Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Louisiana DA Investigates ACORN Embezzlement - NYT Burnt Again has a report the Louisiana attorney general Buddy Caldwell has expanded the scope of his investigation into the bookkeeping irregularities at ACORN International by President Wade Rathke and his brother Dale. Through the course of the investigation which began in June, Caldwell has found a widely recognized embezzlement of ACORN funds by Dale Rathke was much larger than previously believed. Caldwell had been hesitant in filing charges for the embezzlement citing problems with statutes of limitation. Recent revelations have changed all that:
"Current high-ranking members of ACORN have publicly acknowledged that embezzlement did in fact occur, but the exact amount of the embezzlement was unknown until it was recently acknowledged in a board of directors meeting on Oct. 17, 2008, by Bertha Lewis and Liz Wolf that an internal review had determined that the amount embezzled was $5 million," the new subpoena says.

The subpoena says, "It is still unclear if some of the monies embezzled are from state, federal or private funds."
ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis issued a predictable response, saying the new figure was "completely false."  The New York Times in turn, responded predictably, repeating Lewis' lies.  Michelle Malkin caught the Times in the act and fills in some interesting blanks in the Times report.   As Michelle notes, the $5,000,000 figure should hardly come as a surprise to the Times.  Times reporter  Stephanie Strom became aware of the higher figure in her investigative reporting on ACORN by her source Anita MonCrief.

Matthew Vadum reports at The American Spectator his sources inside ACORN claim the $5,000,000 figure is an exaggeration.  Michelle Malkin notes this figure was reported by the spokesperson for ACORN 8 Michael McCray in an interview with  Doug Ross in July:

Well the multimillion embezzlement and 8-year cover up has to lead the list of egregious illegal conduct. The embezzlement was publicly reported to be $1 million, however the board was notified the true number was at least $5 million.
Former ACORN board member, Karen Inman, fired by Bertha Lewis for asking too many questions, wrote about ACORN's instinctive response to cover up earlier today at MPR News Q.   Her report posted before the NOLA report revealed the 5 million dollar figure, however.  While Inman, may able to confirm the $5 million dollar figure, her report suggests she believes ACORN's patterns of corruption and dysfunction is entrenched:
I was one of three board members elected to sit on an interim management team help deal with the myriad legal, organizational and financial issues -- to right the ship. Besides the lack of any apparent firewall between ACORN's political and nonpolitical operations, I became aware of other troubling concerns.

ACORN had more than $1.5 million in unpaid taxes. The health fund and the pension fund were underfunded. Funds were commingled between various nonprofit and taxable ACORN affiliates.

A colleague on the board, Marcel Reid, and I went to the ACORN office and asked to see the books. We were turned down. We tried legal action to get an accounting from Wade and Dale Rathke of any assets they had from ACORN and to compel an independent audit.

It quickly became apparent that the staff did not want an investigation. We were pressured to drop the court action, as was the board, which ultimately terminated it -- and us. We were fired for attempting to carry out our fiduciary duty and recommend reforms.
ACORN’s resistance to reform of a myriad of internal problems is confirmed in the secret legal memo made public last week at Big Government.  The 14-page legal memo details specific internal problems that needed to be addressed is something of a road map for anyone interested in investigating ACORN corruption.   Attorney Elizabeth Kingsley warns in her memo, "If you do not make some hard choices now and ensure they are carried out, they almost certainly will be made for you.”   ACORN simply ignored the advice.

Old habits die hard with ACORN and the New York Times.   As new revelations of corruption at ACORN pop up regularly, the Times and others in the media continue to rehash Bertha Lewis' statements blindly without so much as a simple internet search.  That they might check with their own reporters seems far too much to ask.  How many times will they allow themselves to be burned by Bertha Lewis?   The "Grey Lady" must be wearing asbestos to tolerate the number of times they've been burned.

Photo credit: Jerry Breen

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