-By Matthew Vadum, Oped Contributor, DC Examiner.com
Whistleblowers at ACORN are demanding that the Obama administration probe allegations of embezzlement, conspiracy, and corruption at the highest levels in the nation’s foremost community-based left-wing activist group.
ACORN, long known for its creative approach to voter registration, has received at least $126.4 million in donations and tax dollars since 1993, yet owes millions of dollars in back taxes.
Specifically, the “ACORN 8,” a splinter group founded by expelled national board members Karen Inman and Marcel Reid, has asked U.S. attorneys in several states to look into a nearly $1 million embezzlement and the novel business practices of the group that claims to have more than 1,200 neighborhood chapters in 110 cities across the country.
The ACORN 8 claims that ACORN and its 100-plus affiliate organizations, is a long-established, ongoing criminal enterprise that focuses primarily on shakedowns.
The basic facts of the embezzlement are not in dispute. Dale Rathke, brother of founder Wade Rathke, systematically stole almost $1 million from ACORN affiliates around 2000.
When the theft was discovered, the Rathke family was allowed to repay the stolen money on a generous installment plan. Dale even got to stay on as employee of an ACORN affiliate.
Senior officials of ACORN kept the embezzlement and repayment scheme quiet until news of it surfaced last year. The news sent shock waves through the progressive community. The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), a major ACORN benefactor, cut off the group.
But the seeds of the internal schism were sown in June when ACORN’s national board named Inman and Reid to a special committee tasked with probing the financial scandal. They were not allowed, however, to look at financial records they requested regarding the embezzlement.
In the name of ACORN the two sued, along with six other board members, seeking the papers. But the board majority ordered the lawsuit withdrawn and the organization’s chief organizer, Bertha Lewis, publicly scolded the dissidents.
Inman and Reid were shown the door, and Lewis said it was because they were guilty of “violating the board’s code of conduct.”
Now, Reid says ACORN has lost sight of its mission.
“ACORN has become a cornucopia of power and wealth, wielded by people who patronize and exploit more than empower or even help the poor and moderate income people ACORN purports to serve; and any civil or constitutional right to dissent is a casualty of their intent to retain that control,” she says.
Members of the ACORN 8 want federal authorities to bring civil and criminal cases under racketeering statutes, in addition to mail fraud and other charges, against Wade Rathke, his brother, Lewis, national president Maude Hurd, executive director Steven Kest, and ex-political director Zach Pollett.
The request for federal action comes after the Buckeye Institute, an Ohio think tank, sued ACORN affiliate Project Vote last fall under state racketeering laws. Reports indicate the FBI is investigating ACORN.
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