ACORN Shuts Down
The controversial grassroots organization that launched Barack Obama’s political career is going out of business.
The community organizing group Acorn announced Monday that it would close all its remaining state affiliates and field offices by April 1.
The organization is “developing a plan to resolve all outstanding debts, obligations and other issues,” said a statement released by the group.
Acorn has been battered by criticism from the right and has lost federal money and private donations since a video sting was publicized last fall. Acorn employees were shown in the videos advising two young conservative activists — posing as a pimp and a prostitute — how to conceal their criminal activities.
In reaction to the videos, the Census Bureau ended its partnership with the organization for this year’s census, the Internal Revenue Service dropped the group from its Voluntary Income Tax Assistance program, and Congress voted to cut off all grants to the organization.
This, interestingly, despite the Brooklyn DA exonerating ACORN of criminal charges in the “pimp” matter.
“For Acorn as a national organization, our vindication on the facts doesn’t necessarily pay the bills,” Bertha Lewis, the chief executive of Acorn, said in a statement.
While the videos gave the impression that one of the two activists, James E. O’Keefe III, was dressed as a pimp when he entered the offices, later inspection seemed to indicate that he had manipulated that part of the footage and showed no evidence that he wore the costume when talking to Acorn workers.
The transcript of several stings, however, indicate that Mr. O’Keefe clearly presented himself as a pimp and that Acorn workers in some offices told him how to hide prostitution activities from the authorities.
While that particular scandal was partly manufactured, the organization has been under fire for years. And it finally caught up to them.
“It’s really declining revenue in the face of a series of attacks from partisan operatives and right-wing activist that have taken away our ability to raise the resources we need,” ACORN spokesman Kevin Whelan said.
Several of its largest affiliates, including ACORN New York and ACORN California, broke away this year and changed their names in a bid to ditch the tarnished image of their parent organization and restore revenue that ran dry in the wake of the video scandal. They will continue to operate under their new names and aren’t affected by ACORN’s decision to shut down.
Over time, activist organizations — and perhaps especially decentralized ones — lose sight of their original purpose and adopt a “means justify the ends” mentality. And, frankly, relying on poorly trained, poorly- or uncompensated employees only adds to the troubles. And, no, it’s not just inner city groups; young Republican activists have gotten in trouble for their voter registration drives, too.