Friday, November 06, 2009


“This is an investigation of everything — Acorn, the national organization, the local organization and all of its affiliated entities,” said David Caldwell, an assistant attorney general.

ACORN's offices in Louisiana are being raided as I write this. ACORN is going up in flames, and this time, it's for the right reason.

No, I'm not talking about Encyclopedia Brown the pimp and his sorry-ass Saved by the Bell reject wannabe hooker buddy.

The videotapes are bullshit, and you can quote me on that. They're preposterous, hucksterism, pointless, juvenile. This investigation is about the epic mismanagement of a national organization. And I believe it's the right investigation, for the right reasons.

They're targeting the embezzlement of around $1 million - maybe as high as $5 million, according to reports I've read - by the brother of ACORN's founder, Wade Rathke. ACORN has had a problem for a while, apparently, and only the publicizing of the crime made it clear how completely screwed up the organization was.

I'm not a lawyer, but it seems to me that having one guy with as much power as Wade Rathke had was a situation bound to lead to disaster. He was clearly getting involved in things without the knowledge of the board. (Why do I say that? Most of the board's members didn't even know about the embezzlement - or the secret "settlement" - until years after the fact. Years.) When all power is consolidated in the hands of one person, and when that person stops believing he has to be accountable to anyone - funders, board members, other officers - then trouble is bound to happen.

Then, just think about the fact that his brother was working high up in the organization as well, and had access to the organization's bank accounts. Recipe for disaster, I'm telling you.

ACORN's trying to set its house in order, but there have been years and years of damage that they have to undo. The embezzlement happened in 1999 and 2000. This was hidden for eight years. Now they're being investigated for tax fraud, and the investigators are also trying to determine how much money was actually embezzled. Remember, ACORN was a tax-exempt organization, run largely on individual contributions and foundation support. They were operating for the public's benefit. When you steal from a nonprofit, you are stealing from the public. In ACORN's case, Dale Rathke was effectively stealing from the very low-income families that they were trying to help.

ACORN's funding is drying up. Foundations don't want to touch them with a ten-foot pole until they can be absolutely certain that their money is going to be handled correctly. This is what should happen. This is the natural repercussion of their poor management.

And now they're being investigated by the state of Louisiana - again, not because of the pimptastic videotapes, but because of their outrageous financial mismanagement. Maybe the organization will be able to answer all of the questions and sever themselves of the taint of Rathke's leadership. Maybe they'll survive this, maybe they won't. But at least this time, the questions that are being asked are the right questions.

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