The California chapter of ACORN has split from the group and changed its name.
Thousands of Californians who live in or close to poverty in the state have worked hard for decades to score victories that level the playing field. They've passed laws that increase affordable housing and raise the minimum wage, so they can provide for their families. They've also spent their personal time, which is in chronically short supply, pushing for better teachers and textbooks so the kids in their neighborhoods can have better opportunities. On these and other issues the odds have been against them, but these Californians leveraged their significant numbers with coordinated grassroots organizing to achieve victory.
Until now, they carried out this work as a chapter of the national organization ACORN. Until now, governance and financial management resided at the national level. In recent months it has become increasingly clear to the leadership, staff and members in California that the serious challenges ACORN is facing are jeopardizing the important work we are doing here in California.
The new entity will be called Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE). It will, on paper at least, be entirely separate now from ACORN. The relationship will be what Wade Rathke characterized the relationship between ACORN and ACORN Housing. ACORN is its own entity and ACCE is its own entity and the two are fighting for common goals.
It's important to note that most, if not all, of the staff and board of ACORN in California will be kept on with the new company. In fact, at the bottom of the press release the contact person is Amy Schur. Schur, according to a source, was privvy to the knowledge that Dale Rathke had been involved in embezzlement from ACORN and kept that knowledge from the board.
This continues the slow and painful to watch disintegration of ACORN. Last month, I did a similar story centered in Connecticut.
Its political allies fled. And with its national organization fighting for its life and unable to give any money, ACORN of Bridgeport is doing what other chapters have been doing across the nation, going independent, sort of.
This month, the group began a campaign to raise money and create two local nonprofits, one to concentrate on social issues, the other on political action. To be clear, the plan is to continue to work with other chapters on national issues through a federation, according to Emeline Bravo-Blackwood, a small business owner who is leading the effort to transform the group in Bridgeport.
This is slightly different for a few reasons. In that case, the name didn't change and the local chapter turned itself into a federation of ACORN. In this case, the California chapter is not only changing its name but cutting ties with national, at least visibly.
The most interesting dynamic to watch going forward is what the relationship will be between Gubernatorial candidate, Jerry Brown, and the new organization. ACORN is a voter registration force and that organization contributed heavily to helping Brown get elected as he was moving up the political ranks. He's now in the uncomfortable position of having to investigate ACORN. Of course, ACORN in California is no longer. (that's no small thing since California was their biggest chapter in terms of members)
The people at ACCE are the same as those at the former ACORN in California only with the name change there's likely to be less scrutiny. Will there be folks out in full force wearing ACCE shirts signing up voters? Will the media notice that those folks are really from ACORN? Only time will tell that.