For instance, there is Alinsky's rule #13, identify, isolate, freeze, escalate. Often, ACORN will picket in front of someone's house and protestors will follow the target everywhere in an effort to implement these four tactics. This is how ACORN was able to force banks to lend in underserved areas in their campaign to enforce the Community Reinvestment Act. It's also what ACORN does when they are trying force a CEO into a financial arrangement. This is how Alinsky would take on forces that would otherwise be more powerful than his own. Alinsky organized for those that the rest of society left behind. He provided a road map for organizing and leading a movement of the poor and disadvantaged which, if implemented properly, can became a force within all of society.
In one example of ACORN's use of Alinsky rule number 13, they went after the CEO of H&R Block. The CEO lived in a well to do suburb. So, ACORN showed up in full force, several hundred. They screamed and yelled on the street across the street from his home. That shook the very sensibilities of the well to do suburbs. Suddenly, the entire neighborhood was talking about how the CEO had a mob outside his home. By so doing, they identified the target, the CEO, and isolated the target, by making him the talk of his neighborhood. After this protest, ACORN didn't stop. They followed him around everywhere: the movies, shopping, the grocery story, his kids little league games, etc. This is an escalation. The same tactic that got him to freeze were escalated until he broke. Eventually, H&R Block entered into an agreement with ACORN.
Alinsky also taught ACORN what this was in fact all about. Here's how Alinsky characterized it.
In the politics of human life, consistency is not a virtue
...It’s true I might have trouble getting to sleep because it takes time to tuck those big, angelic, moral wings under the covers
....The judgment of history leans heavily on the outcome of success or failure; it spells the difference between the traitor and the patriotic hero. There can be no such thing as a successful traitor, for if one succeeds he becomes a founding father
Alinsky's main priority in community organizing was the accumulation of power. That's the exact same priority that ACORN has as a community organization. It's very important to understand that ACORN's priorities are the exact same as the priorities of the founder of the movement, Saul Alinsky, the accumulation of power.
ACORN is most effective because it understands that the most effective way of attaining power is by mastering grass foots activism. ACORN knows what's going on because it's foot soldiers are on the ground. People associated with ACORN are likely NOT spending much time in an office. Instead, they're walking the streets registering voters (legally or otherwise), signing petitions, and attending all the local meetings and get togethers. ACORN knows what's going on because they're interacting with the folks on a personal level nearly every hour of every day. That was taught to them by Alinsky and it's a lesson they took to heart.
Next, you also need to get inside the mind of ACORN's mastermind, Wade Rathke. If you saw Rathke out, it's likely he'd be dressed in cowboy boots, and a silk or suede shirt. He's totally slick but relaxed and uniquely styled rather than button down. Rathke is a product of the sixties radical movement that he became a part of while at Williams College in the late sixties. He even ran across William Ayers while he was a part of the radical college movement. Ironically enough, Rathke broke off ties with Ayers because he thought Ayers was "too radical". Ayers was actually born into a wealthy family. While he purports to dedicate his entire life to helping the poor, he, himself, hasn't spent even day being poor.
While at college, Rathke became a disciple of George Wiley and Wiley was himself a disciple of Saul Alinsky.
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 Wileys National Welfare Reform Organization (NWRO). (For details on NWRO, see the separate entries for George Wileyand 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.
ACORN first started as Arkansas Community Organization for Reform Now and later Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now. Immediately, ACORN began to tackle issues affecting the poor like living wage, affordable health care, affordable housing, social justice, etc. The organization grew regionally eventually throughout the U.S. throughout the seventies. Its big break came in the 1980's when 30 plus members of ACORN became delegates for Jesse Jackson. The organization has grown exponentially in the last 25 years since that convention. In fact, ACORN is now a mainstay at the Democratic National Convention.
We'll never when exactly but at some point the organization became fatally corrupt. The corruption grew out of the mind of Rathke. What he created a was a loose set of affiliate organizations. The organizations varied in size, tax codes, and locations. Yet, most called an address on Elysian Street their head office. In fact, this one location is registered to moe than one hundred separate organizations. A close examination of the board and upper level management of all these affiliates will show that certain hold positions in many of these organizations all at once.
Rathke has not only created a sophisticated web of organizations but he filled these organizations with unsophisticated folks in positions where they would be in a position to inspect Rathke's maneuvers. The reason he does this is because their lack of sophistication means they never question what he does. The board of many of these organizations is often reserved for people that worked for years in their grassroots campaigns. The folks that spent the most hours collecting signatures are often rewarded with a board position of some organization somewhere in their network. Those folks never inspect the financial statements, they never question any checks, and never question any suspicious deposit or withdrawal.
Rathke purposely creates a weak structure of oversight so that corruption is easy to implement without internal controls taking a closer look. Meanwhile, he uses the tax code to make it impossible for an outsider to track the money. For instance, Rathke turned a company called Citizen's Consulting Inc. into the financial services arm of ACORN. His brother Dale was its CEO for a while. All financial transactions begin at CCI. That means that any money received for any of its affiliates first starts at CCI. Why? It's because CCI is a private company and doesn't have to disclose financial statements. As such, we'll never know exactly what ACORN is up to since its nerve center can't be touched without a significant investigation being underway.
Furthermore, he created hudreds of affiliates and made sure that affiliates all had different tax structures. This way some affiliates had to disclose more than others. So money could easily travel from one affiliate to another and to another and eventually no outside watchdog could find it. All of this makes it easy to co mingle taxable and non taxable funds, launder money, and hide profits in non tax entities. That's exactly what Rathke and ACORN have been doing for years.
Furthermore, the structure of power is very organic as well. Here are the eight most powerful peopel in ACORN. Steve Kest: National Executive Director, Jon Kest: NY ACORN Head Organizer, Helene O’Brien: National Field Director, Beth Butler, Southern Regional Director, Zack Polett, political director, Mike Shea: Executive Director, ACORN Housing Corporation Liz Wolff: Special Projects, CCI. To the outsider, this may seem like a random and chaotic set of folks to make at the top. After all, their titles and responsibilities vary. It seems like a rag tag way of putting it together. In fact, the way you gain power in the organization is to have that which you control become a force in the organization. For instance, Mike Shea is in a position of power because he has turned ACORN Housing Inc. into a profit and influence machine. The political operations of ACORN have sprouted so Zach Pollett is in a position of power, and so on.
The list of crimes they've been associated with include embezzlement, tax fraud, voter registration fraud, money laundering, ERISA violations, misappropriation of funds, and a criminal conspiracy to cover up after the fact.
ACORN is also among the most machievellian groups ever created. Wade Rathke was removed about a year ago. (more on that of course later) Since then Bertha Lewis is the new CEO but no insider thinks she is in charge. The smart money is on the Kest brothers. Some people think that Wade Rathke has actually figured out a way to get back in charge. They may even be rivaling each other now.
The relationships are all very complicated. For instance, ACORN Housing Inc. was the only affiliate not to use CCI as their accounting and financial firm. All ACORN Housing monies were originated internally. Yet, while they were pulling away from ACORN on that hand, ACORN Housing Inc. also provided financial support on a loan that ACORN itself took out. Beth Butler is not merely in the ACORN hierarchy but she is Wade Rathke's common law wife. I say common law because they have technically never gotten married but lived long enough together to be considered common law.
While Rathke has a unique fashion sense, most of the rest of the group are buttoned down. Three piece suits are standard for the Kest brothers and for Michael Shea. Furthermore, everyone in a position of power is from a WHITE well to do family. There by, ACORN creates a sort of plantation mentality where wealthy white guys and ladies tell poor black people what to do.
We would know very little about all of this had it not been for two things. First, President Obama was himself a community organizer. That made the whole field more intriguing. Second, Wade Rathke's brother Dale embezzled about a million dollars and Wade covered it up with the other people I mentioned for nearly a decade before details were released. As it so happens, a few people slipped through the cracks and there was enough sophisticated members of the board that began asking questions and eventually the embezzlement and many issues relating to it. Eventually the whistle blowers that investigated these crimes, Marcel Reid and Karen Inman, along with several supporters, were kicked out of ACORN because they investigated too hard. They eventually formed the group ACORN 8.
Back in the late 1990's, Dale Rathke was working as CEO of Citizens Consulting Inc. He began charging personal items and expenses as business expenses and had CCI fund his lifestyle for a few years. He eventually ran up about a million dollars worth of corrupt expenses. Eventually, Wade Rathke found out and rather than report it he kept it quiet. He only told the eight lieutenants that I referred to. The embezzlement was leaked anonymously to a funder. (a group or organization that provides ACORN with money) Both Rathke's were forced to resign. This embezzlement forced the group to take on a questionable loan, fall behind on income taxes, commit tax fraud, and dip into the retirement plans of their employees (and thus commit an ERISA violation). Of course, the embezzlement and cover up were themselves criminal acts.
While their criminal behavior has aroused all sorts of suspicion, the group is also getting into bed with powerful forces all over. They have an alliance with George Soros. They count billionaire real estate developer Bruce Ratner among their set of friends. In fact, Ratner's Forest City real estate firm was the one that lent ACORN about $2 million when the group fell behind on their taxes. The group has a close relationship with mayor's Bloomberg in New York, Mayor Slay in St. Louis, and Mayor Villairagoso in Los Angeles.
Their alliance with the unions is both incestuous and overlapping. The line is especially blurred between ACORN and the SEIU. Wade Rathke founded SEIU local 100 in New Orleans and the local SEIU in Chicago was also founded by ACORN. They support most of the same causes and often SEIU's will hire ACORN as their sort of picketing goon squads. In other words, when SEIU needs folks to protest, they hire ACORN to create and orchestrate these protests. Ironically enough though, ACORN has wielded a hammer whenever any of their own employees have tried to unionize and the group has resisted each and every attempt by its own employees to unionize. Furthermore, ACORN employees themselves don't get a living wage from ACORN.
Politically, the group has created the Working Families Party (which they started with the help of George Soros) in New York and Connecticut and they've become a political force in those localities. In the 1990's, the New Party also made waves in Chicago and that was also a creation of ACORN. In Baltimore, they were able to orchestrate a re organization of the city council. Various national campaigns, including Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Barack Obama, have all hired ACORN in various campaigning capacities. Often and illegally, ACORN shares their email list with Democratic candidates. Often illegally, another ACORN affiliate Project Vote is recruited for political efforts. Even though Project Vote is a different (C) tax code than the flagship ACORN, their operations, according to insiders, are fused together and nearly interchangeable. This is, of course, a major violation of tax laws and a Federal Election Commission violation.
ACORN is deeply involved in every single Democratic cause. Often, their involvement is done on the down low so to speak. For instance, ACORN is a major player in the coalition Health Care for America Now. HCAN is providing all sorts of grassroots support for health care reform. Their effectiveness in these techniques makes ACORN very valuable for ideological allies. By being valuable, ACORN's scope and power increases exponentially and ACORN is in fact accomplishing Alinsky's most important principle, the accumulation of power.
At the same time, at least fourteen states are currently investigating ACORN. The most promising investigation is coming from Louisiana. That's because Louisiana is the home state of CCI and that would give the La. investigators easy jurisdiction over their books. The only way to know just exactly how deep the corruption runs at ACORN it would take a forensic audit of the books of CCI and all other affiliates. There's absolutely no doubt that if we knew all their crimes, it would shake all our sensibilities.