A lot of people like to explain that the fake registrations that ACORN submitted resulted from either (1) the inevitable mistakes of registering millions of voters or (2) workers paid for meeting quotas defrauding ACORN itself by filing false registrations.
I think both the explanations superficially valid. Given my experience in large corporations and a grasp of statistics, I find it perfectly creditable that:
(1) A large number of mistakes will show up if an organization deals with millions of people. For example, if an organization interacts with a million people and carries out 99.9% of those interactions perfectly, that means that 1,000 interactions failed. That will be true of retailers, hospitals and “non-profits”.
(2) Unscrupulous people in any organization attempt to game the internal procedures in order to maximize their own gain. This behavior takes the form of everything from stealing office supplies, to the ubiquitous problem of sales making promises the rest of the company cannot keep, to faking work not actually done.
However, I also know that the same people who defend ACORN today would never defend a for-profit corporation using the same arguments. Indeed, they would usually presume that any malfeasance resulted from a conspiracy by the corporate officers at the highest level. Even if they could not prove conspiracy, they would hold the corporate officers strictly responsible for creating incentives for the employees to cheat [h/t Instapundit] and for not instituting internal checks to catch such cheating.
So, I think we should hold ACORN and other “non-profits” to the same standards we hold “for-profits” to. The corporate officers of ACORN knew or should have known that their workers were corrupting the electoral process. They should be dealt with accordingly.