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Judicial Watch is going after ACORN with Freedom of information requests regarding two of the groups many scandals.

The first one may could re-open the case of alleged embezzlement in which Dale Rathke, the brother of ACORN’s founder embezzled almost one million dollars and the crime was “swept under the carpet” by the group.

According to a July 9, 2008 article in the New York Times, Dale Rathke, the brother of ACORN’s founder, Wade Rathke, “embezzled nearly $1 million from Acorn [sic] and affiliated charitable organizations in 1999 and 2000.” The Times reported Dale Rathke embezzled $948,607.50, “carried as a loan on the books of Citizens Consulting Inc. [“CCI”], which provides bookkeeping, accounting and other financial management services to Acorn [sic] and many of its affiliated entities.” ACORN “chose to treat the embezzlement of nearly $1 million eight years ago as an internal matter and did not even notify its board.” According to an October 10, 2008 New York Times report, ACORN “had failed to disclose the theft for eight years.” Dale Rathke remained on ACORN’s payroll until June 2008, when news broke of his wrongdoing.

Judicial Watch is demanding documentation from the Department of Labor that could indicate to see if this “payback” violated federal retirement benefits law. The lawsuit seeks records pertaining to ACORN and eight related organizations, including the President’s Town Hall enforcers, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and two of its local affiliates.

In the the Second suit Judicial Watch is seeks several documents, including two specific audit reports, related to AmeriCorps grants that went to ACORN Housing, an ACORN sister group. The fact that Judicial Watch has to sue to get the information indicates the White Houses reluctance the share information about its favorite organizing group:

Judicial Watch Files Two New FOIA Lawsuits to Obtain Information on ACORN Scandals

Did $215,000 “Loan” to ACORN Founder’s Brother Violate Federal Law? Why Did Government Continue to Fund ACORN & Affiliates after Discovering Previous Alleged Abuses Involving Federal Grants? Contact Information:
Press Office 202-646-5172, ext 305

Washington, DC — 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 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, 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.”

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