Desperate for dollars

"Desperate for dollars" Continued...

Issue: "Ghost streets," Feb. 27, 2010

And besides finding itself under the gaze of the Justice Department, ACORN is facing investigations at the state level in California, Louisiana, and elsewhere. The state group with the most members, California, has broken off and is forming its own nonprofit under a different name (see sidebar below).

Budget season for the 2011 fiscal year is beginning, and most on Capitol Hill agree that, politically, Democrats can't write in a budget line for ACORN, but they could create federal grant funding that is specifically tailored for an organization like ACORN. The Government Accountability Office-the federal government's internal investigation unit-is in the midst of scrutinizing ACORN and should release the results of its investigation within a few months, which will have a major impact on ACORN's future funding.

"They have weathered a lot of controversies in the past," said Hans von Spakovsky, senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, who has been tracking ACORN's federal funding. "I think of ACORN like Count Dracula-I'll believe they're no longer in existence when a stake is driven through their heart."

The nut cracks

ACORN California, whose 48,000 members comprise a full eighth of the national organization, is breaking out on its own and changing its name after the national group's reputation has become increasingly tarred.

The new nonprofit, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, or ACCE, will keep all of the personnel and duties of ACORN California, but it is severing all financial and legal ties to the national group. ACCE filed for nonprofit status in January and intends to meet its budget by tapping state grants and local donors.

Executive director Amy Schur of ACORN California-and now of ACCE-scoffed at the "vicious, politically motivated attacks" on the national group, referring to the unflattering undercover videos of ACORN employees, but in the same breath said "very real internal mistakes have been made."

"We very much hope that ACORN makes it through this challenging time, but unfortunately, California's low- and moderate-income working families can't wait for that to happen," she said in a statement.

The loss of ACORN's California members means ACORN also loses their dues. While that doesn't constitute huge money, it adds to the organization's financial straits, especially if Congress moves to deny funding to the organization for this upcoming fiscal year as it did last year.

Emily Belz
Emily Belz

Emily, who has covered everything from political infighting to pet salons for The Indianapolis Star, The Hill, and the New York Daily News, reports for WORLD Magazine from New York City. Follow Emily on Twitter @emlybelz.


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