Labor organizations, unions, and other tax-exempt entities stretched Chicago-style political manipulation and back room schemes beyond Illinois to other state-wide and national campaign efforts. In the State of Ohio , where ACORN directors drafted a political plan contained in this report, overt partisan goals are enumerated. The ACORN Ohio Political Plan states: ACORN will target three competitive Ohio congressional districts as well as a half dozen state rep seats nested within the districts. Our electoral work will mobilize and educate voters [and] our paid professional canvass will execute tightly managed Voter ID and GOTV canvasses moving our core constituency of base and swing voters to the polls to vote for the candidates who most closely align with a progressive Working Families Agenda.
Committee investigators have documented ACORN’s use of charitable contributions against donor intent, typified by ACORN’s secret transfer of donor funds to recover losses due to embezzlement. Moreover, ACORN comingles the accounts of federally-funded affiliates with politically-active affiliates and lacks sufficient oversight to safeguard taxpayer and donor interests, even though it receives millions of federal dollars.
Committee investigators have concluded that ACORN plundered employee benefits and violated fiduciary responsibilities under ERISA by relieving corporate debts through prohibited loans to a related party. Moreover, ACORN affiliates lack independent control of their own assets and maintain shoddy accounting practices that serve to hide ACORN’s secret and illegal use of monies. ACORN conspired to conceal information concerning prohibited transactions from its board in violation of its corporate charter. ACORN’s termination of board members who sought to uncover its illegal activities perpetuates a cover-up at the expense of adherence to its own bylaws.
ACORN failed to observe its corporate articles by loaning money without proper legal documentation, by ignoring its duties under the corporate bylaws, by misusing corporate funds, and by terminating its members without honoring the process setup in its Articles of Incorporation. ACORN has not complied with IRS filing requirements or ERISA
An essential aspect of Project Vote, CCI, Citizens Services Inc. (“CSI”), Communities Voting Together (“CVT”), and other ACORN affiliated 501(c)(3)s is to promote desirable governmental policies consistent with its objectives through legislation. ACORN and its affiliates cannot delineate their 501(c)(3) work from their non-501(c)(3) work. Ignoring ACORN’s nonprofit protections reveals the same individuals made strategic decisions about which regions do 501(c)(3) versus non-501(c)(3) voter registration work. Lobbying is a substantial part of what ACORN does.
It has endorsed Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Representative Albert Wynn (D-MD), and Representative Donna Edwards (D-MD). ACORN keeps donor records from the Clinton , Kerry and Obama campaigns with the intent to engage in prohibited communications. ACORN receives federal funding yet engages in improper lobbying. ACORN and its nonprofit affiliates do not have separate accounts. Neither ACORN nor any of its affiliates have properly reported their political activities to the IRS.. These harms fly under the legal radar because the IRS rarely checks for compliance. The “no substantial part” test is rarely enforced and the accounts of ACORN and its affiliates are illegally commingled.
Most of the information gathered here corroborates things I have written about. The report details the embezzlement of Dale Rathke which they have amounted to $948,607.50 (that's the first time an exact amount has been enumerated). The committee detailed how Dale's brother Wade, the long time CEO of ACORN, covered up this embezzlement. The committee talked about how a funder loaned ACORN money to cover past due taxes. The report details a loose structure of 361 separate organizations in which money moves in manners that the committee characterizes as "money laundering".
The committee also identifies both Project Vote and Communities Working Together as two affiliates that ACORN uses to circumvent tax and election laws to use partisan election activity by organizations that have a tax structure that only allows non partisan work. In this activity, ACORN itself will endorse a candidate and they are allowed because they are a 501 (C)3. Then, Project Vote and CWT go out for voter registration efforts. Of course, these two only engage in these activities in areas favorable to candidates endorsed by ACORN itself.
Finally, the committee found that the board make up of many of these 361 separate organizations was often made up by the same set of people in what Congressman Steve King characterized as a "copy and paste" pattern. The committee also alleges a misuse of pension funds in what amounts to ERISA violations. (I touched on that here.)
The most serious charge is that ACORN misused tax funds for partisan political purposes. Here's how the committee characterized this.Committee investigators have unearthed documentation that ACORN and its affiliates conducted meticulous research that fed aggressive campaign initiatives designed to elect Democratic candidates in targeted races. ACORN forged both formal and informal connections with former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown and President Barack Obama, among others. Each of these campaigns received financial and personnel resource contributions from ACORN and its affiliates as part of a scheme to use taxpayer monies to support a partisan political agenda.
These actions are a clear violation of numerous tax and election laws. Documents contained in this report reveal ACORN’s political agenda. ACORN’s 2005-2007 Strategic Plan states that “just as important as . . . mobilizing existing progressive voters, ACORN and similar groups actually create new progressive voters.” In the same document, ACORN acknowledges that its “issue campaigns play the dual role . . . of attracting new members, and educating or politicizing existing members..” One particular issue where ACORN claims success is “fighting key elements of the national Republican program.”
As I've said, while everyone focuses on the non existent voter fraud (it's actually voter registration fraud) and census activities, most people miss their most significant illegal activity. That is the manner in which ACORN takes money for one purpose comingles that money and then uses it for another purpose. In this report, the committee alleges that tax payer money wound up being used for partisan political purposes.
Finally, here is ACORN's statement in response to the report.
We are busy fighting to stop the foreclosure crisis, to win quality affordable health care for all Americans and to build a stronger economy for working families, so we haven't had the opportunity to read Rep. Issa's screed at length.Epilogue:
A source recently told me that in a board meeting last fall, Bertha Lewis told ACORN members that in response to the embezzlement investigation, ACORN had hired Mesirow Financial to do a full audit of the organization. The only problem is that Mesirow Financial is NOT a CPA firm and thus wouldn't be capable of such an audit.