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Criticisms of ACORN

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ACORN affiliates
Fraud allegations


Main ACORN page

Criticisms of ACORN center around five main areas:

  • How it has conducted its voter registration drives.[1], and failure to adequately supervise employees.[2]
  • The possibility that the organization might have violated federal tax laws.
  • The assertion that the tactics it uses to pursue its goals are destructive and extreme.
  • The group is hypocritical in the sense that it demands certain behavior from other organizations that it does not itself display.[3][4]
  • How it has handled the embezzlement scandal of founder Wade Rathke's brother.[5]

See also: Defenses of ACORN.

Conduct of voter registration efforts

ACORN has come under intense criticism for the conduct of its voter registration drives. The Associated Press announced on October 16 that an investigation of the group's voter registration fraud by the FBI was underway.

See also ACORN and voter registration fraud.

Possible income tax violations

In a report on October 21, 2008, the New York Times writes that an internal report by Elizabeth Kingsley, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer for ACORN, has raised questions about whether ACORN has violated federal laws. Issues raised in Kingsley's report include:

  • Potentially improper use of charitable dollars for political purposes;
  • Money transfers among the affiliates;
  • Conflicts created by employees working for multiple affiliates.
  • Two ACORN employees who have been listed for years on federal tax returns for Project Vote, an affiliate, say they have no knowledge of ever being on such a board.[6][7]

A concern raised with some force in the Kingsley document is that the organization would not be able to adequately defend itself against charges that its 501(c)3 resources were directed to voter registration drives in specific states based on partisan considerations; presumably, which states are battleground states in the presidential election. These considerations that are impermissible for a federally tax-exempt non-profit. The Wall Street Journal estimates that Acorn spent about $16 million on these drives.

Evidence of tax liens

Public records indicate that ACORN has several tax liens against property it holds. Currently, the IRS has two liens pending against ACORN's New Orleans property, a lien of $547,312 filed on 3/10/2008,[8] and a lien of $132,997 filed on 3/14/08[9]. ACORN has one IRS lien of $33,978, filed 6/7/2006, pending against property it holds in California.[10]. ACORN also had one IRS lien of $132,109, filed on 3/7/2007, however that lien appears to have been released by the IRS.[11].


Conservatives and Republicans say ACORN is on the one hand, a multi-million-dollar multinational conglomerate, and on the other, uses a tactical approach to moving the country toward its political agenda that uses techniques they frequently describe as radical and extremist.[12]

ACORN is said to use the tactics of confrontational anti-corporatism as a tool for power and a means to gaining some of its narrower financial goals.

Delivery driver on tactics

In the October 9, 2008 publication of the New York Post, a Domino's Pizza Delivery Driver from Cleveland told the Post about registration tactics ACORN employed. He stated he was harassed 20 times to register to vote, along with another Domino's driver, as the probe widens on voter registration fraud committed in other states, including Nevada.[13]

Hypocrisy allegations

Minimum/living wage

ACORN has been active in promoting minimum and living wage legislation. However, the organization exempts itself from the minimum wage, according to one organization that follows the group.[14]

Working conditions

Detractors say that when ACORN pushes a legislative agenda of safe working conditions, it is being hypocritical because its own employees are frequently required to work under conditions that include:

  • Dangerous neighborhoods.
  • Night time hours.


States investigating ACORN

See Allegations of fraud

Pending FBI Investigation

Thursday, October 16, 2008, officials of the FBI announced that they were launching a nationwide investigation into allegations of voter fraud against ACORN. According to the FBI, the bureau is investigating whether ACORN helped to foster voter registration fraud leading up to the 2008 Presidential elections.[15] The FBI is considering the results of raids on several ACORN offices including the office in Las Vegas, Nevada.

On October 23, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review urged the FBI to "move swiftly" in its investigation of ACORN fraud and "if ACORN has corrupted the registration process, the courts should show no mercy."[16]

Investigation into allegations of embezzlement

A July 9, 2008 New York Times article revealed that ACORN founder Wade Rathke's brother, Dale Rathke, had embezzled nearly $1 million from ACORN and its affiliated organizations in the years 1999 and 2000.[17]. Wade Rathke was informed of the embezzlement following a report from Citizens Consulting, ACORN's bookkeeper, that indicated a series of suspicious credit card charges.[17]

ACORN declined to make news of the embezzlement public and informed only a small group of ACORN executives. The board of directors and law enforcement were not informed. Instead, the embezzled amount was recorded in ACORN's financial records as a loan to Dale Rathke in the amount of $948,607.50.[17] Wade Rathke has stepped down as the head of ACORN since the scandal but remains the head of ACORN International. He stated in the article that the decision to "keep the matter secret" was made in order to keep negative information out of the hands of "enemies" of ACORN.[17]


According to the director of New York ACORN, Bertha Lewis, the Rathke family has paid restitution to ACORN at the rate of $30,000 per year since 2001. Currently, $210,000 of the debt has reportedly been repaid through these payments. Additionally, after reports of the embezzlement surfaced in the New York Times, an anonymous donor agreed to repay the entire sum back to ACORN.[18]

The "anonymous supporter" was discovered to be Drummond Pike, founder and Chief Executive of the Tides Foundation, which provides funding to some of ACORN's affiliates.[18]


Initially, two members of ACORN's 51-member board of directors, Karen Inman and Marcel Reid, sued to gain access to ACORN's financial records, accusing Wade Rathke of either concealing or failing to properly report the funds that Dale Rathke misappropriated.[19] Inman and Reid claimed that a small group of ACORN executives allowed Rathke to repay the loans rather than reporting the allegations to the board and to the appropriate authorities.[19].

Recently, however, the full ACORN board of directors voted to withdraw the lawsuit, 40 to 11. Inman was in the group that voted against dismissing the lawsuit.[19]

Request for IRS investigation

In 2006, Iowa senator Charles Grassley requested that the IRS investigate ACORN, saying, "These recent indictments come on top of many press stories across the country about ACORN’s potential involvement in voter fraud. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has responsibility for enforcing our tax laws and ensuring that nonprofit organizations such as ACORN abide by the rules. Engaging in vote fraud is not an appropriate activity for an organization that receives special treatments and exemptions under the tax code."[20]

In September 2009, Grassley brought forth reports his staff had been compiling since 2006 that show that ACORN funded political groups. He once again requested that the IRS investigate ACORN, though two days prior the Internal Revenue Service severed ties with ACORN.

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