The ACORN crime syndicate is not going away anytime soon, but it’s going to look different.
ACORN will probably run out of money and fold by year’s end but a dozen ACORN state chapters reincorporated to seem like new, independent organizations will spring up in the next week to carry on ACORN’s business, a leaked email from ACORN’s online director suggests.
“The truth is that it is hard for us to forsee [sic] any scenario where ACORN continues beyond the end of 2010 and some of us think it might not last that long,” writes Nathan Henderson-James, director of ACORN’s online campaigns, in an apparently authentic Feb. 22 email.
“Last one to leave turn out the lights and wipe the server,” he writes at the end of the message.
In the email Henderson-James explains the subterfuge ACORN will use to lead Americans to believe ACORN is breaking apart.
“It is definitely true that over the next week or so we should see a dozen or more organizations launched on the state level by staff who used to work for ACORN and leaders who developed their skills as ACORN members. These are not just simple name changes, but reimaginings of how best to organize low and moderate income constitiuencies [sic] without any of the legal problems and funding issues dogging ACORN, not to mention the brand damage.”
It is a “tactically smart…reaction to the global situation that helps the work of building power for poor people to continue,” writes Henderson-James, an ACORN employee since 1997.
The Saul Alinsky-inspired public relations hocus-pocus described by Henderson-James is consistent with earlier reports that ACORN is trying to pass off various state chapters as “new” groups. ACORN’s ruse is designed to keep tax dollars and foundation grants flowing into its coffers. With the fallout from the hidden camera videos last fall, congressional funding of ACORN’s election fraud and racketeering business is no longer guaranteed, so ACORN developed a plan that would allow the operation to keep going, albeit on a smaller scale.
ACORN veteran Marcel Reid told me in an interview yesterday that she wasn’t buying into ACORN leadership’s spin. Reid is a whistleblower who was expelled from ACORN’s national board in 2008 for asking too many uncomfortable questions about a million-dollar embezzlement perpetrated in 2000 by the brother of ACORN’s founder and covered up by management for eight years.
“The folding of ACORN isn’t happening because it’s simply going to restructure,” she said. “In the meantime they’ll give all of these new community organizations in the states an opportunity to flourish without ACORN’s legal baggage.”
At least three of these dummy nonprofit corporations that Henderson-James describes have surfaced so far this year. They are Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, New York Communities for Change, and New England United for Justice. All three groups operate out of ACORN offices. The president of New England United for Justice, Maude Hurd, just happens to be the 20-year national president of ACORN. (Massachusetts articles of incorporation available here)
The Henderson-James email to ACORN supporters also encourages recipients to help rewrite the history of the embattled group.
“[T]here will be a fight over the narrative of ACORN’s demise,” he writes. The other side wants “a narrative about the corruption of popular organizations and how they are simply vehicles for the personal enrichment and power fantasies of their top staff members while pushing public policies that destroy middle America.”
This argument must be fought, Henderson-James argues, because it “gives people pushing a pro-corporate agenda a way to tar progressives and even non-progressive Democrats running for office with the ACORN brush.”
Then comes the whining from ACORN’s cyber-warfare chief.
Henderson-James acknowledges that ACORN made mistakes, but claims it was primarily a victim of dirty tricks perpetrated by the political right. “[W]e were all up against a 24-hour propoganda [sic] channel,” he writes, in an apparent reference to the Fox News Channel, one of the few media outlets to closely follow the ACORN saga.
Progressives didn’t fight back hard enough “in a moment of extreme duress, orchestrated by propogand [sic] videos,” he complains.
The movement “stood by as ACORN got gutted, while we also handed the forces of pro-corporate politics a handy club to kick the shit out of anything that vaugely [sic] sounds progressive. And that comes with a license to go after the next group or groups that embody the progressive agenda. This went beyond ACORN. We were just a convienent [sic] target to make into a bogeyman. This was about everything progressives stood for. And when it came time to stand up, most of us didn’t.”
Marcel Reid, who also heads a reform group called ACORN 8, told me ACORN’s setbacks are the fault of the left, not the right. Progressives should have come forward to help fix ACORN, but they didn’t.
“We stood up in the organization to straighten out its problems before they got to this point,” she said. “When they could have stood up to save it they sat down.”
“It’s the left’s fault because when it was time for them to police themselves they would not do it. The left didn’t stand up to purge itself when it could have. They can’t blame the right when they didn’t clean up their own house.”
In the email Henderson-James also complains that federal lawmakers and the mainstream media didn’t do enough to help ACORN, bemoaning “the breathtaking swiftness with which the Congress condemned us on the basis of what have been clearly shown by real journalists to be nothing but the purest propaganda [sic].”
Left-wingers, he writes, now have to promote a narrative “that says the attacks on ACORN were part of a concerted attempt to demobilize key progressive constituencies because they banded together to take power and threaten the status quo and that the legacy of ACORN deserves that regular people stand up for themselves and organize to take power, to pass public policies that create an America we all want to live in. One in which organizing is about average people making their lives and their communities and their workplaces better.”
This left-wing spin “will be contested for a bit and you can be sure that it will be marked by serious right-wing triumphalism,” he predicts. “Our side needs to make sure our narrative wins, using the kind of pushback that’s taken place recently around [undercover video maker James] O’Keefe.”
“That’s been beautiful,” Henderson-James coos.