Funding gone, scandal-plagued ACORN to disband

Housing advocacy group ACORN alleged coordinated right wing attacks in announcing it will close its offices April 1.

M. Spencer Green/AP
Michael Shea, Executive Director of Affordable Housing Centers of America, formally known as ACORN Housing poses in his office in Chicago. While ACORN will disband, several wings have branched off and been renamed.

After being rocked by a series of high-profile scandals, ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) is disbanding as its funding has vanished and debts have climbed. It is reportedly closing April 1.

The group, which was one of the longest running and most active community organizations focused on poor and working class families, became the center of controversy last summer when conservative activists secretly recorded ACORN employees appearing to give advice on skirting tax laws.

Before that, however, ACORN was the center of scandal over an embezzlement coverup and charges of voter fraud.

ACORN said in a statement released Monday, according to Reuters, that it has been the target of a “series of well-orchestrated, relentless, well-funded right wing attacks.”

While no criminal charges followed the video sting on several ACORN offices, an independent inquiry said the episode was an example of ACORN falling short “of living its principles” and leaving itself “vulnerable to public embarrassment.”

Criminal investigations in many states did follow the voter registration forgeries, in which some ACORN employees allegedly filed phony registration forms, for instance, with names like "Mickey Mouse." While many conservative politicians, including Arizona Sen. John McCain (R) during his presidential bid, attempted to portray the fraud as part of a broader political conspiracy, ACORN has said the incidents were merely the work of lazy voter registration workers.

The series of controversies led many Congressional lawmakers to back the Defund Acorn Act, which a US judge ruled unconstitutional earlier this month because the measure singled out a particular group for punishment.

Still, the damage was done by the videotape scandal and the other controversies swirling around ACORN, which many conservatives have long viewed as an organization intent on using federal dollars to spread a liberal agenda.

In recent months, ACORN chapters in New York and California have split from the group to continue similar work under a different name. While ACORN's national organization plans to disband, the group’s housing wing is expected to remain intact, but under a different name.

The perseverance of ACORN Housing, which is now called the Affordable Housing Centers of America, leads many to suggest that while the organization is shedding its formal structure, it will return under a new name.

Matthew Vadum, of the conservative Washington Capital Research Center, said ACORN's demise is being exaggerated. While many questions remain about its future, he said, "one thing’s for sure: ACORN will rise from the grave as soon as it thinks the coast is clear."

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