ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis yesterday blamed the Bush administration for the organization’s woes and accused Republicans of “ACORN McCarthyism.”
Lewis blamed Karl Rove for instigating the legal troubles the “community organizers” are facing. At this point, reports of ACORN illegal conduct have sparked a string of criminal investigations nationwide on charges of fraudulent voter registration activities. Most recently, two young journalists caught ACORN staffers in a sting operation exposing tax and sex trafficking advice. Both houses of congress have passed measures to de-fund the organization,
Lewis was hosted by the National Press Club at a “Newsmaker” event yesterday where she took only written questions, struggling to put a smiley face on the group’s legal and financial scandals.
Late last month, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, released a scathing report (pdf) alleging that ACORN is using a tangled web of tax-exempt organizations to funnel tax money to itself. Lewis denied the charges.
“Senator Grassley, that whole report, if you read the entire thing, said well, they’ve got all of these corporations down there in Louisiana,” Lewis said. “Who knows what they’re doing with them, and they’re probably shoveling money around because after all, you know, look what happened with the founder’s brother.”
ACORN founder Wade Rathke was pushed out of the organization when his brother, Dale, was accused of embezzling $1 million from the organization.
“Senator Grassley’s report was just that: another stretch of allegations of how to pound on ACORN and paint a picture that you must be doing that if you’re getting money there’s no way that you could keep it separately, and it’s just off,” Lewis said.
“ACORN told me three times in 2006 and 2007 that it did not operate as a tax-exempt entity,” Grassley told HUMAN EVENTS. “In fact, it had 42 tax-exempt entities and even housed 31 of them at the same address in New Orleans. My analysis came from ACORN’s own documents. ACORN was a conglomerate, and it shuffled money among its many operations. If all of that has changed in just a year or two, then ACORN easily could clear things up by giving a full accounting to the public of how many tax-exempt entities and taxable entities it currently operates, how much money is funneled among them, and how much money is spent advancing the charitable mission of helping poor people get housing versus other activities that have nothing to do with the charitable mission. The new leadership hasn’t provided any specific information about which entities are gone and which ones remain.”
In clinical denial of the widespread wrongdoing by her organization, Lewis instead blamed “ACORN McCarthyism” and Karl Rove.
“I do think that for many years there have been folks that have disagreed with our ideology or methodology that has gone after us,” Lewis said. “Going to 2004 we now see through emails from Karl Rove from the previous administration that ACORN itself was targeted — targeted to go after us so that we would stop doing voter registration because it was said that we were moving too many minorities to vote, changing the power dynamics on local elections and that we needed to be stopped.”
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), in his position as the top Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has been a leader in seeking accountability from ACORN, issuing a comprehensive report (pdf) back in July questioning the group’s “criminal enterprise”-style financial structure.
Issa responded to the “McCarthyism” charge yesterday.
“Was it Republicans who embezzled millions from within their own organization and have yet to report the embezzlement to the IRS or Labor Department?” Issa responded. “Was it Republicans who conducted the internal review that highlighted the lack of firewalls between their charitable and political activities? Was it Republicans who hired a man convicted of multiple counts of conspiracy and money laundering to raise funds and register voters in Oklahoma? The fact that ACORN’s leadership refuses to even acknowledge and accept responsibility for the state of their organization is disturbing and brings into question the sincerity of ACORN’s pledge to reform their organization.”
Republican staff on the Oversight and Government Reform committee yesterday said they were examining newly acquired internal ACORN documents in their ongoing look into ACORN’s funding structure.
The embezzlement allegations are under investigation by Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell. There is some discrepancy over the amount of funds allegedly embezzled by Dale Rathke, brother of ACORN founder Wade Rathke. Caldwell raised the amount in question to $5 million, up from the $1 million that was earlier suspected.
Caldwell has subpoenaed ACORN’s records.
“The only question is whether some of that money was classified as expenses, or trips, or this, that and the other, and wasn’t actually stolen. There may be some question as to whether it was $3.5 (million), $2.8 (million), it’s more than a million,” Caldwell told the Associated Press.
Caldwell said that he will determine if any charges are warranted and still within the statute of limitations after examining the records.
“We’re not going to take their word for anything,” he said. “We’re going to take their records and let the records speak for themselves.”
Lewis also blamed the RNC for perpetuating coverage of the scandals for monetary purposes.
“The RNC every single day, because we’ve been inflated as the boogeyman, raises almost 2 million dollars a day every day,” Lewis said.
I checked with the RNC to assess the impact of the ACORN corruption charges on fundraising. Sources said that fundraising is very brisk due to overwhelming voter opposition to the proposed Democrat takeover of health care, out-of-control spending and the tea party activity throughout August. Although Democrats are inextricably linked to ACORN, the RNC could not attribute $2 million in fundraising a day to the ACORN scandals.
“After years of speculation, the truth about ACORN and its nefarious activities has finally surfaced,” RNC Chairman Michael Steele told HUMAN EVENTS. “ACORN is an undeniably corrupt organization, and all funneling of taxpayer dollars to the organization should be terminated immediately. ACORN’s goals have gone from empowering Americans to empowering itself to move up the ladder of political power. ACORN used illegal means to achieve its ends, and it has resulted in multiple arrests and a complete loss of faith by the American voters. Having received over $50 million in taxpayers’ money, our elected representatives have an obligation to end all taxpayer funding to ACORN. Given President Obama’s close past ties to ACORN and his call for his administration to avoid the appearance of impropriety, he should immediately end all funding of this corrupt organization.”