ACORN: A Cautionary Tale

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A brief item buried in the national section of today's New York Times reports that the embezzlement of ACORN funds some 10 days years ago by Dale Rathke, brother of ACORN founder Wade Rathke, may have involved 5 million dollars instead of the nearly one million dollar theft that ACORN leaders covered up. This fact was uncovered inl 2008, when a whistle-blower "forced disclosure," the Times reported, when it broke the embezzlement story last year. (A fuller account of the current investigation into what is now alleged to be a $5 million embezzlement was posted yesterday at NOLA.com.)   
   
Naturally, ACORN chief Executive Bertha Lewis assails the report of a $5 million theft as "completely false;" but I hesitate to take her denials at face value. This is the same Bertha Lewis who dismissed attacks on ACORN as McCarthyism, the same Bertha Lewis who justified the 2008 removal of two dissident ACORN board members (who'd filed suit against ACORN as a result of the cover-up) by stressing that the dissidents had violated ACORN's code of conduct--a code that apparently did not require the firing of admitted embezzler Dale Rathke until the cover-up of his embezzlement collapsed.  
   
Just as naturally, right-wing bloggers have been covering the ACORN scandal with delight, while progressives try ignoring or minimizing it, and focus on defending ACORN from a right wing-smear campaign--as if the cover-up of a six or mid seven figure embezzlement had somehow been orchestrated by its enemies on the right, or as if it should only be of interest to the right.  As I noted in my earlier post, ACORN is less a victim of its political enemies than of the dishonesty of its friends (or leaders) and the moral hypocrisy that partisans left and right share.

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Wendy Kaminer is an author, lawyer, and civil libertarian. She is the author of I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional, and a past recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. More

Wendy Kaminer is a lawyer and social critic who has been a contributing editor of The Atlantic since 1991. She writes about law, liberty, feminism, religion and popular culture and has written eight books, including Worst InstinctsFree for All; Sleeping with Extra-Terrestrials; and I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional. Kaminer worked as a staff attorney in the New York Legal Aid Society and in the New York City Mayor's Office and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1993. She is a renowned contrarian who has tackled the issues of censorship and pornography, feminism, pop psychology, gender roles and identities, crime and the criminal-justice system, and gun control. Her articles and reviews have appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, The American Prospect, Dissent, The Nation, The Wilson Quarterly, Free Inquiry, and spiked-online.com. Her commentaries have aired on National Public Radio. She serves on the board of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, the advisory boards of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and the Secular Coalition for America, and is a member of the Massachusetts State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.

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