ACORN breaks apart in scandal's wake

New York and Los Angeles chapters of the ACORN advocacy group have rebranded themselves in efforts to shed a scandal-plagued image.

By , Staff writer

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    ACORN advocacy group chapters have rebranded themselves in efforts to shed a scandal-plagued image.
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After being shaken by a series of controversies that dried up much of its funding, ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) may be dissolving.

An ACORN official told Politico that the group “has dissolved as a national structure of state organizations” because of "diminished resources, damage to the brand, unprecedented attacks."

But ACORN spokesman Kevin Whelan told The American Prospect that despite the group having lost some major chapters, it remains intact.

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“It is not true that ACORN is closed for business all across the country. It still exists. Bertha Lewis is still the CEO," said Mr. Whelan.

ACORN became the center of a summertime scandal after two conservative activists videotaped some of the group’s members offering advice on skirting tax laws and setting up a prostitution ring. Read Monitor coverage here.

The group tried to deflect the subsequent firestorm of criticism by firing some of the employees caught on tape and launching an internal investigation, but the damage that followed may prove too much for a group that conservatives have long charged uses tax dollars to advance a Democratic agenda.

Some of its largest local chapters have already departed from the national group. On Monday, the New York branch said it was shedding the ACORN label and becoming New York Communities for Change. California ACORN split from the group in January. Politico also reported that the organization’s Philadelphia chapter is planning to cut ties with the national organization.

A network of more than 1,000 grass-roots organizations that work on behalf of poor and low-income families, ACORN has been no stranger to controversy. In registering voters ahead of the 2008 presidential election, some ACORN employees were accused of filing false voter application forms. In 2009, Nevada brought criminal charges against ACORN for illegally paying workers to register voters.

“It’s no secret that ACORN has had to fight hard to survive a series of vicious right wing attacks over the past year and half and that this has made it harder for ACORN to raise funds and organize and serve its members. We understand the desire of local grassroots leaders in some states to move ahead focusing solely on the fight to improve their communities,” Whelan said in a statement.

Conservative blog Ace of Spades called the news a victory for conservative activist Andrew Breitbart and his website Biggovernment.com, which first aired the ACORN videotapes. It said that while ACORN wasn't going away, it was "running back into the shadows" after seeing one of its "kindred spirits settle into the White House."

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