Date: November 15, 2009
About: Mike Flynn - Class of 1985
ACORNs Fall: As editor-in-chief of BigGovernment.com, Quincy native Mike Flynn instrumental in helping uncover, report on abuses by community organizing group
Quincy native Mike Flynn does not believe people should credit him as one of the people who brought down ACORN with a continuing caught-on-video scandal.
"ACORN brought themselves down," Flynn said.
Flynn is editor in chief of BigGovernment.com, which has moved up to 30th place among the nation's most-read Web sites in its first two months of operation.
BigGovernment and ACORN -- the Associations of Community Organizations for Reform Now -- have been inescapably linked since the Web site went online Sept. 10 with the first of several undercover videos showing controversial discussions with community organizers in ACORN offices.
The videos were shot by James O'Keefe, 25, and Hannah Giles, 20. The pair posed as a pimp and a prostitute who sought advice on how to set up a brothel. ACORN officials in several cities were willing to advise the pair on how to set up a brothel or claim underage prostitutes as dependents for tax purposes.
Some of the ACORN workers showed no emotion when told that underage girls might be brought in from El Salvador to work in the brothel. In one instance, Hannah was advised to report her occupation as a "performing artist."
"We're just the mechanism for getting the word out" about ACORN's illegal activities, Flynn said.
Since the first ACORN video showed Baltimore community organizers encouraging the prostitution enterprise, there have been five other videos in cities all around the nation. All have shown ACORN office workers giving advice on illegal activities or topics they should have referred to law enforcement officials.
There are still more ACORN revelations to come.
"We're releasing another ACORN video on Monday," Flynn said. "It's kind of the same, but it's in a city where they said (O'Keefe and Giles) were thrown out, and they weren't."
Flynn does not tell how many more ACORN videos are coming, but said there will be "a few more."
QHS grad has love for politics
Flynn, 42, is a son of John and Alana Flynn of Quincy, and a 1985 graduate of Quincy High School. He has been involved in policy and politics for 20 years, and believes all that work was leading up to his job directing a Web site that he hopes will be the one place people will go to get informed on political topics.
BigGovernment is owned by Breitbart.com, the brainchild of Andrew Breitbart, who has created a conservative/libertarian online empire since launching his first site in 1995. The site carries a mix of news and conservative commentary.
Breitbart created his first blog in 1995 and has several high-traffic sites such as BigHollywood, BigTV and BigGovernment.
During a video interview with Eric Olsen, publisher of Technorati/Blogcritics, Breitbart describes himself as a conservative pundit, a provocateur and a newsman. Breitbart said he was a liberal during his college days, but has become a conservative. He said people accept his political opinions because "I admit what my bias is."
Flynn first became acquainted with Breitbart in 2004 when Flynn's wife, Maura, was working on the documentary "Michael Moore Hates America" and interviewed Breitbart. Flynn and Breitbart struck up a friendship.
When the idea for BigGovernment came up, Breitbart asked Flynn's advice on who should run the Web site. After several back-and-forth sessions, Breitbart offered the job to Flynn.
Breitbart and many of the writers and other staff members are in California, while Flynn is on the East Coast, so operational discussions come late in Flynn's day.
"Most of my job as editor in chief is shepherding and assigning these stories. We have been receiving document dumps of information, literally," Flynn said.
The busy schedule is not expected to slow anytime soon. Next year will be an election year. BigGovernment also will spin off some new sites, such as BigEducation, BigEnvironment, BigJournalism and BigTolerance.
While Flynn is still interested in government, he believes there are unintended consequences from legislation that is not well thought out.
"Government is really a blunt instrument" that can have negative affects on people's lives and the economy, Flynn said.
Major media takes notice
The ACORN scandal has had national repercussions. Congress eliminated funding for the community organizing agency in the wake of the video scandal. Plans to use ACORN as a major partner in the 2010 Census also have been dropped.
Flynn said most of the major media ignored the video for a day or two. Then the New York Times and Washington Post weighed in on what they termed a "stunning new development."
ACORN officials said its organization is made up of 400,000 member families in 1,200 neighborhood chapters in about 75 cities across the United States. Founded in 1970, ACORN primarily serves low- and moderate-income people who feel they have been denied access to help through political or cultural entities.
On the political front, ACORN backed several minimum wage initiatives during 2006, including successful campaigns in Missouri, Ohio, Arizona and Colorado.
ACORN's Web site reports that 1.7 million people have registered to vote through the organization's campaigns since 2004.
At first ACORN officials, and those who defended the community organizing group, said the Baltimore video was an isolated case of workers offering advice on clearly illegal activity. But as other videos from ACORN offices in Washington D.C., New York City and other places were unveiled on BigGovernment, the scandal blossomed.
Flynn said some of the reporters who did the earliest stories on the scandal also seemed more interested in O'Keefe's and Giles' motives and tactics. That changed when the series of videos kept coming and Congress voted to discontinue funding for ACORN.
"You have to cover the story and not just shoot the messenger," Flynn said.
Many other news stories have been broken by BigGovernment since ACORN. The Web site recently told how U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett put funding for video scrapbooks in an appropriations bill to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"It's a full-time job just to keep up with the tips that people are providing," Flynn said.
That's good because while Flynn is a staunch conservative, he also wants BigGovernment to be a one-stop place for people to go get information. He wants news in addition to opinion.
"The reason we started the site is, whether it's health care or cap and trade or the economy ... to really understand these issues you have to know a lot about the issues to even find the information," Flynn said.
Launch coincides with Tea Parties
The timing of the Web site's launch also has coincided with the rise of Tea Parties and conservative rallies across much of the nation.
Two days after BigGovernment went online, Flynn was in Quincy to attend the Sept. 12 rally in Washington Park. The Quincy Tea Party attracted national speakers.
"Anything that brings out 2,000 people in Washington Park" is significant, Flynn said.
He said people are getting involved in politics because they don't like what they're seeing on a national level, mainly a series of actions that have increased the size of the federal government.
"Whether it's the Wall Street bailout or the health care bailout, (the federal government is) going too fast, too far and getting too expensive," Flynn said.
The health care legislation passed by the U.S. House is "the world's longest political suicide note," Flynn said.
That and other priorities of the Obama administration will keep BigGovernment relevant for at least four years, he believes.
Flynn's parents say they're proud of their son's accomplishments.
Alana Flynn, who previously worked in the offices of former Illinois state Sen. Laura Kent Donahue, said some people mistakenly believe she was the one who got her son interested in politics.
"I wasn't in politics until Mike was in college. He started the Young Republicans when he was in high school," she said.
And while she considers her son a Republican, she said his political views also would be considered libertarian.
"He's for less government and more individual liberties," she said.