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1308 19th Street NW Washington, DC20036
Phone :202-822-9193Email :email@example.comURL :http://www.arcafoundation.org/
Funder Profile: -->
Assets: $59,829,824 (2004)
Grants Awarded: $2,982,017 (2004)
The Arca Foundation was established in 1952 as the Nancy Reynolds Bagley Foundation by Nancy Susan Reynolds, whose father founded the R. J. Reynolds tobacco company. In 1968, the Foundation changed its name to Arca (Italian for "ark" - to evoke an image of "something that affords protection and safety"). It was around this time that Arca, like many other U.S. foundations, took a decidedly left turn, beginning to earmark grants for radical environmentalism. In the 1980s, funding for pro-Cuba, pro-Sandinista, and anti-corporate groups emerged as additional priorities. In recent times, the Arca Foundation website has featured high praise for such leftist icons as Michael Moore and Howard Dean, and the TomPaine.com website. A staunch opponent of capital punishment, the Foundation lauds the success of one of its grantees, the Illinois Death Penalty Education Project, in persuading Illinois Governor George Ryan in 2000 to declare a moratorium on executions in his state, thereby sparing the lives of some 167 death-row inmates. Today the Arca Foundation identifies its main fields of interest as "international affairs, foreign policy, international human rights, public policy (particularly campaign-finance reform), and research." The Foundation also advocates increased funding for public schools, tax hikes for higher income earners, the implementation of a government-run health care system, and the redistribution of wealth.Members of the Bagley family remain prominent in the Foundation's leadership to this day. Smith Bagley (the son of Nancy Reynolds Bagley) is the current President. Nancy Bagley, his daughter and Foundation Vice President, was also on the advance staff for the Clinton-Gore presidential campaign of 1992, and thereafter worked on the health-care initiative in the early Clinton White House. With her inherited wealth, Nancy Bagley (along with her husband Henry) purchased a 600-acre estate on St. Simons Island, Georgia and dubbed it Musgrove. Today this property is used as a retreat for what the Arca Foundation calls "policy-makers, influential thinkers and progressive activists from around the world." President Jimmy Carter held his first pre-inaugural Cabinet meeting in the seclusion of Musgrove. A notable Arca Foundation board member is Margery Tabankin of Tabankin Associates, who also sits on the board of the (Barbra) Streisand Foundation and heads Steven Spielberg's Righteous Persons Foundation. Ms. Tabankin is the former director of the Hollywood Women's Political Committee and was director of VISTA under the Carter Administration. Executive director Donna Edwards is the only paid member of the Arca Foundation board; she earned $112,542 in 2002.The Arca Foundation is a member organization of both the Peace and Security Funders Group and the International Human Rights Funders Group (IHRFG); the latter is a network of more than six-dozen grantmakers dedicated to funding leftist groups and causes. (For a complete list of IHRFG grantmakers, click here.) Among the many leftist organizations funded by the Arca Foundation are: the Tides Foundation; the Tides Center; Public Citizen; U.S. Public Interest Reseach Group; Earth Island Institute; the Project on Government Oversight; Global Exchange; the New America Foundation; the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN); the American Civil Liberties Union; Alliance for Justice; the Center for Economic and Policy Research; the Gamaliel Foundation; the National Security Archive Fund; Pax Christi USA; the William J. Brennan Center for Justice; Human Rights First; Democracy Now Productions; Independent Media Institute; Women's Action for New Directions; the NAACP; Veterans for Peace; Media Matters for America; The Nation Institute; Earth Day Network; Partners for Peace; the Mexico Solidarity Network; the Economic Policy Institute; the Alliance for Global Justice; the Ocean Conservancy; the International Forum on Globalization; the Maurice and Jane Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice; the Center for Health, Environment and Justice; the Natural Resources Defense Council; the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy; People for the American Way; Common Cause; the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund; the Center for Marine Conservation; the Illinois Death Penalty Education Project; Citizen Action; Immigrant Workers Citizenship Project; EcoLogic; the Institute for Policy Studies; the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP); the Worker Rights Consortium; the Fund for Constitutional Government; the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights; the National Network of Grantmakers (NNG); the Council on Foundations; the Funders Committee for Civic Participation; the Center for Defense Information (pro-Cuba); Planned Parenthood; the Center for International Policy (pro-Cuba); USAction Education Fund; the Fund for Peace; the Fair Trial Initiative; the National Voting Rights Institute; the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy; the Proteus Fund; the Public Justice Foundation; Quixote Center Incorporated; the Institute for Media Analysis; Cuban Committee for Democracy; the Institute for America's Future; the National Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice; the Center for Public Integrity; the Center for Community Change; the Youth Vote Coalition; the American Institute for Social Justice; the International Council of Women World Leaders; the Center for the Study of Public Policy; Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Inc.; Environmental Media Services; Vital Voices Global Partnership; the People of Faith Network; the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF); the Center for Labor Research and Training; the Lexington Institute (pro-Cuba); the Latin American Working Group Education Fund; the National Labor Committee Education Fund in Support of Human and Worker Rights; TransAfrica Forum; Search for Common Ground; the Ruckus Society; and the Neighborhood Funders Group.
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Tides FoundationP.O. Box 29903San Francisco, CA94129-0903Tides CenterP.O. Box 29907San Francisco, CA94129-0907
Phone :415-561-6400 (F) 415-561-6300 (C)Email :firstname.lastname@example.org (F&C)URL :http://www.tides.org/ (F&C)
Funder Profile: -->
Net Assets: Tides Foundation - $142,007,356 (2006); Tides Center - $43,969,744 (2006)
Grants Received: Tides Foundation - $68,725,557 (2006); Tides Center - $49,859,754 (2006)
Grants Awarded: Tides Foundation - $67,319,624 (2006); Tides Center - $5,566,058 (2006)
Established in 1976 by California-based activist Drummond Pike, the Tides Foundation was set up as a public charity that receives money from donors and then funnels it to the recipients of their choice. Because many of these recipient groups are quite radical, the donors often prefer not to have their names publicly linked with the donees. By letting the Tides Foundation, in effect, "launder" the money for them and pass it along to the intended beneficiaries, donors can avoid leaving a "paper trail." Such contributions are called "donor-advised," or donor-directed, funds. Through this legal loophole, nonprofit entities can also create for-profit organizations and then funnel money to them through Tides -- thereby circumventing the laws that bar nonprofits from directly funding their own for-profit enterprises. Pew Charitable Trusts, for instance, set up three for-profit media companies and then proceeded to fund them via donor-advised contributions to Tides, which (for an 8 percent management fee) in turn sent the money to the media companies. If a donor wishes to give money to a particular cause but finds that there is no organization in existence dedicated specifically to that issue, the Tides Foundation will, for a fee, create a group to meet that perceived need.In 1996 the Tides Foundation created, with a $9 million seed grant, a separate but closely related entity called the Tides Center, also headed by Drummond Pike. The Tides Center functions as a legal firewall insulating the Tides Foundation from potential lawsuits filed by people whose livelihoods or well-being may be harmed by Foundation-funded projects. (These could be, for instance, farmers or loggers who are put out of business by Tides-backed environmentalist groups.) In theory the Foundation's activities are restricted to fundraising and grant-making, while the Center focuses on managing projects and organizations; in practice, however, both entities do essentially the same thing.The Tides Center's Board Chairman is Wade Rathke, who is also a member of the Tides Foundation Board. Rathke, a protege of the late George A. Wiley, serves as President of the New Orleans-based Local 100 of the Service Employees International Union, and is the founder and chief organizer of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). Maya Wiley, daughter of George A. Wiley, sits on the Tides Center's Board of Directors.Chip Berlet sits on the Board of the Campaign to Defend the Constitution, a Tides Center project formed in 2005 to combat "the growing power of the religious right" and to "fight for the separation of church and state." Berlet is a senior analyst for Political Research Associates, and has had affiliations with the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Friends Service Committee, the Christic Institute, the Socialist Workers Party, the National Lawyers Guild, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.The Tides Foundation promotes a multitude of leftist agendas, as evidenced by its assertion: "We strengthen community-based organizations and the progressive movement by providing an innovative and cost-effective framework for your philanthropy." Among the crusades to which Tides contributes are: radical environmentalism; the "exclusion of humans from public and private wildlands"; the anti-war movement; anti-free trade campaigns; the banning of firearms ownership; abolition of the death penalty; access to government-funded abortion-on-demand; and radical gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender advocacy. The Foundation is also a member organization of the International Human Rights Funders Group, a network of more than six-dozen grantmakers dedicated to finaning leftwing groups and causes. Immediately after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Tides formed a "9/11 Fund" to advocate a "peaceful national response." Tides later replaced the 9/11 Fund with the "Democratic Justice Fund," which was financed in large measure by the Open Society Institute of George Soros, who has donated more than $7 million to Tides over the years. Reciprocally, the Tides Foundation is a major funder of the Shadow Party, a George Soros-conceived nationwide network of several dozen unions, non-profit activist groups, and think tanks whose agendas are ideologically to the left, and which are engaged in campaigning for the Democrats.Tides also set up a Peace Strategies Fund and an Iraq Peace Fund, the latter of which has granted money to such groups as MoveOn.org, the National Council of Churches, the Arab-American Action Network, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and the pro-Castro groups United for Peace and Justice and Center for Constitutional Rights. In addition, Tides funds "A Better Way Project," which coordinates the activities of United for Peace and Justice and the Win Without War Coalition/Keep America Safe Campaign.Tides and the organizations it supports interact closely with one another on a regular basis. For example, Drummond Pike sits on the Board of the Environmental Working Group along with David Fenton, founder of Fenton Communications.Recent recipients of Tides Foundation grants include: the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute; the American Civil Liberties Union; the ACORN Institute; the Agape Foundation; Alliance For Justice; American Family Voices; the American Friends Service Committee; the American Immigration Law Foundation; the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee; Amnesty International; the Border Action Network; the Brennan Center for Justice; Campaign for America's Future; the Center for American Progress; the Center for Community Change; the Center for Constitutional Rights; the Center for Reproductive Rights; Changemakers; the Children's Defense Fund; Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington; the Council on American-Islamic Relations (as revealed in FrontpageMagazine); Democracy Now!; Earth Day Network; Earth Island Institute; Earthjustice; Environmental Defense; Environmental Media Services; the Environmental Working Group; Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting; the Feminist Majority Foundation; Free Press; Funding Exchange; Global Exchange; Grantmakers Without Borders; Grassroots International; Greenpeace; Human Rights First; Human Rights Watch; the Immigrant Legal Resource Center; Institute for America's Future; Institute for Policy Studies; Institute for Public Accuracy; the Israel Policy Forum; the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; the Lawyers' Committee on Nuclear Policy; the Jane Addams Peace Association; the League of Conservation Voters; the League of United Latin American Citizens; the League of Women Voters; the Liberty Hill Foundation; MADRE; Medecins Sans Frontieres; Media Matters for America; Mercy Corps; the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund; the Mexico Solidarity Network; the Middle East Children's Alliance; Mothers & Others for a Livable Planet; the Ms. Foundation for Women; the NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation; the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers; the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty; the National Council of Churches; the National Lawyers Guild; the National Network of Grantmakers; the National Organization for Women Foundation; the National Wildlife Federation; the Natural Resources Defense Council; the Nature Conservancy (of California and of New York); the New Israel Fund; the New World Foundation; Nonviolent Peaceforce; the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation; Oxfam America; the Pacifica Foundation; Peace Action; the Peace Development Fund; People for the American Way; People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals; Physicians for Social Responsibility; Planned Parenthood; the Ploughshares Fund; Population Connection; the Progress Unity Fund; Project Vote; the Proteus Fund; the Public Citizen Foundation; the Rainforest Action Network; the Rainforest Alliance; the Rockefeller Family Fund; the Ruckus Society; the Sentencing Project; September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows; the Sierra Club; the Shefa Fund; Sojourners; the Threshold Foundation; TrueMajority Action; Trust for Public Land; the Union of Concerned Scientists; USAction; Veterans For Peace; Waterkeeper Alliance; the Wilderness Society; Witness For Peace; Women's Action for New Directions; and the World Wildlife Fund.Tides also runs a tax-exempt "alternative media source" called the Institute for Global Communications (IGC), a leading provider of Web technology to the radical left.Between 1993 and 2003, at least 91 foundations made grants to the Tides Foundation. These included the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; the Annie E. Casey Foundation; the Arca Foundation; the AT&T Foundation; the Barbra Streisand Foundation; the Bauman Family Foundation; Ben and Jerry's Foundation; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; the Blue Moon Fund; the Bullitt Foundation; the CarEth Foundation; the Carnegie Corporation of New York; Changemakers; the ChevronTexaco Foundation; the Columbia Foundation; the David and Lucile Packard Foundation; the Energy Foundation; the Fannie Mae Foundation; the Ford Foundation; the Foundation for Deep Ecology; the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation; the Heinz Family Foundation; the Hoffman Foundation; the Homeland Foundation; the Howard Heinz Endowment; the J.M. Kaplan Fund; the James Irvine Foundation; the JEHT Foundation; the Jenifer Altman Foundation; the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation; the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; the Joyce Foundation; the Lear Family Foundation; the Liberty Hill Foundation; the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation; the Ms. Foundation for Women; the Nathan Cummings Foundation; the New World Foundation; the Open Society Institute; the Pew Charitable Trusts; the Ploughshares Fund; the Proteus Fund; the Public Welfare Foundation; the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund; the Righteous Persons Foundation; the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; the Roberts Foundation; the Rockefeller Family Fund; the Rockefeller Foundation; the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy; the Stern Family Fund; the Stewart R. Mott Charitable Trust; the Summit Charitable Foundation; the Surdna Foundation; the Threshold Foundation; the Turner Foundation; the Vanguard Public Foundation; the Verizon Foundation; the Vira I. Heinz Endowment; the W.K. Kellogg Foundation; the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; and the Woods Fund of Chicago.One particularly notable donor to the Tides entities is Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of Senator John Kerry. From 1994 to 2004, the Heinz Endowments, which Mrs. Kerry heads, gave the Tides Foundation and Center approximately $8.1 million in grants. Until February 2001, Mrs. Kerry also served as a trustee of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, which has given Tides numerous six-figure grants.The Tides Foundation and Tides Center also receive grants from the U.S. federal government. Between 1997 and 2001, these grants included the following: $395,219 from the Department of Interior; $3,350,431 from the Environmental Protection Agency; $3,487,040 from the Department of Housing and Urban Development; $208,878 from the Department of Agriculture; $39,550 from the Department of Energy; $93,500 from the Small Business Administration; $10,986 from the Department of Health and Human Services; and $84,520 from the Centers for Disease Control U.S. Agency for International Development.
Info from: Discoverthenetworks.org
Founder and former Chief Organizer of ACORN, a nationwide activist network engaged in "community organizing" and in voter mobilization drives for George Soros' Shadow Party
Former draft-resistance activist for the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)
Former activist in the National Welfare Reform Organization (NWRO) and protegé of its founder George A. Wiley
Co-founder of the Tides Foundation, along with Drummond Pike. Currently serves as Board Chairman of the Tides Center and member of the Tides Foundation Board of Directors
Founded Local 100 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in New Orleans and heads it to this day. Rathke is president and co-founder of SEIU's Southern Conference and a member of SEIU's national executive board. He also helped launch the United Labor Union (ULU), which organizes low-skill service workers.
Rathke chairs the AFL-CIO's Organizers Forum and formerly served as Secretary-Treasurer of the Greater New Orleans AFL-CIO.
Wade Rathke founded the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), for which he served as Chief Organizer from 1970 to 2008. He is also the co-founder and Chairman of the Tides Center; a Board member of the Tides Foundation; an Executive Board member of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU); and Chairman of the AFL-CIO's Organizers Forum. Rathke describes himself as someone who is dedicated to "winning social justice, workers' rights, and a democracy where 'the people shall rule'"; i.e., socialism.Rathke hails from a family of prosperous orange ranchers in Orange County, California. During the late 1960s he attended Williams College in Massachusetts but dropped out before graduating. He thereafter became a draft-resistance organizer for the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and an organizer for George Wiley's National Welfare Reform Organization (NWRO). (For details on NWRO, see the separate entries for George Wiley and the "Cloward-Piven Strategy.")In 1970, Wiley sent Rathke to Little Rock, Arkansas to begin organizing NWRO chapters in the South. By that time, Wiley -- who was African American -- was coming under attack by black militants who opposed his policy of placing whites such as Rathke in NWRO leadership positions.Rathke, perhaps sensing that he might soon be demoted or released entirely, in 1970 formed a new organization called Arkansas Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). He enlisted civil rights workers and trained them in a program (at Syracuse University) patterned after Saul Alinsky's activist tactics.The group's name was later changed to Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, but the acronym ACORN remained the same. In keeping with George Wiley's original vision, Rathke gave ACORN a wider mission than that of NWRO. Instead of focusing solely on welfare recipients, ACORN would address issues touching all low-income people -- most notably "living wage" ordinances, "affordable" (i.e., taxpayer-funded) housing, mortgage lending, and voter-registration drives. Under Rathke's leadership, ACORN grew rapidly. Today it claims more than 400,000 dues-paying member families, and more than 1,200 chapters in 110 U.S. cities. (The organization is also active in Canada and Mexico).The Florida recount crisis in the 2000 presidential election served to inject Rathke and his fellow ACORN activists with a heightened sense of urgency to advance their political agendas. Initially, Miami-Dade County's all-Democrat canvassing board moved the recount into a room too small to accomodate reporters or Republican observers. At the same time, the board announced that since its members lacked time to hand-count all the ballots, they would only count some ballots -- presumably, Republicans feared, selecting a disproportionate number of those that had been cast for Al Gore. The ensuing uproar, which featured Republicans pounding on the counting-room door and an angry crowd of Cuban-Americans gathered outside the building demanding entry, persuaded the nervous canvassing board to back down from its illegal plan -- and perhaps prevented the Democrats from stealing the election."[W]e allowed conservatives to steal pages from our playbook and do actions on us in Dade County," Rathke later lamented in his magazine Social Policy. "We need an edge, some harder steel on the rim."With new resolve, Rathke and ACORN thereafter pushed into high gear their efforts to help Democrat candidates win political elections at any cost. Toward that end, ACORN's mass campaigns of voter-registration fraud would reach unprecedented heights in subsequent election cycles. ACORN's paid workers, tasked with registering as many pro-Democrat voters as possible, submitted many tens of thousands of fraudulent voter-registration cards in key voting districts around the United States. By 2008, federal authorities were investigating voter fraud by ACORN in 12 separate states.On June 2, 2008, Rathke stepped down from his role as ACORN's President. A month after his departure, the organization publicly acknowledged that Dale Rathke -- Wade's brother -- had embezzled nearly $1 million from ACORN and its affiliated groups in 1999 and 2000. ACORN further admitted that for eight years its executives had known about Dale's activity but had kept it secret from almost all of their board members and from law-enforcement authorities.According to journalist Stephanie Strom, Wade Rathke "said the decision to keep the matter secret was not made to protect his brother but because word of the embezzlement would have put a 'weapon' into the hands of enemies of ACORN, a liberal group that is a frequent target of conservatives who object to its often strident advocacy on behalf of low- and moderate-income families and workers."Tides Foundation founder and president Drummond Pike personally repaid the embezzled amount to ACORN.Today Wade Rathke disseminates his political views by means of a blog he administers on his website, WadeRathke.net. In a July 25, 2008 blog post titled "Herr Obama," Rathke celebrated the excitement that had attended Democrat presidential candidate Barack Obama's recent tour of Europe:
"Can you remember the last time an American who didn't have a microphone in one hand and a guitar in another drew 200,000 people anywhere in Europe? And, that would have been as part of a festival where they were serving beer at the least. For 200,000 people to come out and hear a candidate for President is an amazing phenomenon. It makes me think that there is an excitement -- and hope -- around the world that America as the world's leader, might actually be a leader and have a leader that the world is willing to respect and hear differently."
In July 2009, ACORNcracked.com editor Kyle Olson visited a Rathke book signing (for Citizen Wealth: Winning the Campaign to Save Working Families), where he interviewed the ACORN founder. In the interview, Rathke confirmed that he was pursuing the so-called "Maximum Eligible Participation" Solution (MEPS), a strategy calling for all Americans eligible for welfare payments to demand every penny to which the law "entitles" them. He urged people to "make sure that other people in the community" are actually getting their due from the government.The MEPS is essentially an updated incarnation of the old Cloward-Piven Strategy, aiming to orchestrate a crisis that will overwhelm the financial system and cause it to collapse. Rathke writes in his book, "it is hard to believe that we cannot assemble the troops to mount a campaign for maximum eligible participation that harvests the opportunities and dollars already available if we could achieve full utilization of existing programs." Rathke has also said that technology should be utilized to make it as easy as possible for people to claim welfare benefits.
Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
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GEORGE ALVIN WILEY Individual Profile: -->
African-American militant of the 1960s, widely regarded as the father of the "welfare rights" movement
Founder of the National Welfare Reform Organization
One of the earliest and most successful practitioners of the "change-through-crisis" formula prescribed by the "Cloward-Piven strategy"
Mentor of Wade Rathke, founder and leader of the radical cult ACORN
Pioneer of the radical "franchise" concept, now used by ACORN and other groups, which enables local activists to quickly and easily build local outlets of national activist organizations through replication
George Alvin Wiley is best known for his effective use of the so-called "Cloward-Piven strategy," which called for swamping the welfare rolls with new applicants, beyond what the system could bear. The plan's inventors, Columbia University political scientists Richard Andrew Cloward and Frances Fox Piven, hoped that the resulting economic collapse would lead to political turmoil and ultimately socialism. Cloward and Piven recruited Wiley to put their plan to work in the streets. One of six children, George Wiley was born in Bayonne, New Jersey on February 26, 1931, but soon moved with his family to Warwick, Rhode Island, a mostly white suburb of Providence. Wiley's father supported his family by working as a postal clerk, but his heart lay in political activism, which he pursued by editing a weekly newspaper for the black community and leading the Rhode Island Urban League. Wiley's mother was also active in black charities and political organizing. Wiley earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Rhode Island in 1953; received a doctorate in organic chemistry from Cornell University in 1957; fulfilled a six-month ROTC obligation as a first lieutenant in the Army at Fort Lee, Virginia; and subsequently accepted a post-doctoral fellowship at UCLA. He taught chemistry for two years at the University of California at Berkeley, whereupon he took a teaching position at Syracuse University in New York.As his career progressed, Wiley never forgot his political upbringing. He led a voter registration drive in Petersburg, Virginia while serving in the Army. During his stint teaching at UC Berkeley, he counseled student activists taking part in sit-in protests. But only after he moved to Syracuse did Wiley's militancy begin to emerge in full. He joined the Syracuse University faculty in 1960. That same year, he founded the Syracuse chapter of CORE (Congress for Racial Equality) and became its first Chairman. On November 23, 1964, Wiley accepted the job of Associate National Director of CORE, making him second in command to National Director James Farmer. Wiley left academia that year to become a fulltime activist, moving with his family to New York City's Lower East Side.Within 14 months, however, Wiley became disillusioned with CORE's conventional approach to civil rights. He left the organization in January 1965, forming his own activist group called the Poverty Rights Action Center (PRAC), with headquarters in Washington, DC. Reflecting his new militancy, Wiley exchanged his business suits for dashikis, jeans, scuffed shoes, and a newly grown Afro. He took up residence in Washington's Dupont Circle -- not far from the Institute for Policy Studies, whose doctrine of "creative disorder" resonated with the underlying goals of the Cloward-Piven strategy.Wiley was just getting PRAC up and running when Cloward and Piven began promoting their "flood-the-rolls, bankrupt-the-cities" plan in the activist community. Cloward and Piven believed that their plan could spark a nationwide movement. To lead the movement, they sought an experienced organizer with vision, charisma and -- most important of all -- street credibility with inner-city blacks. That organizer turned out to be George Alvin Wiley.Wiley's first act was to organize nationwide protests by welfare recipients. From June 20-30, 1966, about forty welfare recipients marched 155 miles from Cleveland to Columbus, Ohio, gathering at the state capitol with about 2,000 supporters to demand increased benefits. Their June 30 arrival in Columbus was timed to coincide with rallies in fifteen other cities, including New York, Trenton, Chicago, Louisville, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Wiley declared "the birth of a movement." It became known as the Welfare Rights Movement.Wiley's National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO) held its founding convention in Washington DC, August 25-27, 1967. Closely following Cloward and Piven's recommendations, Wiley and his followers invaded welfare offices -- often violently -- bullying social workers and loudly demanding every penny to which the law "entitled" them. Regarding Wiley's tactics, The New York Times reported in 1970: "There have been sit-ins in legislative chambers, including a United States Senate committee hearing, mass demonstrations of several thousand welfare recipients, school boycotts, picket lines, mounted police, tear gas, arrests -- and, on occasion, rock-throwing, smashed glass doors, overturned desks, scattered papers and ripped-out phones."These methods proved effective. "The flooding succeeded beyond Wiley's wildest dreams," writes Sol Stern in the Manhattan Institute's City Journal. "From 1965 to 1974, the number of single-parent households on welfare soared from 4.3 million to 10.8 million, despite mostly flush economic times." In accordance with the Cloward-Piven strategy, NWRO pushed for a guaranteed living income, which it defined, in 1968, as $5,500 per year for every American family with four children. Wiley introduced the battle cry, "Fifty-five hundred or fight!," raising it the following year to "Sixty-five hundred or fight!" Though the guaranteed income never progressed beyond the level of rhetoric, the tens of billions of dollars in welfare entitlements that Wiley and his followers managed to squeeze from state and local governments came very close to sinking the U.S. economy, just as Cloward and Piven had predicted.Wiley and his welfare radicals terrorized social workers all over the United States, but their greatest success came in New York City. Newly elected in 1966, arch-liberal Mayor John Lindsay knuckled under to every demand from Wiley's NWRO. New York's welfare rolls had already been growing by 12 percent per year before Lindsay took office. The growth rate jumped to 50 percent annually in 1966. "By the early 1970s, one person was on the welfare rolls in New York City for every two working in the city's private economy," writes Sol Stern in the Manhattan Institute's City Journal. As a direct result of its reckless welfare spending, New York City was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1975.Crucial to NWRO's success was its business model, which evinced certain odd parallels with the franchising strategy of hamburger chains such as McDonald's and Burger King. Franchise chains grow through replication. Their founders create successful, easy-to-duplicate businesses, then sell licenses to individual franchisees, who set up exact copies of the business, at their own expense, in their own local markets. In addition to the licensing fee, each franchisee is required to pay a percentage of sales each month to the parent company, in exchange for the privilege of using its name and business system.NWRO worked in a similar fashion. It encouraged local activists to set up independent chapters in their communities. Each chapter became a profit center in its own right, generating money from its own local operations. Whereas McDonald's made money by selling hamburgers, NWRO made money by teaching people to exploit the welfare system, then charging its beneficiaries membership fees for the privilege of profiting from NWRO's shakedown operations.Membership fees alone did not cover NWRO's expenses, however. Wiley's radical franchise required outside financing to stay afloat. This came in the form of grants from federal agencies and private philanthropists. In his book The Tragedy of American Compassion, former communist and promoter of "compassionate conservatism" Marvin Olasky notes that NWRO received more than $500,000 from the National Council of Churches from 1968 to 1971. At one point, Johnson administration officials signed a contract to give NWRO $435,000. Wiley received only $106,000 of this sum before President Nixon cancelled the grant in 1969. Despite such occasional setbacks, federal aid flowed freely to Wiley's group from many sources and in many different forms, including free legal aid and free office space from the Legal Services division of the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO).Fueled by its multitudinous income streams, NWRO chapters sprouted up from coast to coast. By 1969, NWRO claimed a dues-paying membership of 22,500 families, with 523 chapters across the nation.With Richard Nixon's accession to the White House in 1968, the federal funds that drove NWRO began drying up. So did the public's patience for the sort of violent tactics Wiley promoted. As money tightened, NWRO's leaders began turning on each other. White activists were driven from leadership positions by black extremists. Wiley himself came under attack for his middle-class background. A poor people's organization should be run by poor people, the insurgents declared. Pressure grew to fill every leadership slot with welfare recipients, rather than with the professional activists who had previously led NWRO.Wiley announced his resignation in a New York Times interview of December 16, 1971. "The welfare rights movement created a political and economic crisis around the issue of welfare which could have led to reform or repression," he told the Times. "What we are witnessing is repression, and we need a broad organized movement to counter it."Wiley said that he would officially leave NWRO on January 31, 1972, in order to start a new group called The Movement for Economic Justice. "In some ways, people are tired of the issue of welfare and the label is a problem …" he said. "The real welfare in this country is going to the Department of Defense, the railroads, the airlines and to other corporations through tax loopholes." Wiley declared that he would reach out across class and racial lines, building a coalition of the working poor, the unemployed, senior citizens and the lower middle-class (those making $5,000 to $15,000 per year) around such issues as national health insurance, consumer rights, housing, daycare, and tax reform. He explained that he was not abandoning his original mission, but expanding it. Welfare was only one of many paths to his ultimate goal: "income redistribution."The Movement for Economic Justice never got off the ground. Wiley died in a boating accident on August 8, 1973. NWRO closed its doors two years later. Its stormy history had lasted only eight years, from 1967 to 1975. But Wiley's concept of the radical franchise chain, whose operations can be duplicated in any community, continues to inspire imitators to this day, such as ACORN and the PIRG groups. Former NWRO activist Mark Toney credits Wiley with "introducing the first organizing model that was consciously designed to be replicable anywhere in the country. The many community organizations today that use a standard model when they start a chapter in a new community have NWRO to thank for the concept."Wiley's legacy lives on most powerfully through ACORN -- a nationwide movement founded and led by Wiley's protegé Wade Rathke, a former Students for a Democratic Society militant and onetime NWRO organizer. ACORN and its front groups today are the leading practitioners of the "Cloward-Piven strategy" that Wiley pioneered.
Many organizations can still funnel your tax money or donation to help others into ACORN.
This is the html version of the file http://www.rottenacorn.com/downloads/060728_badSeed.pdf.
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Rotten ACORNAmerica’s Bad SeedEmployment Policies Institute1775 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 1200 Washington, DC 20006 Tel: 202.463.7112 Fax: 202.463.7107July 2006
Employment Policies Institute / www.EPIonline.org2The Association of Community Organizations forReform Now is a non-profit (but not federallytax-exempt) organization at the center of a vastweb of groups run by long-time anti-corporate activistWade Rathke and a handful of his closest allies. In total,the Employment Policies Institute has documentedmore than 75 organizations run by the Rathke/ACORNempire—almost all run out of one office at 1024 ElysianFields in New Orleans.ACORN operates in at least 38 states, as well as inCanada, Mexico, and Peru, and is integral in a fightto prevent Foreign Direct Investment in India. Rathkesaid ACORN plans to continue its growth by addingoffices in 100 new cities over the next five years1, afterseeing 100 percent growth in offices between 2003and 2004. ACORN claims 200,000 member families(though member dues only account for eight percentof the organization’s massive budget2), and representsapproximately 80,000 union members. It operates“social justice” radio stations, community televisiongroups, and a magazine. It runs home mortgage and taxcounseling centers, a voter-mobilization organization,left-wing schools, a furniture company, a consultingfirm, and a law/lobbying firm.Its budget is fed by extracting immense resources fromunions, government grants, foundations, its members,and “settlements” with targeted businesses.The group began growing its spider-like organizationallimbs shortly after its inception in 1970. FoundingACORN organizer Gary Delgado outlines the beginningof the group’s pattern of creating offshoots:ACORN also established two spinoffs from itsmain local organizing thrust in 1975. The first ofthese, ACORN Associates, Inc., offered (for a fee)consultation, training, and technical assistance toother [community organization] groups. Its purposewas to utilize the talent of ex-ACORN staff,scattered all over the country, to conduct trainingand to kick back the money to ACORN. The secondoffshoot, the Arkansas Institute for Social Justice(AISJ)—after 1978, simply Institute for SocialJustice—was formed to offer week-long trainingprograms in cities across the country to makemoney for ACORN and to set up an intern programthrough which trainees would receive stipends fromthe institute while learning community organizingin Little Rock …3He continued:The Institute’s program, on the other hand,was intended, first, to provide ACORN with anonprofit, tax-exempt arm, important for securingfoundation grants. Second, it would serve as ameans of organizer recruitment through both theRotten ACORNAmerica’s Bad SeedBy The Employment Policies InstituteACORN is a bad seed.ACORN is a multi-million-dollar multinational conglomerate. ACORN claims to be a community assistancegroup, but its political agenda is driven by a relative handful of anti-corporate activists. ACORN spendsmillions of dollars to enact economic policies (such as raising the minimum wage), but has admitted that itdoesn’t want to abide by them. ACORN advocates for workers rights and runs two unions, but busts unionsof its own employees. ACORN fights for “good government,” but misuses government grants. ACORN Is A Multi-Million-Dollar Multinational Conglomerate
Employment Policies Institute / www.EPIonline.org3training sessions and the intern program. Third, itrepresented ACORN’s attempt to hegemonize thefield of community organizing by offering trainingin “principles and techniques of communityorganizing, drawing particularly from the ACORNmodel of neighborhood-based organizing.”4Delgado also describes the labor-allied group Alliancefor Justice, which he labels an “ACORN-initiated group”that was “originally conceptualized as ACORN’s bid toinitiate a ‘dump Reagan’ campaign.”The expansion into other businesses continued:In 1984, 85 percent of the budget came frominternal finances. ACORN has also initiated anallied business operation that is currently involvedin selling paper to nonprofit organizations in 3cities, and is looking into the possibility of settingup housing and heating oil-buying cooperatives.5The Rathke Family BusinessACORN portrays itself as a democratic organizationwhose decisions are made by its thousands of memberfamilies. But history indicates that only one family reallycontrols ACORN: the Rathkes. For all of the membersit claims to represent, and for all of the organizationsit maintains, ACORN is the family business foundedby Wade Rathke and run with help from his wife, hisbrother, and at least one child.Dale Rathke is Wade’s brother. One former employeeof Service Employees International Union Local100, which is one of two unions run by Rathke andthe ACORN empire, described Dale as the “financialguru” of the organization.6 He is the signator to officialdocuments for dozens of ACORN entities, includingthe Elysian Fields Partnership, in which he and Wadeare partners.Beth Butler is both Wade Rathke’s wife and HeadOrganizer of Louisiana ACORN, where the nationalorganization resides. Rathke has also placed hisdaughter, whom he called “Organizer 5” in one Internetdiary entry, into the crucial campaign to attack Wal-Mart (see elsewhere in this report).Rathke and his family use these positions of financialpower to control what is assumed to be a democraticorganization.The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that formerArkansas ACORN chair Dorothy Perkins stated thatthe group was “run like a Jim Jones cult” where allthe money ended up under Wade Rathke’s control andwas “never seen” by the low-income individuals theorganization claims to represent.7 On September 3,1987, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported:Perkins contended all funds received by Acorn arecontrolled at New Orleans by Wade Rathke, Acornfounder. Perkins also said Rathke told disgruntledArkansas Acorn members they could pull out ofAcorn “but the money is staying with me.” She saidRathke told her he had the votes by a margin of “44to 1” to “do whatever he wants” …8The power structure of the organization leads to publicconfusion. The group describes “leaders” that consistof dues-paying members, while organizers are paidstaff controlled by Rathke and his supporters. FoundingACORN organizer Gary Delgado recounts allegationsthat when member leadership is at odds with organizers,it is the members who are forced out:In a front-page story headlined “ACORN OfficialBarred from Meeting; Leader Resigns” in theArkansas Democrat of 22 April 1979, ChairmanWilliam Brookerd of Nevada ACORN, havingresigned his position, charged, “If the leadershipat any level insists on pursuing their priorities overstaff priorities, they are ‘democratically’ exorcisedfrom the leadership.”9When employees of Rathke’s SEIU Local 100 wantedto organize themselves into a union, Rathke relied onhis wife and brother to plot out an aggressive (andhypocritical) union-avoidance strategy. One formeremployee reported that after employees providedRathke with a petition demanding union recognition:Rathke quickly called a meeting of ACORN’s innercircle, which included his wife, Beth Butler, headorganizer of Louisiana ACORN, and Rathke’sbrother Dale, who is the financial guru of the outfit.The troika devised a variety of tactics, such as can
Employment Policies Institute / www.EPIonline.org4be expected from any union-busting corporation, todivide and destroy our solidarity.10In 2003, the National Labor Relations Board wouldfind that ACORN management was guilty of usingunion-busting tactics against its employees.Follow The Money (If You Can)The Association of Community Organizations forReform Now is registered as a non-profit corporationin Arkansas, which does not require public financialdisclosure. According to labor activist and scholarPeter Dreier, ACORN’s annual operating budgetis around $30 million.11The New York Timessubsequently reported that the figure is closer to $37.5million, excluding the non-profit research and housingorganizations the group runs.12 Even this estimate likelydoes not include the vast resources of the ACORN-rununions or reflect election-year resources given to itsostensibly non-partisan get-out-the-vote efforts.Because it operates a virtual self-contained economy,ACORN entities exchange millions of dollars everyyear for goods and services. The scant financialdocuments available for public inspection paint apicture of a spider web of ACORN-run organizationsthat trade loans, leases, payments, and grants.While few financial transactions are available, thefollowing offer a glimpse of the money that flowsback and forth from one account to another atACORN’s headquarters:• SEIU Local 100’s Department of Laborfinancial disclosure for 2000 showed a$58,654 grant of union members’ moneyto another labor group called Hospitality,Hotel & Restaurant Organizing Council(HOTROC), which was also founded byWade Rathke.• ACORN paid Citizens Consulting, Inc.—which is run by Rathke’s brother—$520,000for lobbying between 1998 and 2004.13• Department of Labor financial disclosuresshow at least $623,829 in transactionsbetween ACORN’s SEIU locals 100 and 880and other Rathke/ACORN-run operations.The Many Faces of ACORN385 Palmetto Street HousingFund Corporation4415 San Jacinto Street CorporationACORNAcorn 2004 Housing DevelopmentFund CorporationAcorn 2005 Housing Development FUND CORPORATIONACORN AssociatesACORN Beneficial AssociationACORN BeverlyY LLCACORN Campaign ServicesACORN Campaign To Raise The Minimum WageACORN Center for Housing, IncACORN Children’s Beneficial AssociationACORN Community Land AssociationACORN Community Land Association of IL.ACORN Community Land Association of LA ACORN Community Land Association of PAACORN Community Labor Organizing CenterACORN Cultural TrustACORN Dumont-Snediker Housing Development Fund CorporationACORN Fair HousingACORN FundACORN Housing CorporationACORN Housing Corporation of ILACORN Housing Corporation of MOACORN Housing Corporation of PAACORN InstituteACORN Law For Education, Representation, And TrainingACORN Management CorporationACORN National Broadcasting NetworkACORN ServicesACORN Television In Action For CommunitiesACORN Tenant Union Training And Organizing ProjectACORN Tenants UnionAffiliated Media Foundation MovementAgape Broadcasting Foundation IncAmerican Environmental Justice Project IncAmerican Home Childcare Providers AssociationAmerican Institute for Social JusticeArizona ACORN Housing CorporationArkansas Broadcasting FoundationAssociation for the Rights of Citizens IncAssociated Regional Maintenance SystemsAustin Organizing and Support CenterBaltimore Organizing and Support CenterBoston Organizing and Support CenterBroad Street CorporationCalifornia Community NetworkChicago Organizing and Support CenterChief Organizer FundChild Care Providers for Action FranklinCitizens Action Research ProjectCitizens Campaign for Work, Living Wage & Labor PeaceCitizens Consulting, IncCitizens Campaign for Finance ReformCitizens for Future ProgressColorado ACORN Housing CorporationCrescent City Broadcasting CorporationDesert Rose Homes LLCDumont Avenue Housing Development FundElysian Fields Corporation, IncElysian Fields PartnershipFifteenth Street CorporationFloridians For All PACFranklin ACORN HousingGreenville Community Charter School IncGreenwell Springs CorporationHospitality Hotel and RestaurantOrganizing Council (HOTROC)Houston Organizing And Support CenterKABF RadioKNON RadioLabor Neighbor Research and Training Center IncLiving Wage Resource CenterLouisiana ACORN Fair HousingMassachusetts ACORN Housing CorporationMetro Technical InstituteMissouri Tax Justice Research ProjectMontana Radio NetworkMott Haven ACORN Housing Development Fund CorporationMutual Housing Association of New York IncNational Center for Jobs & JusticeNew Mexico Organizing and Support CenterNew Orleans Community Housing OrganizationNew York ACORN Housing Company IncNew York Agency for Community Affairs IncNew York Organizing and Support CenterOrganizers ForumPennsylvania Institute for Community AffairsPeople’s Equipment Resource CorporationPhoenix Organizing And Support CenterProject Vote SEIU Local 100SEIU Local 880Service Workers Action TeamShreveport Community TelevisionSite FightersSixth Avenue CorporationSocial PolicySouthern Training CenterSt. Louis Organizing And Support CenterSt. Louis Tax Reform GroupStudent Minimum Wage Action CampaignTexas ACORN Housing Corporation IncWal-Mart Workers AssociationWal-Mart Association for Reform NowWorking Families Association
Employment Policies Institute / www.EPIonline.org5• From 2000 through 2003 ProjectVote paid more than $1.7million to ACORN and CitizensConsulting.14• Between 1997 and 2003, theMutual Housing Association ofNew York paid more than $2.1million in contractual fees tothe New York ACORN HousingAssociation.15• Mott Haven ACORN HousingDevelopment Fund Corporationpaid more than $233,360 incontractual fees to the New YorkACORN Housing Company.At the same time, Mott Havenowed as much as $435,000 to theMutual Housing Association ofNew York.16• The Association for Rights ofCitizens, which carries Rathkebrother Wade and relative CorneliaRathke on its board of directors,has loaned tens of thousands ofdollars to Rathke’s SEIU Local100, ACORN’s Missouri TaxJustice Research Project, andACORN, and has made grantstotalling tens of thousands ofdollars to ACORN.• ACORN’s Agape Broadcasting Foundationshowed notes and loans receivable of morethan $100,000 from other ACORN-affiliateentities.17ACORN’S Affiliated MediaFoundation Movement showed notes andloans receivable of nearly $250,000 fromother ACORN entities, while also showingnotes and loans payable of more than $1.1million to ACORN and its Institute forSocial Justice.18• Tax forms show that since 1997, theACORN Housing Corporation has paidmore than $5,100,000 in fees or grants toother ACORN entities.19• Since1997, the American Institute forSocial Justice has given grants in excess of$7 million and payments of more than $2million to ACORN and its affiliates.ACORN As EmployerACORN may be the single most hypocritical employerin America.ACORN’s most visible campaigns are those designedto raise employers’ cost of doing business by increasinglabor costs, moving toward the group’s ultimate goal ofa national “living wage.” It has also received significant
Employment Policies Institute / www.EPIonline.org6union money to attack the hiring practices of Wal-Mart,the country’s largest retailer.Yet ACORN’s history is one of attempting to denyits employees the “living wage” it would mandatefor others, seeking legal exemption from paying itsemployees the minimum wage increases it advocatesfor other businesses, being forced by the governmentto pay its employees overtime, completely missingwage payments to its employees, forcing its employeesto operate in unsafe work environments, and bustingunionization attempts of employeestrying to address the preceding faults.Living Wage HypocrisyACORN is the nation’s mostprominent supporter of locally basedwage-increase mandates, which forcebusinesses (usually those contractingwith or receiving assistance from alocality) to pay wages in excess ofthe federal or state minimum wage.Rates sought by “living wage”activists can exceed $12 per hour. Yetin both rhetoric and action, ACORNhas acknowledged that these areeconomically untenable provisions.In a manual for activists, ACORNsuggested that the appropriate level ofa “living wage” be set at the federalpoverty level for a family of four.20Yet David Reynolds, who coauthoredthe group’s activist manual, hasacknowledged that the majorityof employees affected by theseordinances are not supporting a familyof four with a single salary. Reynoldsnoted in a study on the effects ofDetroit’s living wage that “… nationalfigures show slightly over half of verylow-wage workers have a secondwage earner in their family. And theaverage size of a low-wage familyis between 2 and 2.5.”21Indeed,economics appear to take a backseatto political concerns for ACORN.“Ultimately,” the organization’smanual notes, “the living wage amount is a questionof politics and organizing strength, not a technical one.Ideally, campaigns want to push for as high a wageas possible.”22Jen Kern, the head of ACORN’s Living Wage ResourceCenter, acknowledged the group’s arbitrary approachto picking a figure for its ordinances. She has testifiedthat when setting the living-wage amount for Oakland,California, “We just made that number up.”23It is notable that ACORN pays below the living wageit advocates. The group successfully pushed Santa Fe,
Employment Policies Institute / www.EPIonline.org72006 Budget For ACORN (Excluding Non-Profits) = $37,500,000Percentage of Budget from Members Dues = 8%ACORN Housing Corporation = $6,000,000American Institute for Social Justice = $3,700,000Union member money paid to ACORN entities in 2005 = $600,000Project Vote 2004 Expenditures = $16,000,000SEIU Local 880 estimated dues for 2007 = $ 19,000,000ACORN International minimum estimate = $1,300,000New Mexico to enact a $9.50 citywide wage. Yet, as ofMay 2006, the organization’s help-wanted ads soughtorganizers willing to work for $25,000 per year. Giventhat the organization requires those individuals to work54-hour weeks (specifically demanding nights andweekends), the per-hour wage of ACORN organizerscan be calculated at $8.90.Minimum Wage HypocrisyIt’s not just that ACORN doesn’t want to pay the “livingwage” it foists on other employers; ACORN has tried toget out of paying the minimum wage to its employees.In 1995, ACORN sued the state of California, claimingthat it should be exempted from the state minimumwage. The group realized the simple economic factfacing all employers: being forced to pay higherwages means that you must employ fewer workers. Alegal brief filed by ACORN during the appeal of itslawsuit admits:As acknowledged both by the trial court andCalifornia, the more that ACORN must pay eachindividual outreach worker—either because ofminimum or overtime requirements—the feweroutreach workers it will be able to hire.24This argument is particularly ironic. In 1996, whenNew Orleans business targets of Rathke’s minimumwage increase campaign acknowledged the economicreality that increasing the cost of labor would leadthem to reduce employment or cut hours, Wade Rathkesnapped, “If their business is that marginal, theyprobably shouldn’t be in business.”25Overtime Wage HypocrisyACORN’s operations have refused to pay employeesovertime until compelled to do so by the federalgovernment. Citizens Consulting, Inc. is a non-profitfirm that handles legal, personnel, and lobbying issuesfor ACORN. In 1996, the Department of Labor suedCitizens Consulting, Inc. and Dale Rathke for violatingovertime and record-keeping provisions of federallaw and to restrain them from continuing to withholdovertime due their employees. In 1997, a federal courtsided with the government and ordered CCI to pay$10,000 in back wages due its employees.Paying-Any-Wage HypocrisyIn 2004, even as it was pushing a minimum wageincrease ballot initiative in Florida, ACORN extendedits history of hypocrisy.In Florida, five former ACORN employees sued theorganization, claiming the group owed them thousandsof dollars in back pay.26 On the other side of the UnitedStates, the Albuquerque Journal reported:An Albuquerque community group known forcriticizing large corporations on migrant rightsand employment issues is now under fire from itsown workers.Several employees of the Association ofCommunity Organizations for Reform Now havepublicly complained that the group has not paidthem for work they recently did on its “Get TheVote Out” project.Back of the envelope estimates for budgets of various ACORN entities
Employment Policies Institute / www.EPIonline.org8At least 20 people lined up outside ACORNheadquarters in Northwest Albuquerque onThursday, demanding that the group pay up,according to KOAT-TV 7 news reports.27The defense from ACORN’s spokesman? “At least70 percent of the estimated 250 people we hired inAlbuquerque to work the Get The Vote Out projecthave been paid.”28ACORN Is An Unsafe WorkplaceACORN claims to work for the “fundamental right”of all workers to a job “which does not endangerhealth or safety.” But ACORN has routinelyforced its employees to work at night in dangerousneighborhoods. Some female ACORN employeesreport being sexually assaulted while attempting towork under these conditions.29After ACORN refused to let organizers work in pairs,one was robbed at gunpoint. After one woman wasattacked in the home of a male community member,she became concerned for her job:The man grabbed my head and kissed me. I pushedhim away, contradicting themes dancing in my head,“Protect yourself get out of here, on the one hand.”On the other hand I needed to get members to join.If I didn’t get enough members to join, would I havea job?30ACORN’s Work Is Never FunFrom the To-Gather Newsletter, which documented theeffort to organize ACORN employees:ACORN’s Terms Of Employment“ Organizers will be responsible for collectingpetition signatures from registered Missouri voters. Organizers are responsible forcollecting 200 petitions a day and working upto 80 hours over 7 days of work … groundsfor termination include drug or alcohol abuseon the job and not meeting the quota.”—2006 Missouri Wages Campaign“ Vacations must normally be scheduled each year before the February 1st and must beapproved by the staff supervisor in all cases six weeks or 45 days prior to the scheduledvacation time.”—ACORN’s “Summary of Staff Policies for Full- and Part-time Regular Employees”ACORN Fought These DemandsACORN Employees Seeking A Union Demanded:• A 40-hour work week• Paychecks to be issued on time and in full• Healthcare insurance to be activated on time• End to discrimination and harassment• No one gets fired for union organizing• Safety on the job“ That so many members-turned-organizers leave ACORN is a clear indication that something is wrong in the way management treats workers.”31“ … poor treatment, high turnover and overall dissatisfaction is wide-spread among ACORN staff.”32“ Although ACORN claims to be a progressive community group promoting rights for working people,management refused to recognize the union or address workers’ grievances … ACORN workers have also discovered disparities in pay and in work assignments which seem to be based on the race of the workers …”33
Employment Policies Institute / www.EPIonline.org9Unionization HypocrisyIn 2003 …ACORN’s manifesto, the “People’s Platform,” makesmore than a dozen references to the rights of workersto organize unions.Despite ACORN’s publicly stated support of unions,the National Labor Relations Board in March 2003found that ACORN broke the law “by interrogatingemployees about their union activities, by informingemployees that other employees have been dischargedbecause of the Union, by threatening employees thatselecting the Union to represent them will be futile, andby threatening employees with discharge…”35ACORN has fired numerous employees—in severalregional offices—who attempted to organize unions.These included Sara Stephens, Erin Howley, andGigi Nevils, the three employees whom the NLRBfound were illegally terminated. The NLRB foundthat Kimberly Olson, then head of ACORN’s Dallasoffice, called all employees together for a meeting andproceeded to explain the “negative aspects” of unions.Olson believed that the union would “bring ACORNdown” and argued that she “shouldn’t have to takeorders from employees.”36In addition to the notices ACORN was required topost, in which it said it would no longer continue theseanti-worker behaviors, the organization was reportedlyordered to pay $20,000 to a Seattle employee.37… And EarlierRathke’s history of union-busting stretches backtwo decades. In the spring of 1987, staff of his SEIULocal 100, which is based in New Orleans, began anorganizing effort to fight poor working conditions.Noticing that the union “had serious problems regardingdemocracy and exploitation of its own workers,” formerLocal 100 employee Jay Arena led the organizing drive.The problems Arena noted made up the usual ACORNlaundry list—“late checks, and wages that worked outto be below or near the minimum wage.”Arena recounts that after Rathke denied the group’spetition to unionize, Rathke called his wife and brotherto devise “a variety of tactics, such as can be expectedfrom any union-busting corporation, to divide anddestroy our solidarity.”38Rathke, the unabashedlyliberal activist, even “tried to red bait a number of hisformer organizers,” Arena said.39 The unionizing effortwas ultimately unsuccessful.ACORN And UnionsACORN’s union-busting activities are especiallyhypocritical given its close ties to organized labor.A Quasi-Labor GroupTo an observer from outside Louisiana, it’ssometimes difficult to tell where SEIU ends andACORN begins. The union and the communityorganization seem to merge. The relationship iseasier to understand when one learns that WadeRathke, who founded the New Orleans ACORNchapter 30 years ago, is also the chief organizerof SEIU local 100. The two are fraternal, notidentical, twins.40—The Black CommentatorHELP WANTEDImmediate Openings. Have you alwayswanted to be a martyr? ACORN iscurrently hiring community organizersto dedicate their lives at the expense ofeverything else for a least a year for aminimum of 54 hours a week. Job dutiesinclude door knocking by yourself tosign up members (sometimes at night);developing leadership; planning meetings,protests and rallies; running campaignsand fundraising. Working for ACORNis a position of privilege, so if you aresingle, young, can go for weeks withouta paycheck, and you think you have whatit takes, call us at 555-ACORN. Fluencyin Spanish and the willingness to neglectyour own well-being a plus.— A Satirical Help Wanted Ad WrittenBy An ACORN Employee, andpublished in a newsletter.
Employment Policies Institute / www.EPIonline.org10ACORN, which in some ways belongs in its owncategory, is as much a labor union as a communityorganization in the Chicago area. In fact, ACORNfounded a union for home-based health care andchildcare workers that later affiliated with SEIUas Local 880, and around the country ACORNhas long pushed for closer ties between labor andcommunity organizations.41— Social PolicyACORN has always vocally supported unionization.But this goes beyond simply supporting unionizationto actually running unions, and ACORN founderWade Rathke has made himself an integral (if notembarrassing) tool for America’s activism-mindedunion officials. In 2005, these labor leaders paid morethan $2.4 million to ACORN in gifts, grants, and feesfor organizing work.42Rathke is a highly influential strategist within thelabor movement, holding leadership positions withinthe Service Employees International Union rangingfrom Chief Organizer of Local 100 to heading theSouthern Region Conference and formerly sitting onthe International Union’s executive board. In 2005,the International paid him more than $25,000 to actas a campaign project coordinator, while he ran hisother business.43ACORN’s SEIU Local 880 in Illinois (which files itsfinancial disclosures from ACORN’s office in NewOrleans) reported 10,580 members in 2000. Local 880now claims to represent 80,000 employees. Thus, inroughly five years, it grew by 750%.This astounding growth can largely be explainedby political machinations involving support for thecandidacy of Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The two majorevents that sent membership skyrocketing from10,000 to 30,000, and from 30,000 to 80,000, resultedfrom a political quid pro quo that first signed uphomecare workers and then childcare workers. In eachcase, Blagojevich forced the state to recognize theunion and negotiate with it, costing the taxpayersof his state but benefiting his candidacy and hispolitical allies.In an academic article written in 2004, former ACORNorganizer Fred Brooks predicted:Local 880’s role in the fall 2002 Illinoisgubernatorial campaign may hasten recognitionof the [childcare] union by the state. Local 880’spolitical action committee, with major support fromthe International Union and the SEIU state council,worked hard to elect Rod Blagojevich as the firstDemocratic governor in Illinois in over twentyyears. In return, Blagojevich agreed to supportrecognition and collective bargaining rights forboth homecare and family child-care providers ifhe were elected governor. In February 2003, hesigned Executive Order 2003-8 granting collectivebargaining rights to over twenty thousand personalassistants (homecare workers) from Local 880’sDHS/ORS unit … Although Blagojevich hascommitted to recognizing the child-care workersunion, he has not yet signed an executive order tothat effect.44So, the year after he received election help, Blagojevichsigned an order giving Local 880 20,000 new homecaremembers. He waited until 2006—the year of his re-election—to make good on the promise of nearly 50,000new child-care members.Local 880 wasn’t doing anything new. Rathke’s Local100 was granted automatic checkoff for union duesand representation rights for Arkansas public sectoremployees in 1985 by then-Governor Bill Clinton.45Rathke and ACORN had endorsed Clinton when hewas a 32-year-old candidate.46The new size of Local 880 makes ACORN increasinglyimportant in SEIU. If the new members had beenincluded in its financial disclosure filings with theDepartment of Labor, Local 880 would have been thefourth-largest in the union in 2005. Paired with Rathke’sLocal 100, which includes another 4,000 members,ACORN holds significant financial sway within SEIU.
Employment Policies Institute / www.EPIonline.org11Comments responding to a March 2005 weblog post by Service Employees International Union president Andy SternFront For Union AttacksACORN acts as a partner and front for unioncauses, including attacks ranging from those onlarge companies such as Wal-Mart to non-profithospitals.Attacking Wal-MartACORN and its founder Wade Rathke are at thenexus of the nationwide, multi-union “corporatecampaign” designed to attack Wal-Mart and itsreputation. The ultimate goal is to pressure thecompany into increasing its labor costs so thatit is on par with its less-competitive, but highlyunionized, competitors.ACORN has adapted its broader “living wage” effort to“foster union organizing among low wage workers”50to more narrowly attack Wal-Mart. In 2006, ACORNjoined with organized labor to lobby Chicago citycouncilors for a “Big Box” living wage ordinance,which is effectively an industry-specific wage andbenefits floor for retail stores that exceed an arbitrarySEIU Member Money Feeding ACORN CoffersAs with most ventures ACORN is involved in, itwould take a forensic accounting expert to trackall of the money flowing from one ACORN groupto another. But the financial disclosure forms fromACORN’s unions shed some light on their cash flow.Local 880’s Department of Labor financial filings from 2005 show a pattern of loans and payments to ACORN-run organizations:• A loan receivable from SEIU Local 100, whichstarted the year at $11,500 and ended the year atonly $500—a note shows the loan wasn’t repaidin cash, but rather “reduced to in-kind service”• “Gifts” totaling $151,694 to the L880 PoliticalAction Committee, which is run out ofACORN’s Louisiana office• Local 880 received $36,425 as a “contractualfee” from the L880 Political Action Committee• Representational activities included $6,388 innon-itemized payments to the Chief OrganizerFund (Chief Organizer is Rathke’s title for mostof his positions) at ACORN’s office and $66,870in non-itemized payments to Citizens ConsultingInc., ACORN’s multi-use organization• $177,430 paid to Citizens Consulting for“Accounting and Administrative Support” and non-itemized transactions for “General Overhead”• $10,102 paid to Citizens Consulting for “Union Administration”Local 100’s filings show:• $8,098 in overhead paid to Citizens Consulting• $9,523 paid to the “Peoples EquipmentResource Corp,” which is registered to Rathke at ACORN’s headquarters• $6,300 to the Elysian Fields Corporation• Accounts payable records show $73,984 tothe Elysian Fields Corporation; $34,241 toCitizens Consulting; $13,795 to the FifteenthStreet Corporation; and $9,072to the 4415 SanJacinto Corporation—all of which are run outof ACORN’s New Orleans headquarters47• Loans payable included its original $11,500 debt to Local 880 and $8,907 to theAssociation for the Rights of Citizens—agroup run by Local 880 and ACORN.48 Loansto these two organizations were reflected asearly as 2000, with as much as $47,000 ofmoney from members in Local 880 being usedto support its less-successful sibling.49
Employment Policies Institute / www.EPIonline.org12square-footage threshold. Reprising the use of wagepolicy to aid unionization efforts, an ACORNspokesperson explained that their desired (andunprecedented) wage of $10 per hour plus $3 per hourin healthcare benefits was “a way to allow big-boxretailers like Wal-Mart to come in without threateningthe level of wages and benefits that unionized storesand stores with a conscience are already paying.”51ACORN’s Rathke has been a leading strategist to findways that unions can organize Wal-Mart employees.He laid out a plan in which labor would create anassociation of Wal-Mart employees, acknowledgingthat “An association of workers would in fact be aunion in every sense of the word.”52 This plan would“put pressure on wages and benefits, and envision anorganization that exerts constant pressure in a way thatis unnatural under a bargaining regime.”The goal is to not only organize Wal-Mart employeesunder this new model but to find a framework fortargeting other retailers. Making special note of retailersHome Depot, Lowe’s, Target, and K-Mart/Sears, Rathkestates: “If we can find a new way to organize Wal-Marteffectively, this effort could serve as a model for otherorganizing drives at hundreds of other corporations.”Rathke’s ultimate vision for the Wal-Mart drive is of “acampaign on all fronts” against the company.53 To thatend, ACORN has become a central figure in the attackon Wal-Mart.SEIU Walmart Strategy (none/0)Following up on his stunning weekend success with the high techbosses, Andy Stern’s top 10 strategies for organizing Walmart:1) Cosmo, edame snap, and knee-pad brunch with CEO2) Donate $800,00 to the company’s favorite Republican Senator3) Two-word contract: Agency fee4) Convince the workers they don’t need healthcare and pensions5) Pay Wade Rathke $5 million6)7)8)9)10)....................................................................................................by Anonymous on Thu Mar 24, 2005 at 08:35:08 PM EST[ Reply to This ]Send in ACORN (none/0)You forgot the secret strategy. Send in ACORN to organize Wal Martworkers.......................................................................................................by Anonymous on Thu Mar 24, 2005 at 07:23:12 PM EST[ Parent Ι Reply to This ]
13ACORN either directly runs or is involved with eachmajor group attacking Wal-Mart. A group called Wal-Mart Watch, founded by SEIU money, calls ACORN a“partner.”54 Wake Up Wal-Mart, an organizing drive bythe United Food and Commercial Workers, announceda “partnership” with ACORN.55 The Wal-Mart WorkersAssociation is backed by SEIU and UFCW, whileACORN has registered the website and organization.The Wal-Mart Alliance for Reform Now and a groupcalled Site Fighters—which instructs activists how touse zoning regulations and litigation to stop expansionof retailers—are ACORN groups.Hiring ACORN to attack Wal-Mart isn’t cheap.Financial disclosures show that the SEIU headquarterspaid $500,000 in two installments to the “Wal-Mart Organizing Project.” The checks were sent toACORN’s headquarters in Louisiana.The timing of SEIU’s grants are notable. The firstgrant was on March 16, 2005. The state of Louisianashows that the Wal-Mart Alliance for Reform Nowwas registered March 24, 2005 and the Wal-MartWorkers Association was registered March 28, 2005.The second grant was made August 5, 2005. The Wal-Mart Association for Reform Now and the Wal-MartWorkers Association was publicly launched on orabout August 31, 2005. The ACORN-run Site Fightersheld a conference that ran August 31, 2005 throughSeptember 2, 2005.The apparent outsourcing of SEIU’s attack on thecompany to ACORN was humorously predicted in thecomments section of SEIU president Andy Stern’s blogon March 24—the day ACORN registered the Wal-Mart Alliance for Reform Now.56Attacking Non-Profit HospitalsThe largest component of the business model for theService Employees International Union is the medicalsector. When a hospital rebuffs SEIU’s aggressiveorganizing efforts, ACORN may come to the aid of theunion to apply pressure that could well endanger thecare provided to patients.As part of a labor disagreement in Illinois, ACORNand SEIU have launched a campaign to attack thereputations and apply logistical pressure to Advocateand Resurrection hospital chains. They’ve gone beyondwhat affected doctors consider responsible, and havebrought people “by the vanload” to the hospitals’emergency rooms in a bid to harass the healthcareproviders.In October 2005, the Illinois Business Ledger reportedthat SEIU’s attack is a part of an organizing campaign:“They asked us for the personal contact (information)of all of our workers and asked us to step off so theycould solicit our associates (employees) directly,”[an Advocate spokesman] said. “We refused to giveout our associates’ private contact information.”Advocate also wanted to have an anonymous ballotaccording to the standards of the National LaborRelations Board, but the SEIU would not agreeto that.On at least one occasion, ACORN was paid for aone-off attack project. United Food and CommercialWorkers Local 101 in California paid ACORN$13,000 in “representational” costs for a “Anti Wal-Mart Recall Project.”57The ferocity of this attack on the retailer isslightly ironic. Rathke flatly stated in 2004: “Ido not pretend that we do not shop at Wal-Martregularly.”58The Nation reported that Rathke went even furtherin his affection for the store:“ I love that damn store,” says Rathke, whorecalls being a loyal customer when helived in Arkansas and needed the discounts.“They had me. I wasn’t making 2 centsto put together.” Now he lives in NewOrleans, and admits, “Damned if I don’tgo down to Sam’s for a new tire! They dohave something that works. You can’t justconvince people they’re evil.”59More than a half-million dollars of union membermoney suggests he will nonetheless attempt todo so.Is Hypocrisy On the Shopping List For Rathke?
Employment Policies Institute / www.EPIonline.org14“We couldn’t agree to thoseterms, so they pretty muchsaid ‘this means war,’” said[the spokesman]. “Since thenthey have launched a negativecorporate campaign against us.”60ACORN, acting in its capacityas a “community organization,”apparently helped the community bybussing patients to the emergencyrooms of the hold-out hospitals. TheBusiness Ledger reported:A bus with eight patients andseveral community organizers,all members of or affiliated withthe Association of CommunityOrganizationsforReformNow (ACORN), pulled up and“demanded” to be seen in GoodSamaritan’s ER, according tonumerous hospital officials …Lucrecia Balgemann, a Spanish-speaking shift coordinator in the ER the day of theoccurrence, said it was clear to her that many of theSpanish speaking patients were being “coached” byACORN organizers and were “following a script.”One patient was under the impression that thehospital would help with a kidney transplant throughits charity care, but was quickly informed that thehospital was not a transplant location.61ACORN’s actions are not without consequence. Dr.Stephen Crouch, chairman and medical director,Department of Emergency Medicine at GoodSamaritan, said, “In this case, people were driven pastother hospitals. Why would someone be driven 10 to 15miles, past other hospitals, if it was an emergency?”62Dr. Douglas Propp, chair of emergency medicine atAdvocate Lutheran General Hospital, warned theDaily Southtown: “When a person with chest painbypasses several emergency departments and isbrought unsuspectingly 40 miles to get care at a facility,that’s dangerous.”63Denial On TrialThe Daily Southtown has reported:The union denies that ferrying peoplein groups to emergency rooms is part ofthe Care For All strategy. But the SEIU-affiliated Association of CommunityOrganizations for Reform Now (ACORN)has been transporting small groups ofpeople beyond their own communities toAdvocate hospitals.64And the Business Ledger has noted:Both ACORN and SEIU deny that theinflux of patients off one bus was a jointeffort … “ACORN does its own thing,” saidJames Muhammad, spokesman for SEIU880. “We do have community partnershipswith them in order to bring benefits to thecommunity. That is something that we do asa labor union.”
Employment Policies Institute / www.EPIonline.org15Another SEIU target is Sutter Health, a California chainof hospitals. Again, ACORN has aided the union’scorporate campaign to pressure the healthcare providerinto capitulating to organizing demands.In September 2005, the SEIU-ACORN coalition fellback on a standard tactic, accusing the Sacramento-based non-profit hospital chain and healthcareorganization of making excessive profits, usingaggressive debt-collection methods, and not providingenough charitable care.In December 2005, when the Sacramento City Councilconvened to debate approving an expansion to Sutter’shospital there, ACORN flooded city council members’offices with faxes condemning the proposed expansion.When Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy (whom theSacramento Bee has called “as loyal a supporter ofunions as the unions could hope for”) was concernedabout the origin of the faxes, she had her officeinvestigate the matter.65The Bee recorded her speech before the Council:… most of the people we contacted volunteered theinformation that they had signed something while atthe grocery store or at the park. Six people indicatedthey had no specific concerns about the project anddidn’t know much about it. They had signed becausesomeone had asked them to. One person had noidea a letter would be sent in his name. He thoughthe signed a request for more information about aproject coming to his community … One personsigned the letter because she thinks the project is agood idea.66ACORN And ElectionsThe popular perception of ACORN as a communityorganization attempting to use the political realmto further the interests of its members, and of alllow-income individuals, is sharply at odds with thehistorical record. In reality, ACORN uses politics asa means of building its own power, often prioritizingDespite claims that ACORN and Service Employees International Union Local 880are wholly separate entities, the union lists its contact email as email@example.com.
Employment Policies Institute / www.EPIonline.org16organizational strength over achieving the stated goalof a given candidate or ballot initiative campaign.Long-Term Quest For Political PowerACORN’s no-holds-barred take on politics originatesfrom its philosophy, which is centered on power. Aninternal ACORN manual instructed organizers to signup as many residents as possible because “this is a massorganization directed at political power where mightmakes right.”67From its founding, the group has attempted to exploitthe political process to build itself. In 1970, the groupclaimed interest in registering voters. FoundingACORN Organizer Gary Delgado has, on at least twooccasions, recounted a story in which ACORN founderWade Rathke obtained organizational resources throughtricking aides to then-Arkansas Governor WinthropRockefeller, a liberal Republican. In Delgado’sinsider’s history of ACORN and its growth, he reportsthat Rockefeller:[T]hrough one of his operatives, scheduled a meetingwith ACORN organizers to discuss the possibilityof our conducting a voter registration and get-out-the-vote campaign in the upcoming election.While the plan was never clearly articulated, it wasthe governor’s assessment that ACORN could beuseful in registering and mobilizing black voters,for which it would be paid $5,000 cash. ACORNnever agreed to take on (and never carried out)the project, but shortly thereafter received a cashadvance—$3,000 in the proverbial brown paperbag—which extended the organization’s ability tohire staff and mount other campaigns. Because helost the 1970 election to Democratic candidate DaleBumpers and because the money wasin cash, Winthrop Rockefeller was inno position to ask for an accounting.ACORN “sat out” the gubernatorialrace, making neither statements norendorsements, but on the night ofthe election when the returns werein and it was clear who the winnerwould be, Rathke took a small groupof ACORN leaders to the newgovernor’s hotel victory celebration.His rationale: “It’s free food, plenty of good contacts,and it looks like we backed a winner all along.”68Delgado’s account of events changed significantlywhen, in December 2005, he spoke at a conference onACORN’s history. There he made a more direct linkbetween Rathke’s deception and organization building,confiding “this is one of those times where webcast,and should I censor what I say, but I think I’m going tosay this anyway”:In Arkansas it’s 1970. There’s a meeting that Wadegoes to with the political director of the RepublicanParty. The Republicans were at that time run by aliberal Republican governor, Win Rockefeller, WR,who Wade in a meeting offered to trade boots with.And Wade comes back from the meeting and said,“Well, we’ve just made an agreement to registervoters.” So ACORN was early on interested inregistering voters. Of course, they thought we weregoing to register Republicans. We did not register asingle Republican voter in that election. However,we did use those resources early on to build theorganization … that money enabled us to hire ourfirst additional organizer after me.69Six years later, ACORN was planning ways to leveragepresidential elections to build its organizational capacity.Delgado recounts:In 1976, Wade Rathke produced an ambitiousdocument entitled “The 20/80 Plan.” On six single-spaced mimeographed pages, he made a series ofarguments for expanding ACORN’s organizationalbase from three to twenty states over the nextfour years, focused in part on expanding to states
Employment Policies Institute / www.EPIonline.org17that held a Democratic primary orstatewide caucus. Rathke arguedthat it would be possible to use the“event” of the presidential campaignto build ACORN’s national powerand prestige.70In 1984, ACORN was of enough politicalconsequence to garner attention from TheEconomist, which noted:In 1980 Acorn, for the first time,threw its energies into Democraticpresidential politics, urging its membersto register and vote in primary electionsand caucuses. In certain states it hadconsiderable influence. In Michigan,for example, Acorn delegates provedimportant in Senator Edward Kennedy’scampaign.71The Economist went on to report of ACORN’s efforts topush the 1984 candidacy of Jesse Jackson: “The mostvisible sign of a rainbow in the Rev. Jesse Jackson’scampaign is an organisation called Acorn, whosemembers have provided behind-the-scenes support forhis campaign in New England, in parts of the south andin the middle west.”72Since the mid-1990’s, ACORN has put a good dealof its political efforts behind minimum wage and so-called “living wage” campaigns. But the focus on wagecampaigns must be recognized as a means to an end:increasing ACORN’s power. These campaigns follownaturally from the organization’s broad philosophicalstrategy, which relies on pitting the many against thefew. According to Delgado:Built into the ACORN model is the use of creativeconfrontation to polarize the interests of organizedlow-income people on one side and “moniedinterests” on the other. In its fifteen-year history,the organization’s actions have lived up to the basicpurpose of the activity—“a direct confrontationbetween a target and the entire assemblage.”73For reasons of organizational growth and to fight whatit views as its opposition, ACORN believes it is moreimportant to run a wage campaign than to win it.As scholars have noted, ACORN’s actions are oftendesigned for an internal concern as much as they areto attack a target, especially when an organizer istrying to launch a new chapter: “The importance of theaction itself—whether it be a demonstration, a meeting,statement at a hearing—is secondary to its internalfunction of upping the ante of group participation anddefining the group’s collective experience.”74In 1995, a newswire reported that “Losing a closefight is not necessarily bad, says Rathke, if it buildsyour base.” It quoted Rathke: “Every vote we getbuilds our organizational strength and the validity ofour position.”75Internal documents from ACORN’s 2004 campaign toraise Florida’s minimum wage confirm that the group’sprimary focus was more on politics than the wage itself.The campaign’s strategy memo showed that passingthe wage was third of three ordered goals, followingthe desire to “increase voter turnout of working class,mainly Democratic voters without increasing oppositionturnout” and to “increase the power of progressiveconstituencies by moving a mass agenda, puttingtogether the capacity to get on the ballot and win, andby putting our side on the offensive.”ACORN’S Jen Kern“ We would like it to become afact of political life,” Kern says,“where every year the other sidehas to contend with a minimum-wage law in some state.”“ This is what moves people to the polls now. This is our gay marriage.”
Employment Policies Institute / www.EPIonline.org18Partisan Politics?Indeed, putting “the other side” on the defensiveappears to be the primary goal of ACORN’s minimumwage campaigns, which the organization planned torun in swing states such as Arizona, Missouri, and Ohioin 2006. Jen Kern, the longtime head of ACORN’sLiving Wage Resource Center, told the New YorkTimes Magazines: “We would like it to become a factof political life … where every year the other side hasto contend with a minimum-wage law in some state.”76Kern added, “This is what moves people to the pollsnow. This is our gay marriage.”77Claims that political work by ACORN and its affiliateProject Vote are non-partisan strain credibility. WhenACORN operated its minimum wage campaign inFlorida, lifelong Democrat Joe Johnson resigned hisposition as campaign boss because, he told reporters,“there were efforts to try to inform people that this wasnonpartisan, when, in fact, it was not.”78The first sentence of an October 2003 strategy memofor ACORN’s local political action committee, calledFloridians For All, read: “A Florida constitutionalamendment initiative to create a minimum wage of$6.15 with indexing will help defeat George W. Bushand other Republicans by increasing Democraticturnout in a close election …”Further evidence of partisanship comes from documentsuncovered during the Congressional investigation intothe Teamsters elections scandal in 1996, when aidesto then-union president Ron Carey arranged for a$175,000 contribution to Project Vote in exchange forreciprocal contributions to his campaign for presidencyof the Teamsters.79 An October 1996 memo from formerTeamsters political director Bill Hamilton showed thatunion donations to supposedly non-partisan get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts of ACORN’s Project Votewere, in fact, known to be supporting a particular set ofpolitical campaigns:I would like to move an additional $100,000 intreasury dollars into the Project VOTE GOTV effortsin California, Missouri, New Jersey, Colorado,Pennsylvania, and Michigan.These funds will be used to pay for non-partisanGOTV phone calls to black households in selectedcongressional districts.In each instance they will benefit the Clintoncampaign but also, and more specifically,congressional and senate races that we aretracking.80That $175,000 now seems paltry when compared toACORN’s recent massive political war chest. TheNew York Times reported the month prior to the 2004election that Project Vote would spend an estimated$16 million to increase voter turnout, compared to its2000 total of $1 million.81 According to a post-electionreview by Wade Rathke, ACORN and its subsidiarynon-profit Project Vote raised nearly $20 million forthe election.82Pattern and Practice: Voter FraudAs ACORN’s electoral power increased in 2004, itsemployees’ incidents of suspected voter fraud increasedcommensurately. While the problem is by no means newand has since continued, national attention on suspectedfraud by ACORN and Project Vote employees increaseddramatically in 2004. In addition to allegations ofvoter-registration fraud in Michigan, North Carolina,and Texas, questions about ACORN’s widespread voterfraud popped up across the nation:• An ACORN employee in New Mexicoregistered a 13-year-old boy to vote. Citingthis and other examples, state RepresentativeJoe Thompson stated that ACORN was“manufacturing voters” throughout NewMexico.83• ACORN’s widespread practice of fraud washighlighted in Florida’s 2004 election, whenthe group led a ballot initiative seeking a$6.15 minimum wage (a rate higher thanmany ACORN employees were paid). AFlorida Department of Law Enforcementspokesman said ACORN was “singledout” among suspected voter registrationgroups because it was “the commonthread” in the agency’s investigationsfrom one end of the state to another.84One example of the rampant voter fraud in
Employment Policies Institute / www.EPIonline.org19Florida was the story of Charles Schuh. The68-year-old Schuh is a former Democraticmayor of St. Petersburg, but ACORNregistered the notable politician as a 30-year-old female Republican. When Schuhasked to see his supposed registrationcard, he found that someone else hadsigned his name and altered his socialsecurity number.85• In Ohio, a grand jury indicted an ACORNworker in Columbus for submitting a falsesignature and false voter registration form.86In Franklin County, ACORN was forced tofire two workers for submitting what thedirector of the board of election supervisorscalled “blatantly false” forms.87 In CuyahogaCounty, ACORN and its affiliate ProjectVote submitted registration cards that hadthe highest rate of errors (15%) for anyvoter-registration group.88• During a traffic stop in Minnesota, policefound more than 300 voter registration cardsin the car trunk of 19-year-old Joshua Reed,a former ACORN employee.89 The cardswere weeks and even months old, despitelegal requirements that they be submittedto the Secretary of State within 10 days ofbeing filled out and signed.90• In Pennsylvania, Reading’s Director ofElections received numerous calls fromindividuals who complained that ACORNemployees deliberately put inaccurateinformation on their voter registration forms.The Berks County director of elections saidvoter fraud was “absolutely out of hand,” andadded: “Not only do we have unintentionalduplication of voter registration but we haveblatant duplicate voter registrations.”91 TheBerks County deputy director of electionsadded that ACORN was under investigationby the Department of Justice.92• In Colorado, ACORN employee KymCason admitted to forging signatures andregistering three of her friends to vote 40times.93 At least three other ACORN workersin Colorado were charged with procuringfalse registrations or faced perjury chargesfor filling out phony registration cards.94 Andin January 2005, two ex-ACORN employeeswere convicted in Denver of perjury forsubmitting false voter registrations.95• The Racine, Wisconsin district attorney’soffice investigated seven voter registrationapplications Project Vote employees filedin the names of people who said the groupnever contacted them. Former Project Voteemployee Robert Marquise Blakely toldthe Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he hadnot met with any of the people whose voterregistration applications he signed, “anapparent violation of state law” accordingto the paper.96The problem persisted in 2005:• Four ACORN employees submitted as manyas 3,000 potentially fraudulent signatures—including that of a county commissioner—on the group’s minimum wage ballotinitiative for the city of Albuquerque. Twoof the four employees admitted to forgingsignatures. A local sheriff added: “It’ssafe to say the forgery was widespread.”97• The Virginia State Board of Electionsadmonished Project Vote and ACORN forturning in a significant number of faultyvoter registrations. An audit revealed that83% of sampled registrations that wererejected for carrying false or questionableinformation were submitted by ProjectVote. Many of these registrations carriedsocial security numbers that exist for otherpeople, listed non-existent or commercialaddresses, or were for convicted felons—inviolation of state and federal election law. In a letter to ACORN, the State Board ofElections reported that 56% of the voterregistration applications ACORN turned inwere ineligible. Further, a full 35% were notsubmitted in a timely manner, as requiredby law. The State Board of Elections alsocommented on what appeared to be evidence
Employment Policies Institute / www.EPIonline.org20of intentional voter fraud. “Additionally,”they wrote, “information appears to havebeen altered on some applications whereinformation given by the applicant inone color ink has been scratched throughand re-entered in another color ink. Anyalteration of a voter registration applicationis a Class 5 Felony in accordance withž 24.2-1009 of the Code of Virginia.”The history of voter registration problems by ACORNand Project Vote extends back further than the 2004election. In 1998, a Project Vote contractor in Arkansaswas arrested for falsifying approximately 400 voterregistration cards. Some of the addresses listed on theseapplications were traced to vacant lots, boarded-upbuildings, abandoned buildings, and nonexistent housenumbers.98 In 2003, ACORN submitted 5,379 voterregistration cards in St. Louis, Missouri. Of those, only2,013 appeared to be valid. At least 1,000 are believedto be attempts to register voters illegally.99Pattern and Practice: DenialThe frequency with which ACORN employees arecaught turning in fraudulent or erroneous documentsindicates the group cares less about obeying laws thanpushing its political agenda. When it is periodicallyforced to answer allegations of fraud, ACORNdownplays the harm of its crimes or shifts blame tosupposedly rogue employees, whom the organizationthen fires.Responding to allegations of thousands of fraudulentballot signatures in New Mexico’s 2005 minimumwage drive, an ACORN spokesman said: “When youhave a mass amount of people trying to do publicwork, you might have somebody trying to do an illegalactivity.”100 New Mexico ACORN had previously usedthe same argument. A national spokesperson respondedto charges of voter fraud in 2004 by saying: “Wheneverthere is a massive voter education effort, there couldbe some problems with some cards.”101 In Michigan, arepresentative of Project Vote “downplayed the issue… insisting it involved only a handful of workers anda limited number of registrations,” according to theDetroit Free Press.102Government Grant FraudManhattan Institute scholar Sol Stern has characterizedACORN’s shift from the philosophy of National WelfareRights Organization founder George Wiley, who sentWade Rathke to Arkansas, to one of using institutionsfor their advantage:Instead of trying to overturn “the system”—to blowit up, as George Wiley wanted to do—ACORNburrows deep within the system, taking over itspower and using its institutions for its own purposes,like a political Invasion of the Body Snatchers.103For decades, ACORN has accepted government grants.But like all other resources it obtains, the group usesthe public’s money to build the infrastructure of thehighly political group. And like the other areas in whichACORN is involved, it has misused that public money.VISTAAs part of former President Lyndon Johnson’s anti-poverty campaign, a federal agency called ACTIONoperated the Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA)program. Under the Carter Administration, activiststook control of the agency and disbursed millions offederal taxpayer dollars to left-wing “communityorganizations.” Many of those organization—includingACORN—misused those grants, leading the Reaganadministration to attempt to phase out the program.Ironically, the VISTA program currently operates underthe umbrella of AmeriCorps—another agency fromwhich ACORN misused taxpayer dollars.Founding ACORN Organizer Gary Delgado explained:[W]hen two of “their own,” Sam Brown andMarjorie Tabankin, became directors of theACTION agency and VISTA program during theCarter administration, over three million dollarswas funneled directly to ACORN, NationalPeople’s Action, Citizen Action, and the IndustrialAreas Foundation in both training contracts andVISTA volunteers.104Since 1977, ACORN has accepted federal governmentgrants. That year it was awarded a grant to hire VISTAvolunteers, who were supposed to be put to work helping
Employment Policies Institute / www.EPIonline.org21low-income individuals. ACORN used the volunteers—in violation of federal law—for two of its favoritepastimes: politics and union organizing.Delgado recounts:[I]n 1977, ACORN had signed a $470,000 contractwith ACTION, the federal agency, to train onehundred VISTA volunteers in ACORN statewideorganizations. While this contract guaranteedACORN free organizers to support and maintain theexpansion efforts, it brought its own contradictionsand liabilities. While ACORN had previouslyutilized VISTA volunteers, under the contract theorganization agreed to accept one hundred persons(more than doubling its staff) without extensive priorscreening. During the contract period, therefore,over half of the ACORN staff was being paid—ata rate higher than regular ACORN staff—by a thirdparty that was often a target of ACORN actions: thefederal government. And there was an additionalcomplication: as federal employees, VISTAvolunteers were not allowed to take part in electoralactivities, a restriction that caused ACORN specialproblems in the 1980 political campaign.105 …[W]hereas ACORN had managed to recruit,train, and socialize a relatively tight-knit groupof organizers prior to 1979, the VISTA contractbrought a much larger and more diverse group ofpeople onto the staff, some of whom had differentideas about community organizing. Immediatelyfollowing the first training session in Little Rock forVISTA volunteers, one of them flew to Washingtonand demanded to be reassigned, stating, according toformer VISTA staff liaison Andrea Kydd, “ACORNis really interested in power, not helping people.They may even be a threat to the government.”106Delgado added:Further troubles emerged when, because ofthe political-electoral work the organizationwas engaged in ACORN and other communityorganizations funded through VISTA’s liberaldirector, Marge Tabankin (an ex-organizer andfoundation director), were investigated by theHouse Appropriations Committee for using VISTAvolunteers in political lobbying activities inviolation of the Hatch Act. The investigation, whichresulted in the cutoff of ACORN’s national grant,also charged that ACORN had used VISTAvolunteers to organize the Household Workers’Union in New Orleans. The audits and charges didseriously affect both the organization’s fundingbase and, to some extent, its fiscal credibility, sincefederal auditors cited ACORN with “a deliberateeffort to conceal evidence of an organization withserious financial problems.” (Of more interestto the Houston Post and the Arkansas Democrat,however, was ACORN’s refusal to open itsfinancial or membership records to Congressionalinvestigators.) Declaring that ACORN had“religiously avoided federal money up until thatpoint,” Rathke, in a letter to Tabankin, asked thatACORN “not be considered for a national grant.”(In fact, however, ACORN continued to use VISTAthrough state grants right up to the end of 1980.)107The grant was of enormous importance to theorganization’s health. Citing a Congressionalinvestigation, an institutional analysis from the HeritageInstitute demonstrates the importance of the grant:It appears that the VISTA grant was crucial tothe survival of ACORN. The [Congressional]report quoted an ACORN publication’s accountof an October 15, 1977 meeting of the ACORNExecutive Board at which consideration was givento the organization’s “policy of taking money fromthe federal government.” It was noted that “In thepast ACORN has avoided being this close to federalfunds, but our financial situation is such that wecan no longer afford to be as distant—unless weare willing to see the organization risk death.” Thereport observed that in states “visited where VISTAswere working, ACORN had no more than 1 or 2staff organizers assigned as compared with a total of32 VISTAs” and added that “ACORN had at least16 organizers who were immediately converted tothe VISTA payroll upon approval of the grant.” Theconclusion reached was that “VISTAs supportedby the grant probably comprise the majority of theoverall organization.”108The Congressional investigation report left no doubtthat ACORN violated federal law as it pertained to
Employment Policies Institute / www.EPIonline.org22union activities:Section 404 of the Domestic Volunteer Service Actprohibits VISTAs from engaging in labor organizingactivities and imposes restrictions on fundsappropriated under the act from being used “directlyor indirectly” for such purposes. ACORN is involvedin labor organizing. At its October 1977 meeting,the executive board unanimously endorsed a motiongiving the ACORN chief organizer the authority andresponsibility to organize the household workers inNew Orleans and other unions along the same lines.The ULO (United Labor Organizations), whichwas described as a “separate entity” that ACORN“is helping to get started,” shares space in the samebuilding as ACORN in New Orleans. The sign infront of the building says “ACORN” on one sideand 11ULO11 on the other. The HWOC (HouseholdWorkers Organizing Committee), also located in thesame building, was said to be a ULO “subsidiaryorganization.” It was stated that ACORN rentsthe building and that both ULO and HWOC rentspace from ACORN, but the Investigative Staff wasunable to verify this arrangement without access toACORN’s accounting records.Five VISTAs were actively working with theHWOC, reporting directly to the chief organizer,until late this past spring when the ACTION Officeof Compliance directed that the assignments beterminated. There is as yet, however, very muchof an indirect involvement of VISTAs and the useof grant money in the labor organizing activity ofACORN. First, ACORN has only limited staffresources .... Without the VISTAs to take overneighborhood organizing chores, it is doubtfulwhether the manpower would be available tomount a credible union organizing effort. Thus,the availability of VISTAs is facilitating (if notmaking practicable) the ACORN move into labororganizing. Second, there are no safeguards, ofwhich the Investigative Staff is aware, to preventmembership dues solicited by VISTAs from beingused for labor organizing. The dues are used tocover all expenses of the organization, and theseexpenses would include, for example, the salaryof the chief organizer, who, reportedly, has madehimself responsible for the household workersorganizing project. The Investigative Staff believesthe collection of dues, by VISTAs, which goin any part to support this kind of activity is inviolation of section 404 of the Domestic VolunteerService Act.109Little Rock Housing ScandalA controversy over public money allocated to ACORNin Arkansas but sent to Louisiana led its former statechairwoman to call the group “one of the biggestscams in Arkansas” and a reverend to say that “aslong as ACORN has a finger in it, it ain’t gonna bedone right.”110In the late 1980’s, the Little Rock, Arkansas city boardof directors granted $150,000 to an ACORN landassociation to fund repairs of local dilapidated houses.But city officials found numerous problems with theproject, including a requirement for potential homebuyers to become dues-paying ACORN members.Eventually, the City Attorney concluded that there hadbeen at least three contract violations by the ACORNHousing Corporation, including the possibility that thegroup could borrow money for other purposes whileusing the housing lots as collateral.111ACORN was charged with the responsibility of usingtaxpayer dollars to fix up dilapidated houses. ButACORN used the money for its Arkansas CommunityHousing Corporation, in which they allow buyers ofthe renovated homes only to acquire the houses, butnot the lots. The owner can then resell the home to theHousing Corporation only for the same price for whichthey bought it.The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that formerArkansas ACORN chair Dorothy Perkins “contendedAcorn was building up a land portfolio that wouldtranslate to money and power for the nationalorganization.” Perkins alleged that money raised by thecommunity group was “never seen” by the low-incomeindividuals it claims to serve, “and that all the moneyended up” under Wade Rathke’s control (which she saidwas “run like a Jim Jones cult”).112Two significant points of contention over the LittleRock housing rehabilitation effort would foreshadowfuture allegations by the federal government: usinggrant money as a means to bolster membershipand claiming that parts of ACORN’s web were notactually connected.
Employment Policies Institute / www.EPIonline.org23In this case, an ACORN spokesman said the grouprequired the new homeowners to become dues-payingACORN members. After attracting the attention ofthe media and Little Rock officials, ACORN alteredthe requirement.113Also, a city official complained that there “clearly hasbeen a conscious and direct effort” by national ACORNofficials to “dominate if not totally control” the local-level project.114 The official added that ACORN’shousing corporation “is inextricably intertwined with atleast three other ACORN corporations and is guided inlarge part by national Acorn program guidelines” andthat “The value of physical improvements resultingfrom the $150,000 of public money flows directly toAcorn-created corporations.”115The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette was left to concludein an editorial: “The housing program can operatewithout these outside groups … The program deservesa full chance to succeed, without an excessive burdenof Acorn baggage.”116AmeriCorpsIn 1994 the ACORN Housing Corporation (AHC)was awarded a $1.1 million grant by AmeriCorps,a program of the Corporation for National Service(CNS). The money was intended to fund the trainingof 42 AmeriCorps members in 13 cities. The workerswere expected to identify low-income families hopingto purchase a first home, to assist them in findingsuitable housing, and to advise them in securing thenecessary financing.During the grant-making process, AHC was askedabout its relationship to ACORN, because politicaladvocates were ineligible for the grant. At the time,AHC maintained that it was a completely separateentity from ACORN, and CNS awarded the grant basedon this understanding.Evidence uncovered by Luise Jordan, the InspectorGeneral for AmeriCorps, suggests that this promisedseparation was simply not true. In testimony before ahouse subcommittee, Jordan stated:Our preliminary research determined that AHC waspart of a number of ACORN-related organizations.… Not only did we find references to ACORNhaving “created” AHC to serve purposes common toboth organizations, we noted numerous transactionsand activities involving AHC and other “fraternal”ACORN-related corporations. These transactionsincluded costs charged to AHC, and thus to theCNS grant, by ACORN or other ACORN-relatedentities. ... Charges of this nature were made toour grant for the AHC locations where AHC andACORN (or other ACORN-related activities)were co-located.117AHC’s initial subterfuge pales in comparison tothe illegal fundraising scheme it subsequentlyoperated, using its AmeriCorps grant to increaseACORN’s membership.According to Jordan, one ACORN member in theDallas regional office stated that “the only reasonfor having the AmeriCorps program was to gain newACORN members, and that if AmeriCorps loancounseling clients did not start becoming ACORNmembers, she could and would halt the AmeriCorpsproject.”118 Jordan found that this understanding wasnot limited to the Dallas office. Using governmentfunds to solicit membership in an organization that—like ACORN—participates in direct political advocacyis a violation of federal guidelines.AHC also utilized its government-funded loancounseling program to steer low-income familiestoward ACORN memberships. Jordan found that AHChad distributed leaflets stating that low income, first-time homebuyers were required to join ACORN, at anannual cost of $60, in order to receive the government-subsidized counseling. “An AHC loan counselingclient in New Orleans (who is a retired high schoolbusiness teacher),” she explained, “was escorted byan AmeriCorps member to an ACORN organizer whosolicited membership in ACORN. The client felt like shewas not going to be allowed to leave until she gave theACORN organizer a $60 check, or authorized a $5 permonth automatic bank draft for ACORN membershipdues.”119 And as with ACORN’s own employees whoattempted to unionize, AmeriCorps members whorefused to participate in this illegal fundraising schemefaced the threat of immediate termination.The Inspector General’s office (IG) was lucky to find outas much about the improper relationship between AHC
Employment Policies Institute / www.EPIonline.org24and ACORN as it did. And AHC made every effort toobstruct the investigation. The IG issued subpoenas toAHC and ACORN, whose response “did not includeseveral documents, or parts of documents that we hadobtained from our other sources.” Jordan later wrote,“Our subpoena clearly called for these documents, andthey were critical in supporting the conclusions of ourinvestigation.”120 Withholding required documentationwas only the beginning of AHC’s attempt to hinderthe investigation. AHC also limited the ability ofinvestigators to interview AmeriCorps members inprivate.121 This greatly hampered the IG’s ability toobtain reliable information regarding the activities ofAmeriCorps members. Eventually, in response to atorrent of red flags raised by the IG, the Corporation forNational Service terminated AHC’s grant.Ongoing Government GrantsDespite its history of misusing government grants,taxpayer dollars continue to roll into ACORN entities:• ACORN’s American Institute for SocialJustice claimed $240,000 in tax moneybetween fiscal years 2002 and 2003.122• In 2002 and 2003, ACORN’s AmericanEnvironmental Justice Project received 100percent of its revenue from governmentgrants.123 For those years, the Project gavemore than 90 percent of that money asa grant to ACORN’s Louisiana chapter.In 2000, government grants accounted for100 percent of the Project’s income. Thistime, 100 percent of that money went straightto ACORN. In 1998, 100 percent of theProject’s income derived from governmentgrants. That year, more than $9,000was paid in rent to the ACORN-run SEIULocal 100.• Since 1998, the ACORN HousingCorporation of Pennsylvania has receivedmore than $824,000 in tax money.124• Between fiscal years 2002 and 2003, theArizona ACORN Housing Corporationtook in more than $200,000 in governmentmoney—accounting for nearly 40 percent ofthat group’s revenue over that time span.125• Tax forms show that the ACORN HousingCorporation has received more than$11,230,000 in public funds since fiscal year1997.126 More than $5,100,000 was paid infees or grants to ACORN entities.More grants have been announced:• $2 million from HUD to ACORN Associatesfor fiscal year 2004127• $999,974 from HUD to ACORN Associatesin 2003128• Nearly $1.2 million from HUD in 2005129• $1,999,920 from HUD in 2005130• $572,000 from HUD in 2006131• HUD fair housing grants in 2005 for acombined $196,952132Anti-Corporatism As Tool For PowerIf confrontational actions are key to ACORN’s survival,then a “bad guy” must be found. And, for internalpolitical reasons, ACORN picks a business to target.This explains why, even as their treatment of their ownemployees suggests otherwise, they continue to fightfor economic issues such the minimum wage.Delgado notes:Built into the ACORN model is the use of creativeconfrontation to polarize the interests of organizedlow-income people on one side and “moniedinterests” on the other. In its fifteen-year history,the organization’s actions have lived up to the basicpurpose of the activity—“a direct confrontationbetween a target and the entire assemblage.”133In a quest to find “monied interests,” ACORN haschosen the notion of corporations. Its PeoplesPlatform would turn American businesses into serfs:“Corporations shall have their role: producing jobs,providing products, paying taxes. No more. No less.They shall obey our wishes, respond to our needs,serve our communities.” Delgado explained that whendeveloping its political platform options, “ACORNhad opted to preserve class unity by developing ananticorporate political program that did not directlyaddress salient issues of race and sex.”134
Employment Policies Institute / www.EPIonline.org25As Russell notes, the need for attacking business iscentral to maintaining ACORN’s tenuous coalitionof interests:ACORN organizers argue that as long as ACORNdeals primarily with economic issues or buildingpolitical power, low- and moderate-income peoplewill hold together … This has been an integral partof ACORN’s organizing strategy from its inception:to organize people around economic issues, targetgovernment and corporations and avoid divisivesocial issues.135Anti-Corporatism As A Means To MoneyACORN is in business to harass business, and businessis booming. While the group has traditionally beenready to accept public acknowledgement of fundsfrom churches and foundations, it has turned moreto a new business model: the shakedown. The NewYork Times reported that of ACORN’s $37.5million budget for 2006, “only $3 million comesfrom membership dues,” while “most of the restcomes from foundations, private donations, and‘partnerships’ in which onetime corporate targets,like the Household Financial Corporation, payAcorn to run programs, in this case to educatepeople about mortgages and loan terms.”136 Yetthat report failed to tease out the fact that the largestsource of revenue is derived from those corporatetargets. According to scholar and former ACORNorganizer Fred Brooks, ACORN now reliesheavily on “settlements” with corporate targets.Brooks told a December 2005 conference:… very, very often the result of a campaign is avictory and a partnership with either a corporationor sometimes it can even be a government entityin a sense. If it’s a corporation, there’s oftena significant amount of money involved in asettlement that furthers ACORN’s organizing.Wade refers to this as privileging the base, andI think that’s become a very huge part of whatACORN’s been doing.In an interview with Wade Rathke last year,one of the things Wade told us is that currentlyACORN received more money directly fromcorporations in the form of settlements at theend of campaigns, privileging the base ashe said, than they do from foundations andchurches combined …137Given that ACORN has taken in tens of millionsof dollars from foundations since the mid-1990’s,corporate “settlements” must be sizeable.Areas in which ACORN appears to be “privilegingthe base” with corporate settlements are its campaignssurrounding housing and banking issues.ACORN has arranged profitable agreements withland developers. In a move that rankled many othercommunity organizations, New York ACORN endorseda deal with billionaire development company ForestCity Ratner. The deal specified that ACORN would beallowed to market a significant portion of units createdby the new development. One New York advocate forA Closer Look Under The Roof Of ACORN HousingCorporation2003: Paid $300,366 in fees to Citizens Consulting. All itemized grants—totaling $1,107,480—are given to ACORN entities.2002: Paid $193,371 to Citizens Consulting. All itemized grants—totaling $1,076,112—are given to ACORN entities.2001: Paid $222,248 to Citizens Consulting. All itemized grants—totaling $1,257,087—are given to ACORN entities.2000: Paid $222,298 to Citizens Consulting. Itemized grants —totaling $426,925—are given to ACORN entities1999: Paid $179,511 to Citizens Consulting.1998: Paid $182,929 to Citizens Consulting.
Employment Policies Institute / www.EPIonline.org26the poor complained:ACORN stands to gain financially from thisagreement, through its contract not only to marketthe Atlantic Yards project’s affordable housing units,but also to promote the entire mega-development,including the basketball arena and 16 skyscrapersof market-rate condos and office space.138One paper reported that the legal agreement stated thatACORN would offer publicity support for the project:“As long as the Project [the Atlantic Yards] willinclude the ACORN/ATLANTIC YARDS 50/50Program as described … ACORN agrees to takereasonable steps to publicly support the Project by,among other things, appearing with the Developerbefore the Public Parties, community organizationsand the media as part of a coordinated effort torealize and advance the Project and the contemplatedcreation of affordable housing.”139In 2003, the Manhattan Institute’s Sol Sternoutlined ACORN’s manipulation of the CommunityReinvestment Act. Stern explains:ACORN loudly campaigns against “predatorylending,” “redlining,” and other forms of presumedabuse by financial institutions that supposedly hinderthe minority poor from getting the capital needed forhome buying and business start-ups. As an antidote,ACORN has latched on to a 1977 federal law, theCommunity Reinvestment Act (CRA), which wasaimed at ensuring that banks do not discriminateagainst poor minority communities …ACORN has found a use for it beyond wielding itas a propaganda tool to suggest that “redlining” stillexists. ACORN has developed a lucrative niche asan “advisor” to banks seeking regulatory approvals.Thus we have J. P. Morgan & Company, the legateeof the man who once symbolized for many all thatwas supposedly evil about American capitalism,suddenly donating hundreds of thousands of dollarsto ACORN. This act of generosity and civic-mindedness came, interestingly, just as Morgan wasasking bank regulators for approval of a merger withChase Manhattan. Not to be outdone, Chase alsodecided to grant more than $200,000 to ACORN.The banks that ACORN has shaken down refuseto discuss their contributions to a politicalorganization that, to put it mildly, is hostile tofree enterprise. But one prominent consultant tothe financial industry, who preferred to remainanonymous, admits: “The banks know they arebeing held up, but they are not going to fight overthis. They look at it as a cost of doing business.”Some of ACORN’s fellow community activistsare even blunter. “ACORN knows that corporateAmerica has no starch in their shorts and,therefore, what they try to do is buy peace fromgroups that agitate against them,” says RobertL. Woodson, president of the National Centerfor Neighborhood Enterprise, a community-action group that stresses moral regeneration andindividual responsibility rather than governmenthandouts. “The same corporations that pay ransomto Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton pay ransomto ACORN.”140The 2000 tax return for the ACORN HousingCorporation disclosed grants from Bank of America,Fleet Services Corporation, Fannie Mae Foundation,Chase Manhattan Foundation, and Wells FargoFoundation totaling $4,752,198.
Employment Policies Institute / www.EPIonline.org27Endnotes1 Eckholm, Erik. “City by city, an antipoverty group plants seeds of change.” New York Times. June 26, 2006: A12.2 Eckholm.3 Delgado, Gary. Organizing The Movement: The Roots And Growth Of ACORN. Temple University Press, Philadelphia. 1986. 101-102.4Ibid.5Delgado, 204.6 Arena, Jay. “A Local 100 organizer remembers.” To-Gather. Industrial Workers of the World. Issue #2. Feb. 19, 2001.7 “Board hears wide-ranging criticism of Acorn program, takesno action.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Sept. 2, 1987.8 “Acorn member resigns from corporation board.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Sept. 3, 1987.9Delgado, 117.10 Arena.11 Dreier, Peter. “Researching ACORN: Past, Present and Future.” Video of conference held Dec. 6-7, 2005.12 Eckholm.13 Center for Public Integrity. See: http://www.publicintegrity.org/lobby/profile.aspx?act=firms&year=2003&lo=L00663314 See IRS Form 990 for Project Vote/Voting For America. EIN # 72-126871915 See IRS Form 990 for Mutual Housing Association of New York. EIN # 11-28483816 See IRS Form 990 for Mott Haven ACORN Housing Development Fund Corporation. EIN # 11-351719917 See IRS Form 990 for Agape Broadcasting Foundation. EIN # 75-136988018 See IRS Form 990 for Affiliated Media Foundation Movement. EIN # 72-083461719 See IRS Form 990 for ACORN Housing Corporation, Inc. EIN # 72-104832120 Reynolds, David. Living Wage Campaigns: An Activist’s Guide To Building the Movement for Economic Justice. ACORN and Wayne State University, Jan. 2003.21 Reynolds, David. “The Impact of the Detroit Living Wage Ordinance.” Wayne State University. Sept. 21, 1999.22 Reynolds, 2003.23 Graswich, R.E. “Switch in firepower is a good fit for some Sacramento cops.” Sacramento Bee. Mar. 14, 2003. B1.24 Appellants Opening Brief, ACORN v. State of California, 1996: 10-11.25 Read, Katy. “No easy answers to vote on wages; Many workers earn minimum.” Times-Picayune. June 3, 1996. A1.26 “5 workers sue for back pay.” Orlando Sentinel. Oct. 11,2004. B327 Dominguez, Debra. “Nonprofit’s workers demand payment.” Albuquerque Journal. Nov. 13, 2004. E2.28 Dominguez.29 See: http://clients.loudeye.com/imc/mayday/acorn_edited. mp330 “Why we’re working in pairs.” To-Gather. Industrial Workers of the World. Issue 1. Jan 30, 2001.31 Stevens, Sarah. “Help Wanted.” To-Gather. Industrial Workers of the World. Issue 4. Mar. 28, 2001.32 Welch, Adam. “Show me the money.” To-Gather. Industrial Workers of the World. Issue 2. Feb. 19, 2001.33 “Philly ACORN workers strike for safe jobs & end to union-busting.” To-Gather. Industrial Workers of the World. Issue #2. Feb. 19, 2001.34 Stevens, Sarah. “Help Wanted.” To-Gather. Industrial Workers of the World. Issue #2. Mar. 28, 2001.35 National Labor Relations Board, [338 NLRB No. 129] Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, March 27, 2003.36 National Labor Relations Board, [338 NLRB No. 129] Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, March 27, 2003.37 “Workers Resign Jobs In Protest of Further Harassment.” Industrial Workers of the World. May 25, 2001. See: http://www.iww.org/unions/iu650/acorn/acorn41.shtml38 Arena.39 Arena.40 “The Living Wage Movement: A New Beginning.” By the publishers of The Black Commentator. Found through Web Archive at: http://web.archive.org/web/20050228152903/ www.inequality.org/livingwage2.html41 Tanzman, Will. “Two-way street: Labor-community partnership and SEIU’s Hospital Accountability Project.” Social Policy, Fall 2005.42 See Department of Labor LM-2 financial disclosures.43 See Service Employees International Union financial disclosure with Department of Labor for 2005.44 Brooks, Fred P. “New Turf for Organizing: Family Child Care Providers.” Labor Studies Journal, Vol. 29, Issue 4 (Winter 2005): 45-64.45 About SEIU 100. See: http://www.seiu100.org/index.php?id=39146 Pierce, Neal R and Hagstrom, Jerry. “Watch Out, New Right, Here Come the ‘Young Progressives’.” National Journal. Dec. 30, 1978. Vol. 10, No. 51-52; Pg. 2071.47 See Louisiana Secretary of State Corporations Division database.48 http://www.discountfoundation.org/grant_list_history.htm as seen on 5/22/06.49 See SEIU Local 100’s Department of Labor LM-2 filing for 2000.50 Reynolds, 2003.51 Carpenter, Dave. “Push is on for higher Wal-Mart wages.” Associated Press. June 21, 2006.52 Rathke, Wade. “Leveraging Labor’s Revival.” New Labor Forum. Vol. 14, Issue 2: 59–66, Summer 2005.53 Rathke, “Leveraging Labor’s Revival.”54 http://walmartwatch.com/home/pages/partners.55 Wake Up Wal-Mart blog. October 13, 2005. http://blog.wakeupwalmart.com/ufcw/2005/10/.56 Stern, Andy. “The High Road in High Tech.” UniteToWin.org. Mar. 24, 2005. Originally published at: http://www.unitetowinblog.org/story/2005/3/24/131246/46457 See Department of Labor LM-2 filing for 2005.58 Rathke, Wade. “Post-Election Shock: A Journal.” Social Policy. Summer 2004, Vol. 34, No. 4.59 Featherstone, Liza. “Will Labor Take the Wal-Mart Challenge?” The Nation. June 28, 2004.60 “Advocate alleges ER ‘overloading’ by community organizers.” The Business Ledger. Oct. 3, 2005.
Employment Policies Institute / www.EPIonline.org2861 Ibid.62 Ibid.63 Sherrad Blesch, Gregg. “Hospitals don’t care for Care For All campaign.” Daily Southtown. Dec. 22, 2005.64 Ibid.65 “Sheedy stood firm; Council finally balks at activist tactics.” Sacramento Bee. Dec. 12, 2005. B4.66 Ibid.67 Delgado, 70.68 Delgado, 56.69 “Researching ACORN: Past, Present and Future.” Video of conference held Dec. 6-7, 2005.70 Delgado, 125.71 “Mighty oaks from tiny Acorns?” The Economist. Apr. 28, 1984. U.S. edition, pg 39.72 Ibid.73 Delgado, 72.74 Delgado, 87.75 Alexander, Nick. “Steamroller Initiatives: Can They Be Stopped?” Ethnic NewsWatch. Vol. 3, No. 5. Dec. 31, 1995. pg 22.76 Gertner, John. “What Is a Living Wage?” New York Times Magazine. Jan. 15, 2006. pg 38.77 Ibid.78 “Political Grapevine.” Fox Special Report With Brit Hume. Fox News Network. Oct. 25, 2004.79 Conboy, Kenneth, “Decision of Teamsters Election Officer Kenneth Conboy to Disqualify Int’l Brotherhood of Teamsters President Ron Carey,” Nov. 17, 1997.80 Hoekstra, Pete. “Report on the financial, operating, and political affairs of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.” Committee on Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Feb. 24, 1999. http://www.house.gov/ed_workforce/markups/106th/oi/teamster/ibt.pdf81 Moss, Michael and Ford Fessenden. “Interest Groups mounting costly push to get out vote.” New York Times. Oct. 20, 2004. A1.82 Rathke, Wade. “Post-Election Shock: A Journal.” Social Policy. Summer 2004, Vol. 34, No. 4.83 “Candidates seek voter forms of woman who registered teen,” Associated Press. Sept 15, 2004; “3 GOP candidates want voter records,” Albuquerque Journal, Sept. 15, 2004: B1; “Dad of ‘voter’ joins suit to require IDs,” Albuquerque Journal. Aug 25, 2004: B1; “More glare on voter sign-ups,” Albuquerque Tribune. Aug. 25, 2004: A2.84 “Political Grapevine.” Special Report With Brit Hume. Fox News Channel. Oct. 25, 2004.85 Zucco, Tom. “Activist group blamed for voter roll goofs,” St. Petersburg Times. Oct. 4, 2004.86 “Warrant issued for false registration,” Associated Press. Sept. 7, 200487 “Officials question error-filled voter registrations collected by paid workers” Associated Press. June 2, 2004.88 “Late voter registration could cause Election Day havoc,” Associated Press. Sept. 26, 2004.89 “Stash of voter cards probed; Former canvasser may be charged.” Pioneer Press. Oct. 8, 2004.90 “Get-out-vote worker found with 300 registrations in car trunk.” Associated Press. Oct. 8, 2004.91 “Voter fraud suspected in registration deluge.” The PottstownMercury. Oct 8, 2004.92 “Partisan groups may have eyed Berks for registration drives,” The Pottstown Mercury. Oct. 13, 2004.93 “Investigation reveals potentially fraudulent voter forms.” Associated Press. Oct. 12, 2004.94 “Man gets probation in voter registration case.” Rocky Mountain News. Jan. 4, 2005.95 Wikipedia.org, referenced Aug. 13, 2005.96 “Registration fraud takes advantage of security rules.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Oc.t 3, 2004.97 McKay, Dan. “Police focus on 4 in wage-petition fraud.” Albuquerque Journal. July 30, 2005.98 “Mom admits forging 400 voter registration forms.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Oct. 21, 1998: B1.99 “Election Board will investigate carter’s role in vote case,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Nov. 19, 2003: C1; “Official is placed on leave in vote inquiry, she is prosecution’s chief witness in case.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Nov. 11, 2003: B1; “Voter registration fraud dogs city; the latest case is traced to worked whom activist group fired,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Sept. 19, 2003.100 Siemers, Erik. “Sheriff: Suspect admits forging wage petitionsignatures.” Albuquerque Tribune. July 27, 2005.101 Andersen, Shea. “Flawed voter sign-ups piling up.” Albuquerque Tribune. Aug. 7, 2004.102 Bell, Dawson. “Campaign workers suspected of fraud.” Detroit Free Press. Sept. 23, 2004.103 Stern, Sol. “ACORN’s Nutty Regime For Cities.” City Journal. Spring 2003.104 Delgado, 219.105 Delgado, 111.106 Delgado, 115.107 Delgado, 115.108 Poole, William T. “The New Left in Government Part II: The VISTA Program as “Institution Building.” Heritage Institutional Analysis #17. Feb. 19, 1982.109 From investigative staff of the House Committee on Appropriations and published in the record of an April 5, 1979, hearing before the Committee’s Subcommittee on the Departments of Labor and Health, Education, and Welfare as quoted by Heritage Institutional Analysis #17.110 “Board hears wide-ranging criticism of Acorn program, takesno action.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Sept. 2, 1987.111 “Housing rehabilitation program to survive with key changes.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Sept. 10, 1987.112 “Board hears wide-ranging criticism of Acorn program, takesno action.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Sept. 2, 1987.113 “Dalton gets word on role Acorn plays in housing program.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Aug. 25, 1987.114 “Dalton (left) and Milton discuss housing program.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Aug. 27, 1987.115 Ibid.116 “Cut some ties, but keep going.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Aug. 29, 1987.117 Testimony of Luise S. Jordan before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Committee on Economic and Educational Opportunities, Oct. 17, 1995.
Employment Policies Institute / www.EPIonline.org29118 Ibid.119 Ibid.120 Ibid.121 Ibid.122 See IRS Form 990 for American Institute for Social Justice. EIN # 23-7108110123 See IRS Form 990 for the American Environmental Justice Project. EIN # 72-1364034124 See IRS Form 990 for ACORN Housing Corp. of Pennsylvania. EIN # 22-2702301125 See IRS Form 990 for Arizona ACORN Housing Corporation, Inc. EIN # 86-0748438126 See IRS Form 990 for ACORN Housing Corporation, Inc. EIN # 72-1048321127 Federal Register: April 22, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 77)128 Federal Register: November 25, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 227)129 http://www.hud.gov/content/releases/statebystate05.pdf130 http://ci.akron.oh.us/News_Releases/2005/0922.html131 http://www.hud.gov/news/release.cfm?content=pr06-021.cfm132 http://www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/partners/FHIP/FY2005FHIP.cfm133 Delgado, 72.134 Delgado, 143.135 Russell, 35-36.136 Eckholm.137 “Researching ACORN: Past, Present and Future.” Video of conference held Dec. 6-7, 2005.138 Ettlinger, Steve. Letter to the editor. Shelterforce Magazine. Issue 145, Spring 2006.139 Wisloski, Jess. “Sealed with a kiss.” The Brooklyn Papers. Vol. 28.140 Stern.
1775 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 1200 Washington, DC 20006 Tel: 202.463.7112 Fax: 202.463.7107
The House Democrats’ trillion dollar spending bill, approved on January 21 by the Appropriations Committee and headed to the House floor next week for a vote, could open billions of taxpayer dollars to left-wing groups like the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). ACORN has been accused of perpetrating voter registration fraud numerous times in the last several elections; is reportedly under federal investigation; and played a key role in the irresponsible schemes that caused a financial meltdown that has cost American taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars since last fall.
House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and other Republicans are asking a simple question: what does this have to do with job creation? Are Congressional Democrats really going to borrow money from our children and grandchildren to give handouts to ACORN in the name of economic “stimulus?”
Incredibly, the Democrats’ bill makes groups like ACORN eligible for a $4.19 billion pot of money for “neighborhood stabilization activities.” Funds for this purpose were authorized in the Housing and Economic Recovery Act, signed into law in 2008. However, these funds were limited to state and local governments. Now House Democrats are taking the unprecedented step of making ACORN and other groups eligible for these funds:
“For a further additional amount for ‘Community Development Fund,’ $4,190,000,000, to be used for neighborhood stabilization activities related to emergency assistance for the redevelopment of abandoned and foreclosed homes as authorized under division B, title III of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (Public Law 110–289), of which—
“(1) not less than $3,440,000,000 shall be allocated by a competition for which eligible entities shall be States, units of general local government, and nonprofit entities or consortia of nonprofit entities[.]”
“(2) up to $750,000,000 shall be awarded by competition to nonprofit entities or consortia of nonprofit entities to provide community stabilization assistance […]”
The House Democrats’ trillion dollar spending bill also includes $1 billion for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program. CDBG funds are given by the federal government to state and local governments which often contract with nonprofits for services related to the purpose of the grant.
ACORN knows how to secure CDBG funds. Audit reports filed by ACORN’s headquarters with the Office of Management and Budget show that ACORN spent $1,588,599 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program funds from FY 2003 through FY 2007. It is not clear from these records when or from what source the funds were awarded to ACORN. It is also not clear whether ACORN chapters or affiliates have received CDBG grants on their own.
2009 September 16- ACORN State Funding Review
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Curt Yoakum
Legislative & Communications Director
At Governor Pawlenty’s direction, Minnesota Management & Budget has begun a review of the state’s accounting system to determine if the state has had any financial relationship with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). Initial findings show the last transaction with this organization was in 2008. The table below lists all state transactions readily available with ACORN:
Payment Date Agency Sum of Payment
12/18/1996 MN Housing Finance Agency $ 10,000
12/28/1998 MN Housing Finance Agency 10,000
10/09/2003 MN Housing Finance Agency 14,000
10/29/2003 Attorney General 1,300
12/12/2003 Attorney General 500
01/22/2004 Attorney General 2,200
06/08/2004 MN Housing Finance Agency 14,000
11/09/2004 MN Housing Finance Agency 21,000
05/16/2005 MN Housing Finance Agency 21,000
11/20/2007 MN Housing Finance Agency 7,500
05/09/2008 MN Housing Finance Agency 7,500