Every Thanksgiving, American Catholics donate to an organization called the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. A lot of money is at stake in that collection — some $7 million annually — and so it only made sense when CCHD announced in November 2008 it would stop giving money to the controversial community organizer group ACORN.
The most recent election cycle had brought serious charges of
election fraud by ACORN. The organization was also roiled by the
revelation that the brother of ACORN’s founder had embezzled nearly
$1 million, and the malfeasance had been covered up for years. So
there was a real likelihood that some of the $7.3 million that CCHD
had given to ACORN over the last decade had been badly misspent.
Roger Morin of Biloxi, Mississippi, announced that ACORN would no longer receive grants “because of serious concerns about financial accountability, organizational performance and political partisanship.”
But CCHD has deeper problems, and they go back all the way to its inception.
Created in 1969 — a year before ACORN launched in 1970 — CCHD is not a charity the way people ordinarily use the term. It doesn’t help the poor. It seems to take Jesus’s admonition in the Book of Matthew, “The poor you will always have with you,” as a command to ignore the poor.
Most Catholics are unaware that CCHD was created to feed and foster radical groups like ACORN even though CCHD isn’t exactly keeping its goals secret. Its website declares CCHD’s purpose is to support “organized groups of white and minority poor to develop economic strength and political power.”
CCHD claims to have given more than $290 million not to help the poor, though some observers say the grand total not given to help the poor is closer to $450 million. Its website brags that the money went to fund more than 8,000 “low-income-led, community-based projects that strengthen families, create jobs, build affordable housing, fight crime, and improve schools and neighborhoods.”
CCHD and ACORN grew from the same radical left-wing roots.
Both groups were inspired by radical agitator Saul Alinsky, the Marxist Machiavelli who dedicated Rules for Radicals to Lucifer, whom he called “the first radical.” Alinsky developed the concept of “community organizing” in order to mobilize poor neighborhoods to make demands, long and loud, on public officials and the private sector.
So it must have been excruciating for CCHD to excommunicate ACORN, its own flesh and blood in the class struggle. It must have been especially painful for Morin, an old social justice stalwart who had been an auxiliary bishop in ACORN’s hometown of New Orleans. Morin was at one time a member of the two relevant committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (on “Domestic Justice and Human Development” and “National Collections”) and chairman of the subcommittee that oversaw CCHD and, at a distance, ACORN.
But it had to be done. If lay Catholics decided that the CCHD collection was going for bad purposes, they might reduce payments or boycott it outright. In fact, pastors of some of the more conservative congregations — including St. Mary’s in Washington, D.C.’s Chinatown — held the collection but only after informing their parishioners of the controversy and suggesting alternate causes they might support instead.
In full damage control mode, Morin said at the time that CCHD and the Bishops’ Conference had hired forensic accountants “to help determine if any CCHD money was taken or misused.” We don’t know if that audit was ever completed and we certainly don’t have the results, because of dithering by CCHD.
CCHD director Ralph McCloud has admitted some of the funds that CCHD “contributed to ACORN in the past undoubtedly were used for voter registration drives.” Even worse, most, perhaps all, of the voter drives ACORN conducted were “in support of politicians who support abortion-on-demand and other policies that most Catholics oppose,” notes conservative Catholic activist Richard Viguerie.
McCloud has not responded to repeated requests, over several months, for an update on the audit. Other CCHD hands have said that it took place — really! — but offered a huge number of implausible excuses for why the public, and faithful Catholics, can’t have those results just yet. Likely, the organization wanted to hold out through a second Thanksgiving collection and release the results in, say, the middle of 2010, when the scandal had blown over.
Regardless, there are good reasons to strongly suspect the money was misused. The ACORN empire is intentionally structured to be confusing — with both tax-exempt charitable tentacles and non-tax-exempt electioneering ones. The various affiliates regularly transfer millions of dollars around the network with no real controls. There is no guarantee that if you give to the ACORN Institute, for example, that your money won’t wind up in the hands of ACORN affiliate Project Vote, which tries to manufacture hundreds of thousands of fraudulent voters in every election cycle.
Last summer the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee issued a report arguing ACORN should forfeit its tax-exempt status because it illegally spends taxpayer dollars on partisan activities, commits “systemic fraud,” and violates racketeering and election laws. Republican investigators found 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.”
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