SEPTEMBER 30, 2009
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it filed two new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits on September 28th to obtain government records related to the activities of the controversial “community organization” Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). These lawsuits were filed against the Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).
Judicial Watch’s EBSA lawsuit involves monies embezzled by Dale Rathke, the brother of ACORN founder Wade Rathke. The New York Times has reported that, overall, Dale Rathke allegedly embezzled $948,607.50 in 1999 and 2000. According to a report by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, a portion of these funds, $215,000, allegedly came in the form of a “loan.” The manner in which this “loan” was handled and concealed by ACORN internally may have violated the Employee Income Retirement Security Act (ERISA).
Judicial Watch filed its original FOIA request on August 4th, but the EBSA failed to respond within the statutory allotted 20 day period. The request seeks the following records: “All records concerning the following entities’ misconduct and/or violations of laws and/or policies, including but not limited to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (‘ERISA’): Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (‘ACORN’), ACORN Housing, Citizen’s Consulting, Inc., Citizen’s Services, Inc., Communities Voting Together, Project Vote, Services Employees International Union (SEIU), SEIU Local 100, SEIU Local 880.”
The CNCS, meanwhile, handles the programs and paperwork for national government grants, including funds distributed under the AmeriCorps umbrella. Judicial Watch had previously uncovered documents indicating that ACORN’s sister organization (ACORN Housing) was no longer eligible for federal funds due to previous abuses involving an AmeriCorps grant. Judicial Watch filed its FOIA request on July 28th to find out more about these abuses. However the CNCS has failed to respond within the statutory allotted 20 day period. Judicial Watch seeks the following records:
- All documents concerning the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), and/or ACORN Housing
- All documents concerning ACORN Housing and misconduct/violation of grant stipulations.
- All documents concerning [the Corporation for National & Community Service]’s investigation of ACORN Housing.
- All audit reports of ACORN Housing Corporation, including but not limited to Audit Report 95-17 and Audit Report 96-21.
Over the last several weeks, the U.S. Senate has voted to deny ACORN access to housing funds, while the House of Representatives voted to deny ACORN all federal funds. The U.S. Census Bureau, meanwhile, has severed its partnership with the organization related to the 2010 U.S. Census. The IRS also just severed a program relationship with ACORN. These actions were taken after videos surfaced depicting ACORN workers attempting to advise undercover journalists on how to evade tax, immigration and child prostitution laws.
“What we have learned about ACORN in just the last few weeks has been shocking, but I suspect it is only the tip of the iceberg,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “These new FOIA lawsuits show that the Obama administration has taken a ‘stonewall’ approach when it comes releasing ACORN documents.”