Given how it treats its workers, the notorious group is a PR disaster waiting to happen.
A mountain of paperwork detailing extensive, apparently credible allegations of wage and labor law violations against ACORN was received this week by investigators on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
A source with intimate knowledge of the allegations who asked not to be identified said 200 documents were delivered to congressional investigators.
Republican investigators on that committee found a fortnight ago that by “intentionally blurring the legal distinctions between 361 tax-exempt and non-exempt entities, ACORN diverts taxpayer and tax-exempt monies into partisan political activities.” They recommended that ACORN be stripped of its jealously guarded tax-exempt status because it illegally spends taxpayer dollars on partisan activities, commits “systemic fraud,” and violates racketeering and election laws.
ACORN is deeply involved in the labor movement.
Its far-flung empire of activism includes SEIU Locals 100 (Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas) and 880 (Illinois, Indiana), the Living Wage Resource Center (a website that tracks efforts by cities and states to raise the minimum wage above the federal standard), and various other groups concerned with labor-related issues. Organized labor is both a client and ally of ACORN. ACORN (including its affiliates) took in almost $3 million in 2007 from unions to assist unions with anti-corporate campaigns, provide strike support, and help with research and staffing, among other things. The group also had extensive ties to disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat who was thrown out of office this year by his state’s legislature.
The congressional report from July also stated that ACORN submitted false filings to the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Department of Labor, in addition to violating the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Investigators found that ACORN failed to pay excise taxes and that “SEIU Local 100 — under the direction of ACORN founder Wade Rathke — filed bogus reports with the Labor Department in order to conceal embezzlement.” The nearly million-dollar embezzlement in question was perpetrated by Rathke’s brother around 2000 and covered up by Rathke and other ACORN leaders until last year. Wade Rathke remains chief organizer of SEIU Local 100 despite an ACORN national board resolution enacted last year that ordered him to sever all ties with the ACORN network.
The same report also found that “ACORN plundered employee benefits and violated fiduciary responsibilities” under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). “ACORN conspired to conceal information concerning prohibited transactions from its board in violation of its corporate charter” and carried out “a cover-up at the expense of adherence to its own bylaws,” it stated.
In unveiling the report, the ranking Republican on the committee, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California), said, “It is outrageous that ACORN will be rewarded for its criminal acts by taxpayer money in the stimulus and is being asked to help with the U.S. census.”
The group supports raising the minimum wage and enacting so-called living wage policies, more funding for union-staffed urban public schools, and wants federal and state laws enacted that guarantee paid sick leave for all full-time workers. It claims to have “delivered approximately $15 billion in direct monetary benefits to our membership and constituency over the past 10 years.” ACORN takes credit for spearheading community and labor coalitions that succeeded in enacting living wage laws in 41 cities by the end of the 1990s.
ACORN and its affiliates are also content to impose crippling Big Government laws, regulations, and taxes on Americans, but when called upon to obey those same rules, ACORN’s network of scofflaws and deadbeats simply refuses to comply. The network owes millions of dollars in back taxes even though almost all ACORN affiliates are exempted from paying various taxes. The tax liens pending against it at the federal, state, and local level have been issued for non-payment of employees’ payroll taxes. If so, this would be ironic because payroll taxes fund the social and wealth-distribution programs that ACORN so staunchly supports.
It’s unclear at this early stage if the newly raised allegations will go anywhere.
That’s because the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is chaired by ACORN ally Rep. Edolphus “Ed” Towns (D-New York). As ACORN began drowning in an ocean of bad publicity last fall, Towns signed onto a letter supporting ACORN that called the group an “impressive and vital organization.” Earlier this year another ACORN ally, House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers (D-Michigan), first promised to probe ACORN but then mysteriously backed off, saying “the powers that be decided against it.”
ACORN, whose full name is the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, is indeed an impressive organization but not for the reasons cited in the Towns letter. With its members dressed in bright red shirts, ACORN organizes crude protests against businesspeople and public officials. Opposed to the profit motive and capitalism in general, it pushes for more government control over citizens and the economy.
Even if the latest allegations don’t lead to criminal charges, it’s worth noting that the nation’s largest community-based activist organization, which claims to defend the working class, has a record of profound, abiding hostility to the very same pro-labor laws it claims to support.
Although it supports the continued imposition of equal employment opportunity laws on the rest of America, it argued it shouldn’t have to comply with those same laws. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had to sue ACORN in the 1990s to force it comply with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the crown jewel of the civil rights movement’s legislative accomplishments.
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