Politics

From little ACORNs, new state-level organizations grow

ACORN’s state chapter in Missouri is the latest to rebrand itself as part of ACORN’s national strategy to distance itself from its negative public image.

The creation of the St. Louis-based Missourians Organizing for Reform Empowerment Inc. (MORE) brings to five the number of ACORN’s state chapters that have shut down and incorporated themselves separately under new names.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is gearing up to begin funding ACORN again despite a congressional ban and an unresolved lawsuit. In a March 16 memo Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director Peter Orszag quietly ordered federal agencies to resume funding the group whose employees were caught on hidden camera videos last year apparently encouraging illegal behavior. The memo came after federal judge Nina Gershon of the Eastern District of New York, a Bill Clinton appointee, made permanent her temporary injunction prohibiting Congress from cutting off funding for ACORN. Gershon found the denial of funding to ACORN to be an unconstitutional “bill of attainder.”

The memo also came despite the fact that the Department of Justice is planning to appeal Gershon’s ruling and seek a stay pending appeal. In other words, the administration is pressing ahead with restoring funding to a group that President Obama worked for and represented as a legal client even though the legal case has yet to fully work its way through the judicial system.

The rebrandings come after ACORN was hit by a tsunami of adverse publicity in the fall related to hidden camera videos showing its employees encouraging illegal behavior. After Congress voted to cut off funding to the group and various federal agencies severed ties, ACORN’s leadership resolved to abandon its damaged brand.

Critics say the rebranding process is a ruse.

For decades ACORN has maintained tight control over its supposedly independent network of affiliates through interlocking directorates and massive intra-network financial transfers. There is every indication it plans to use the same top-down management techniques under the new organizational arrangement, they say.

MORE was registered as a nonprofit advocacy group with the Missouri secretary of state’s office in Jefferson City on Dec. 3. MORE doesn’t appear to have a functioning Web site yet, but it does have its own Facebook page. The group registered the domain name organizemo.org on Jan. 13.

Longtime senior ACORN organizer Jeff Ordower recently told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “In the next couple weeks, there will be no ACORN in St. Louis.” He added, “It was pretty clear that ACORN was dying and there was no way to save it. It was time to do new things.”

It turns out MORE is one of the new “things” to which Ordower was referring.

“If Jeff’s involved in MORE, then it is absolutely 100% certain it is an ACORN front,” an ACORN insider who did not wish to be identified told me. “He’s a true believer all the way.”

Ordower did not respond to requests for comment left for him at MORE’s office. The woman answering the phone said he had “just stepped out.”

MORE has already participated in at least one ACORN-style anti-business protest. Members of the group disrupted the annual dinner of the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association, the Post-Dispatch reported Jan. 13. About two dozen activists leaped onto a stage and chanted about jobs while waving giant resumes.

Additional spinoffs are expected in coming weeks