Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now

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ACORN, the more common name for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now describes itself as the United States' "largest community organization of low- and moderate-income families, working together for social justice and stronger communities." It also has drawn criticism, especially from conservatives, for waste and fraud.

On 22 March 2010, spokesman Kevin Whelan announced the national organization was shutting down. New York and California affiliates, among others, had broken away. He said the reason was

declining revenue in the face of a series of attacks from partisan operatives and right-wing activists that have taken away our ability to raise the resources we need. [1]

ACORN and housing

In October 2009, the House Judiciary Committee requested the Congressional Research Service to research ACORN's effort in providing affordable housing and housing for the homeless. No formal and rigorous examinations were available, so CRS conducted a literature review. [2] "In terms of promoting the development of affordable housing, ACORN has been involved in advocating for the production of affordable housing units. According to ACORN’s most recent annual report1, in 2006, ACORN Housing Corporation’s (AHC) development program secured over $140 million in construction financing to develop 735 new units of affordable housing in Houston, Phoenix, Chicago, and New York. According to news reports, ACORN has lobbied municipal governments to require private developers to build more affordable housing units and to reform local affordable housing programs. We also located reports of ACORN activities related to improving housing conditions, including organizing tenants to demand repairs and conducting lead-paint outreach programs."

ACORN and voter registration

Sting and defunding

In 2009, it made headlines when undercover conservative activists James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles, posing as a pimp and a prostitute, videotaped the Baltimore, Maryland ACORN office giving them advice on starting a brothel. [3] The report was widely disseminated and provoked great indignation in Congress, which passed a bipartisan "Defund ACORN Act."[4] According to the Congressional Research Service, however, this action may be an unconstitutional bill of attainder.[5]

Ann Coulter, on Sean Hannity's 11 September 2009 show, said of O'Keefe and Giles,

Those were the two most unbelievable pimps and prostitutes I've ever seen. She has perfect skin, gorgeous hair. Oh, and I really liked the fur coat. I love that These young right-winners [sic], they are so magnificent. Why can't they -- they be the Republicans in Washington?[6]

In his 23 September 2009 show on Fox, Bill O'Reilly spoke about the investigation of ACORN by James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles.

Congressman Frank of Massachusetts and Congressman Conyers of Michigan want Congressional investigators to see if the undercover duo broke any federal laws. In addition, they want to find out exactly what ACORN is guilty of and they want to examine the group's housing opportunities agenda In my opinion, Frank and Conyers should be giving Ms. Giles and Mr. O'Keefe congressional medals for exposing corruption that apparently the Feds were not able to expose."[6]

Subsequent investigations, however, have suggested that illegal advice was not ACORN-wide, as had been suggested.[7]

ACORN's chief executive, Bertha Wilson, dismissed the idea that it could not function without federal funds, as it had done so for many years before it started receiving them. “We didn’t have government funding for years. We may not have government funding in the future.” She told the National Press Club that ACORN typically receives about $2.5 million to $3 million annually from the federal government – roughly 10 percent of its $20 million to $25 million annual budget. Member dues and private sources make up the rest.

The Bureau of the Census and the Internal Revenue Service ended their partnerships with ACORN. [8]

Even if the defunding can go through, ACORN, according to the office of Senator Roland Burris, still qualifies for funding under various minority health initiatives in the Senate health reform bill. Funds that go through health care exchanges would not be affected by the defunding.[9]Michelle Malkin criticized this as merely a part of broader race-based funding, driven, according to Malkin, by the Service Employees International Union. [10]


  1. Michael Tarm (23 March 2010), "ACORN disbanding because of money woes, scandal", Associated Press
  2. Meredith Peterson (30 October 2009), ACORN Activities Concerning Housing, Congressional Research Service
  3. James O'Keefe, "Chaos for Glory: My Time with Acorn",
  4. Congress Votes to Strip ACORN of Federal Funding, Fox News, 17 September 2009
  5. Kenneth R. Thomas (30 November 2009), The Proposed “Defund ACORN Act” and Related Legislation: Are They Bills of Attainder?, Congressional Research Service
  6. 6.0 6.1 After release of ACORN videos, media conservatives showered O'Keefe with praise, MediaMatters, 27 January 2010
  7. Investigation confirms: No evidence of illegal actions by ACORN in videographer scam, MediaMatters, 8 December 2009
  8. Michael Falcone (6 October 2009), "ACORN: Congress can't hurt us", Politico
  9. John McCormack (21 December 2009), "Exclusive: ACORN Qualifies for Funding in Senate Health Care Bill", Weekly Standard
  10. Michelle Malkin (21 December 2009), Demcare and the race hustlers: It’s not just about ACORN