Dale Rathke

Donor Who Bailed Out Rathkes Identified as Foundation Head

The unfolding financial scandal at the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, has taken a new turn.  ACORN, based in New Orleans, never wanted known the identity of the person who assumed responsibility for a promissory note of nearly $740,000, a sum representing the remaining balance of the roughly $950,000 embezzled from ACORN’s coffers nearly a decade ago.  But thanks to some digging by San Francisco Chronicle reporter Henry K. Lee, the identity of the person is now known:  Drummond Pike, founder and chief executive of the Tides Foundation, a San Francisco-based philanthropy well-known in progressive circles.  The case is significant for organized labor because ACORN founder and chief organizer Wade Rathke is the founder and chief organizer of Local 100 (Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas) of the Service Employees International Union.  In addition, SEIU Local 880, based in the Midwest, operates as an adjunct of ACORN.  Three months ago, he resigned from his post over the scandal. 

ACORN Admits to Embezzlement Scandal; Founder Steps Down

If ever a labor-affiliated organization embodied inconsistency between rhetoric and action, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, might take first prize.  Formally, ACORN is not a union.  Yet its co-founder and, until recently, longtime chief organizer Wade Rathke also serves as chief organizer for Service Employees International Union Local 100, which represents about 4,000 workers in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas.  His fusion of roles is no coincidence.  From the very start in 1970, ACORN has been unapologetically radical in worldview and strategy.  Taking its inspiration from Saul Alinsky-style neighborhood confrontation politics, the New Orleans-based ACORN, now claiming about 1,200 chapters with some 400,000 households in the U.S. and abroad, prides itself in its advocacy, among other things, of decent wages and benefits for hourly workers – at least if they don’t work for ACORN.  That’s a scandal in itself. 

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