Despite its recent setbacks, the renamed ACORN network remains well positioned to receive support from left-leaning foundations, corporations, unions and the federal government, according to a whistleblower group comprised of former board members. Moreover, the existing financial apparatus that made it possible to transfer public money away from their stated purpose and into partisan political efforts remains intact.
The American Institute of Social Justice (AISJ), one of four national affiliates, deserves greater scrutiny and attention in this area. Over $53 million was transferred between ACORN and AISJ from 2000-2004, according to a report from the House Oversight Committee.
ACORN was also on the receiving end of a $4,952,288 grant from AISJ, according to the Institute’s 990 tax form for 2006. This is instructive because AISJ itself received almost $4 million from ACORN Housing Corp. (AHC) between 2000 and 2006, tax documents show.
“The money flowing to AISJ from ACORN Housing should be a huge red flag for investigators because almost all the federal money that the ACORN network receives goes into its housing affiliate,” Matthew Vadum, a senior editor with the Capital Research Center (CRC) observes. “So it’s entirely possible that when money was being transferred to the national ACORN organization from AISJ, taxpayer money designated for nonpartisan purposes might have been used for blatantly partisan purposes. These transfers are extremely suspicious. This is the type of financial activity that we see with organized crime and it should be investigated.”
On April 1, ACORN’s leadership announced it was dissolving its national network, but in reality the national affiliates and their many state level counterparts are simply remarketing and rebranding themselves, former insiders have warned.
ACORN Housing Corp., for example, the national affiliate at the epicenter of last year’s videotape scandal, has renamed itself Affordable Housing Centers of America. Several state entities have also followed suit reorganizing under generic sounding names that avoid the ACORN label.
ACORN 8, the whistleblower group named for the eight board members blocked from investigating an embezzlement scandal, cautions against media reports that suggest the national organization known in full as the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now (ACORN) has been permanently set back.
“Always note the date, April 1.” Marcel Reid, the ACORN 8 chairwoman, said in an interview. “ACORN is not dissolving, it may be morphing, but it is still is in business and it is still in a position to receive funding, although it may be done under different names.”
In fact, it may become easier over the long for donors to reactive their support for “community organizers” who are no longer burdened by the tarnished ACORN name, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) has observed.
“ACORN’s cover has been blown and its true identity has been revealed but it remains a viable entity beneath different names with the same patrons and same funding sources,” she explained in an interview. “I don’t see a tremendous change in the structure that called itself ACORN.”
Bachmann lead the charge against continued public funding for ACORN throughout 2009 but she does not anticipate that the current congress will move permanently cut off support. Only four Democrats joined with Bachmann to vote against an amendment attached to a mortgage bill last year that would prevent organizations with a criminal history from receiving taxpayer support.
Ron Sykes, a former treasurer with the Washington D.C. branch, and an ACORN 8 activist, has identified the Citizens Consulting Inc. (CCI) affiliate as a major conduit for the comingling and misappropriation of funds. Tax documents do show links between CCI and other affiliates.
“ACORN did not want its local people to have any control over the finances,” he has previously explained. “There were many accounts by CCI had control over all of it.”
Reid, the ACORN 8 chair, recalls how the funding schemes worked to the disadvantage of rank and file members who sought support for community initiatives.
“You could make a tax-deductible donation to ACORN if you were a foundation,” she explained. “You made it through AISJ, then the money was funneled through CSI (Citizens Consulting Inc.) and then the money was kicked back to ACORN – that’s the loop.”
The future of Citizens Consulting remains uncertain and it’s not clear that the affiliate remains in operation. Consequently, AISJ appears to be the main vehicle through which financial contributions can be diverted away from their stated purpose. The national affiliate has attracted little press attention and deserves greater attention and scrutiny as ACORN activists gear up for the 2010 elections.