is using a new Obamacare rule to empower the long-defunct ACORN to commit voter intimidation and fraud.
The new rule in question is HHS’s solution to the problem of signing up 30 million uninsured Americans on the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges. Under the rule, HHS will recruit “navigators” to walk uninsured people through the process of finding an insurance policy on their state’s exchange. According to the Washington Post, “Groups such as unions, chambers of commerce, health clinics, immigrant-service organizations, and community- or consumer-focused nonprofits can use the grants to train and employ staff members or volunteers to provide in-person guidance — especially to hard-to-reach populations — and to provide space for them to work.”
Here’s where ACORN comes in: A draft questionnaire [pdf] for insurance applicants, in compliance with 1993’s “motor voter” law, gives applicants the option of registering to vote.
Enter Rep. Charles Boustany of Louisiana, chairman of the House Ways and Means subcommittee on Oversight, who last week attacked the plan to ask insurance applicants about voter registration, saying, “It raises questions as to why HHS is gathering voter information, how the agency intends to use such information and how the information could be used by the navigators.” His fears were then picked up by Breitbart.com, which announced this week, “HHS resurrects ‘ACORN’ through Obamacare.”
Yesterday, the Family Research Council picked up this story and ran with it in its daily email, warning that an “army of ACORN, Planned Parenthood, and union activists” will use their roles as insurance navigators to “influence people’s party affiliation.” The email adds: “With this administration, it isn't a question of whether they would abuse their power--but when!”
The rule, which is available for public comment for the next few weeks, also includes a "voter registration provision," leading many--including Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.)--to question how this army of ACORN, Planned Parenthood, and union activists would twist their access to influence people's party affiliation. With this administration, it isn't a question of whether they would abuse their power--but when!
ACORN, of course, disbanded in 2010 after a right-wing smear campaign accused it of large-scale voter fraud – accusations that turned out to be completely false. But that hasn’t stopped 49 percent of Republican voters from believing that ACORN stole the 2012 election for President Obama – an illusion gleefully perpetuated by groups like the FRC.