Posted by MataHarley on 14 January, 2010 at 2:41 pm. 6 comments already!

In what is tandamount to a PR press release, Kate Linthicum at the LA Times reports that ACORN California has broken away from it’s “embattled” national parent organization. Cited throughout the article are ACORN higher ups, expressing their concern over ACORN’s tarnished reputation, and their distraction with legal challenges interfering with the mission ACORN.

Yet the face of the new ACORN will essentially remain the same as the old… only the name has changed.

The new group will have the same mission, will be staffed by many of the same employees who worked for ACORN, and will be funded by most of the same donors, said Amy Schur, the former head organizer for California ACORN.

Schur sits on the interim board of directors for the new group, the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, which was incorporated in California on Monday. ACCE is seeking federal nonprofit status.


Schur said ACCE plans changes, including outsourcing accounting and forming an advisory council of 22 community leaders, in order to avoid the problems with finances and management that made ACORN vulnerable to conservative attacks.


Schur said California members were looking for local control and were frustrated by a lack of transparency. In 2008, it was revealed that top ACORN leaders had tried to hide the embezzlement of nearly $1 million from the organization nine years ago by the brother of ACORN founder Wade Rathke.


Keith Rohman, president of the Los Angeles City Human Relations Commission and chairman of ACCE’s advisory council, said the new California group “is an opportunity to take what is best and leave behind what was not so good.”

It might have behooved the LA Times reporter to do a bit more background on the “new ACORN” vs the “old” ACORN before taking their “concerns” at face value. Amy Schur… [now former] head organizer for ACORN California… is the very same face behind the revised and less than convincing defense for ACORN worker, Tresa Kaelke in Sept 2009. Kaelke was, of course, the unwitting star of the California ACORN exposé. Ms. Schur’s PR answer was to suggest Ms. Kaelke was just “messing with” the intrepid duo behind the ACORN video scandals.

The woman, identified on the video as Tresa Kaelke, appears on posted footage to be interested in cooperating the plan. However, California ACORN head organizer Amy Schur said the video is a gross misrepresentation of what actually happened.

“In this video, there are two actors who come into our office and who were messing with us. And our employee was messing with them,” Schur said.

So much for the “new ACORN” entity’s chief…


Keith Rohman’s not alone in his praise for the old group, now masquerading as the new group. The Bay Area’s alternative/progressive blog, Beyond Chron, is celebrating the new entity if, for nothing else, “…dashing the hopes of Fox News and other right-wing media who hoped to weaken grassroots power by de-funding ACORN.” uh… think this has anything to do with money?? duh wuh

Mr. Rohman thinks this will be much better because the “new” ACORN will be putting an advisory council for financial oversight. A council headed, I might add, by Mr. Rohman.

Distinctively absent from the LA Times article is a factoid that Rohman is founder of Public Interest Investigations, Inc out of LA. This firm, self-described as …”a trusted ally of law firms, corporations, and governmental entities seeking to understand the truth”…. was the same firm hired by the families of the Iraqi victims in the Blackwater lawsuit. In light of that lawsuit’s recent dismissal, they may want to ask for a refund.

Now one has to wonder about the incestuous relationship between an investigative firm providing independent (and supposedly neutral) services, and that company’s founder chairing an “advisory council” for the new ACORN.


Another indication this is all about getting the money is the corporation’s SOS filer herself. The new entity’s registration on the California SOS site shows the application was filed by Marina Delgado out of San Diego. Per Ms. Delgado’s LinkedIn profile page, she’s been the ACORN California operations direct since June 2008. Her own job description show her function is all about the money….

– Researching possible funding sources
– Donor relationship management
– Writing major grant applications
– Developing internal fundraising strategies with local offices

Handy filing, since financial support for ACORN has been falling steadily with the three strikes of scandal… embezzlement, voter fraud and the latest videos hitting YouTube. Then, of course, there’s the the loss of the census contract for ACORN, and Congressional defunding.

John Atlas, a New Jersey writer who recently completed a history of ACORN, said that members with similar complaints in other states were considering following California’s lead. He and others said donor support has plummeted.

“The foundations that have been keeping ACORN going, they’ve cut ACORN off at the knees,” said Peter Dreier, a professor at Occidental College who teaches community organizing.

Last fall, after the House voted to bar ACORN from receiving federal funds, ACORN’s chief executive, Bertha Lewis, blamed the woes on “a multiyear political assault stemming variously from the Bush White House, Fox News and other conservative quarters” and vowed to not let the restrictions cripple her organization.

One has to appreciate the irony of the “blame Bush” factor here. It was, of course, their membership’s and leaders questionable actions that drew fire, and a supermajority Congress with Dem POTUS that “cut” them off “at the knees”.

The “new” ACORN is taking the suggestions of the internal investigation report by Proskauer last month. While the report did not suggest they simply break off, it did suggest shaving down their diverse fingers in the pie into two 501s specializing in their area of expertise… “community organizing and citizen engagement empowerment”, plus related services.

Proskauer suggested this be structured in two 501(c) 3 and 4 entities… a 501(c)3 for charitable, non-profit fundraising and education, and a separate 501(c)4 to support “community organizing and political activity”. Or, more simply translated, a non-profit lobby division that can engage in political campaign activity, (so long as it’s consistent with the organization’s purpose, and is not the organization’s primary activity)

This “internal” investigation funded by ACORN itself came under fire by Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who sits on the committee, penned a scathing indictment of the report for Big Government, labeling it a “whitewash”, and an “audit it bought”.

Specific to the recommendations of the dual 501(c) setup, Rep. Issa said:

Either Mr. Harshbarger is suggesting that ACORN engage in illegal activities by using its 501(c) (4) to campaign for the election of Democratic candidates, or Mr. Harshbarger is expressing his profound ignorance and a lack of professional due diligence because the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (“ACORN”) has never been tax-exempt, but a taxable state-registered corporation filing IRS FORM 1120 for corporate income taxes.

The structure of the “new” ACORN has not been so explicitly detailed in any of these early PR announcements. But it will be curious to follow their sought non-profit status and whether they do indeed provide an arm for political campaign activity.

But from their choice of leadership, and the convenient timing of losing cash left and right, the new ACORN alliance is simply the same wilted rose by another name. And a very clever way to reclaim both the private and federal cash they are losing.