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The “independent” investigation of ACORN promised by Bertha Lewis and ACORN management (and paid for by ACORN) was released today. It is  a complete whitewash. Scott Harshbrger former Massachusetts Attorney General who wrote the report  concentrated on the governance and management practices  of the Democratic Party’s favorite community organizing group.  The report concludes that systemic shortcomings – including lax oversight and governance, lost focus on its core mission and growth beyond its means – set the stage for the video controversy that erupted this year and threatened to envelop the progressive grassroots organizing and advocacy group.

The report ignores the pattern of voter fraud that has caused indictment/conviction of ACORN personnel in 14 states. It blames it all on the lack of training of ACORN workers: 

There is significant evidence to support the proposition that the services provided by ACORN – including its political efforts on voter registration – were legitimate and effective. However, the type of involvement and staffing needed to provide these service programs is significantly different from the community-organizer skills, culture, selection process and success model. While organizations must be funded adequately, a disproportionate focus on “command and control” fundraising – even in the pursuit of legitimate goals and objectives implicitly devalues mission-related capabilities and skills.

There is nothing in the report about the many reports regarding ACORNS Illegal voter registration quotas, i.e. you must register 21 people a day or you lose your job as an ACORN worker.

The “Hooker and Pimp” videos are described as just another example of “lack of training,” and besides the ACORN staff only talked about conducting Illegal activities. They didn’t actually do anything.

This summer’s video controversy is an apt example. We did not find a pattern of intentional, illegal conduct by ACORN staff involved; in fact, no action, illegal or otherwise, was ever taken by any ACORN employee on behalf of the videographers. Instead, the videos represent the byproduct of ACORN’s longstanding management weaknesses, including a lack of training, a lack of procedures, and a lack of on-site supervision.

The report talks about the Dale Rathke embezzlement controversy, and the financial controls ACORN has put in since, but does not mention the fact that the organization is still covering the incident up, or the fact that in November, the Louisiana AG executed a search warrant on ACORN’s New Orleans offices and removed about 100 computers with the purpose of learning more about the Rathke embezzlement and the subsequent ACORN cover-up.

It also ignores the shift of dollars from ACORN to Project Vote, or the charges that the group aided the Obama Campaign, which can and should cause the group to use both its federal funding and its tax-exempt status.
Below is Scott Harshbrger’s full statement:

Proskauer Rose LLP One International Place Boston, MA 02110-2600
Boca Raton | Boston | Chicago | Hong Kong | London | Los Angeles | New Orleans | New York | Newark | Paris | São Paulo | Wash ington, D.C.

STATEMENT OF SCOTT HARSHBARGER
SENIOR COUNSEL, PROSKAUER
Today, we present to the leadership of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and the public the results of a two-month governance and management review.

We were invited by ACORN to conduct a clear-eyed, independent analysis not just of the videos which caused this summer’s uproar but also of the entire organization, its core weaknesses and inherent strengths.

We were asked to undertake this independent review at the height of a national controversy for ACORN, a controversy that overshadowed ACORN’s ongoing implementation of an ambitious and professionally directed organizational transformation.

Our recommendations will not please rabid ACORN supporters, nor will they pacify its rabid critics. They are neither an epitaph nor an absolution for ACORN, but are a roadmap to reform and renewal, if implemented in their entirety in concert with other measures to regain the public’s trust.

Our findings make clear that ACORN must continue down this path, revisiting its mission, re-shaping its scope and charter, and fulfilling completely its legal, governance and compliance responsibilities.

Our nine recommendations give ACORN an opportunity to earn the trust and credibility it needs to effectively and efficiently serve the hundreds of thousands of poor and powerless citizens who rely on the organization as an advocate for them and their families.

The serious management challenges detailed in our report are the fault of ACORN’s founder and a cadre of leaders who, in their drive for growth, failed to commit the organization to the basic, appropriate standards of governance and accountability. As a result, ACORN not only fell short of living its principles but also left itself vulnerable to public embarrassment.

This summer’s video controversy is an apt example. We did not find a pattern of intentional, illegal conduct by ACORN staff involved; in fact, no action, illegal or otherwise, was ever taken by any ACORN employee on behalf of the videographers. Instead, the videos represent the byproduct of ACORN’s longstanding management weaknesses, including a lack of training, a lack of procedures, and a lack of on-site supervision.

There is nothing wrong with an organization pursuing an ambitious, aggressive or even an edgy mission. But that does not excuse the need for organizational discipline and standards of excellence.

ACORN’s current leadership understands full well what must be done, and with our recommendations in hand, ACORN now has a plan by which to accomplish it. Our experience tells us that these recommendations, acted on with a sense of urgency, are crucial to reclaim, maintain and strengthen ACORN’s ability to serve its members and constituents.

The path toward renewal is clear, but reaching the destination will require hard choices, perseverance and patience.

If you would like to read Scott Harshbrger’s full report click here

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