op-ed

Don’t be fooled: Investigate ACORN’s leaders

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On Sunday March 21, 2010, ACORN’s Board voted to cease operations nationwide on April 1, 2010, i.e. April Fool’s Day. This was almost exactly a year after I testified before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution calling on the committee to investigate ACORN. The chairman of the full Judiciary Committee, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), initially agreed with me that ACORN needed to be investigated. Now, ACORN the organization may be gone but it has still not been investigated.

This is important because while ACORN the entity may be finally paying a price for its many sins, its leaders have not even been forced to answer the difficult questions that led to ACORN’s demise. I estimate that there are approximately 20 individuals who have been the principal leaders of ACORN since its inception in 1970 or soon thereafter.

Based on evidence produced in the public record, these ACORN leaders not only diverted hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of taxpayer dollars for illegal purposes, committed massive voter-registration fraud, extorted numerous corporations for “donations,” failed to pay federal and state taxes, filed malicious non-meritorious lawsuits against its perceived enemies but worst of all, they diverted money meant to help poor people to political campaigns. While these same “leaders” have purportedly voted to close the corporation and take leave of its tainted name, I doubt these “leaders” intend to take up knitting on the porch. ACORN’s “leaders” need to be investigated.

The demise of the corporate shell means nothing. Why? The founder of ACORN, Wade Rathke, is still operating ACORN International and an affiliate, ACORN Housing, which received millions from the federal government, is not closing. Project Vote, the political arm of ACORN, just released their ambitious nationwide legislative agenda. So while the demise of ACORN the corporation is a step in the right direction, the leaders who ran and directed ACORN for 40 years still need to be investigated. Then and only then will the whole truth be known and will justice be served.

Heather Heidelbaugh is first Vice President for the Republican National Lawyers Association.