ACORN: A Cautionary Tale

By Wendy Kaminer

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.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2009/10/acorn-a-cautionary-tale/27925/