As far as operations in Maryland go, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, is no more. On Monday the group's former state co-chairwoman, Sonja Merchant-Jones, announced that the group has shut down all of its offices and in the foreseeable future would not operate under a new name. The announcement is a coda to the wave of bad publicity befalling the parent organization since last September following the airing of videos filmed by a young conservative activist couple, James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles, pretending to be a pimp and a prostitute. The hidden camera sting, posted on the Web and Fox News Channel, caught ACORN office employees in Baltimore and other U.S. cities giving advice on how to skirt around the law in order to obtain small business loans.
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, is fast becoming radioactive to any organization contemplating doing business (or further business) with it. Federal agencies are no exception to the growing list of entities that recently have dropped their ties to the New Orleans-based nonprofit network. The Internal Revenue Service announced yesterday that it no longer would include ACORN as a partner in its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.
NLPC has asked JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon to end financial support for Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), and its affiliates. According to the 2007 tax return for the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, the most recent available, ACORN Housing, Inc. was the recipient of a million dollar grant in 2007. Another grant of $25,000 was made to the ACORN Institute. In a letter to Dimon, I warned:
Continued identification with ACORN harms the company’s brand name and reputation, and carries special risks for this company, a recipient of taxpayer TARP funds. The New York Times has identified you as President Obama’s “favorite banker.”
One of the defining hallmarks of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, is its propensity for using front organizations to advance its goals. The New Orleans-based nonprofit organization has fully 360 subsidiary and adjunct groups. Lately, one of its affiliates, a misleadingly-named nonprofit entity called New York Agency for Community Affairs, Inc. (NYACA), has been at the center of attention. A recent probe by a consortium of New York City newspapers shows NYACA thus far in this year alone has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from New York state and local taxpayers for political campaign services.
A new book by Barron’s reporter Erin Arvedlund asserts that banking giant JPMorgan Chase became aware of Madoff’s Ponzi scheme months before his arrest, prompting the bank to liquidate its positions in a Madoff-related fund. Yet, the bank continued to accept deposits into Madoff’s main account at the bank from unsuspecting investors who were about to lose everything.
NLPC is a critic of JPMorgan Chase’s support for political and social causes that are contrary to the bank’s interests and hostile to the capitalist system itself, such as ACORN. Although these new revelations are a separate controversy, both reflect an apparent willingness by the firm to work with shady enterprises if it is perceived to be in its own interest.
Jason Sanders was an adviser to the Tides Foundation, a San Francisco philanthropy that for over three decades has been a major funding source for progressive-Left projects on issues such as global sustainability, reproductive justice, and AIDS treatment. What his employer didn't know is that his own favorite cause was himself. This past March 25, Sanders pleaded guilty in San Francisco federal court to embezzling $132,600 from the foundation over a three-year period. He had been indicted last August following an internal audit. From February 2005 to March 2008, federal prosecutors charged, Sanders, now 38, stole funds from the nonprofit group.
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, deservedly has received enormous amounts of bad press over the past couple years. The New Orleans-based nonprofit network of radical activists, with hundreds of affiliates in more than 40 states, has been at the center of investigations into voter registration fraud, unauthorized use of taxpayer funds for lobbying and other forms of partisan politics, phony tax filings, and an embezzlement scandal that cost its founder and chief organizer his job a little over a year ago.
Even radical activists occasionally engage in re-branding, even if mainly for public relations. But a recent name change by an affiliate of the nation's leading radical community action network may signify more than simply a desire for a new image. Wade Rathke, founder and former longtime chief organizer of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), announced a few days ago that he has changed the name of the affiliate he heads, ACORN International.
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, claims to be a voice for dispossessed people. But the New Orleans-based hard-Left nonprofit community organizing network of some 1,200 chapters and 400,000 dues-paying member households has a long history of shakedown artistry. And contrary to the group's official spin, its critics are hardly limited to "the rich" or "right-wingers." On March 19, a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on issues relating to the 2008 election cycle. Prepared testimony from a credible witness indicated that the group operates what amounts to a Mafia-style protection racket. Indeed, the evidence was disturbing enough for Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., who previously had been a supporter, to call for further hearings focused solely on ACORN. There is a strong union angle, too, given that the group owns two locals of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).