ACORN is pushing back against reports that it’s on the verge of collapse as a national organization, in the wake of last year’s hidden camera scandal. But it’s not making any long-term predictions about its future.
Yesterday, City Hall News of New York City reported that ACORN “has been forced to suspend most operations as of today.” It also reported that the organization’s New York branch had morphed into a new group, New York Communities for Change, but was still being led by many of the same people as previously. The California branch of ACORN also recently split off.
In an interview with TPMmuckraker, Kevin Whelan, a spokesman for the national ACORN group, pushed back somewhat against the notion that the national organization is disintegrating. “Bertha Lewis is still the CEO, ACORN still has members across the country,” said Whalen.
But he suggested that other local chapters may soon follow New York and California out the door. “I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some other additional groups that split off,” said Whelan, declining to offer specifics.
And, asked whether ACORN’s national operation would still exist a year from now, Whelan didn’t offer a ringing affirmation of the group’s prospects. “We are fighting the battle to clear our name, and to implement reforms,” he said. “So that is about as far in the future as we can project right now.”
ACORN has been under fire since last fall, when the conservative filmmaker James O’Keefe used an undercover camera to record ACORN employees giving advice on how to break the law to a couple posing as a pimp and a prostitute.
Whelan acknowledged that the fallout from the episode has taken a toll. “More of our time has been spent on fighting to clear our name, so we dont have as much capacity as we once did,” he said. “Clearly its just been hard for people to do their work, when we are spending so much time trying to clear our name and defend ourselves.”
The New York split appears to have been triggered by concern among local staff that the ACORN name was now hindering the chapter’s ability to advocate on behalf of low-income people. “[T]he New York flagship has been forced into this new organization” a New York source told Politico. “As far as the work in the communities and policy campaigns, no one will notice the difference. It’s people who still believe in their basic mission of fighting for poor people.”