Friends and Colleagues:
In our article today's HuffingtonPost, "ACORN Under the Microscope," John Atlas and I examine the current controversy surrounding ACORN, the country's largest and most successful progressive community organizing group.
Last week the New York Times reported that 8 years ago ACORN's chief financial officer embezzled almost $1 million from the organization, but that top staff agreed to keep it secret. ACORN put new financial controls in place and the money has now been repaid. Even so, covering up the embezzlement revealed poor judgment. Now that the story has leaked, ACORN's allies and funders are understandably upset by this episode. Most have already indicated their willingness to continue to support ACORN, but with more scrutiny over its finances. ACORN has chapters in 103 cities in 38 states and has played a key role in winning victories for low-income people on such issues as living wages, predatory lending, affordable housing, voting rights, public schools, health care, and welfare reform. In its 38-year history, ACORN has accumulated many enemies among corporations and conservative politicians with whom it has done battle. These opponents, along with right-wing media, are happy to use the current scandal to try to weaken ACORN and undermine its reputation and political influence. ACORN is now reorganizing its leadership and management structure, a process that is certainly painful many of its veteran leaders and staff. Our article puts this controversy in the larger context, exploring whether this self-inflicted wound will do irreparable harm or will help strengthen the organization in the long run.