Is ACORN really changing?

As a result of the mighty scandal growing from the not so little ACORN, CEO Bertha Lewis was finally shocked, shocked, shocked . So shocked that she is suspending some ACORN activities, ordering in service training and even planning an audit. According to an ACORN press release Ms. Lewis announced

"As a result of the indefensible action of a handful of our employees, I am, in consultation with ACORN's Executive Committee1, immediately ordering a halt to any new intakes into ACORN's service programs until completion of an independent review. I have also communicated with ACORN's independent Advisory Council, and they will assist ACORN in naming an independent auditor and investigator to conduct a thorough review of all of the organizations relevant systems and processes. That reviewer, to be named within 48 hours, will make recommendations directly to me and to the full ACORN Board. We enter this process with a commitment that all recommendations will be implemented."

It is reassuring to know that Ms. Lewis considers advising potential clients on steps to take to avoid taxes on an immoral and illegal enterprise "indefensible." But was it just a "handful" of employees? Any organization, no matter how stringent its screening process, inevitably will have a bad apple or two. But ACORN didn't seem to have much of a screening process or standards; what exactly are they?

Beginning at noon on Wednesday, September 16, Ms. Lewis ordered

* No new intakes will be accepted into ACORN's offices for service programs, effective immediately;

* An immediate in-service training for all frontline staff has been ordered within 48 hours;

* ACORN's independent Advisory Council will help select an independent auditor/reviewer no later than September 18th to review all of the systems and processes called into question by the videos.

But what about present clients? Most large organizations have regularly scheduled in-service programs; does ACORN have such a program or is this a new one? Devising an in-service program within 48 hours would only scratch the surface. And do employees of a tax and mortgage advisory organization really have to be told that immoral/illegal activities shouldn't be tolerated and that they shouldn't be abetting them? Isn't that a given?

Ms. Lewis concluded

"We have all been deeply disturbed by what we've seen in some of these videos. I must say, on behalf of ACORN's Board and our Advisory Council, that we will go to whatever lengths necessary to reestablish the public trust. For nearly forty years, ACORN has given voice to communities, and gotten results. Right now, our nearly 500,000 member are working their hearts out for quality, affordable healthcare for every American and to help stop the foreclosure crisis. We must get this process right, so the good work can go forward."

Good beginnings perhaps but much too little, much too late. And much of this is understandable puffery. "Given voice to communities"? It seems to have continued the communities' victim status while shoveling them into homes they couldn't afford and "working their hearts out" by taking money from others for their "quality,affordable healthcare" mantra.

All of this begets the question, why is this organization receiving our (many, many tax dollars) money? They have a right to exist but why are taxpayers forced to support it? If I thought its activities were worthwhile, I am perfectly capable of writing them a tax deductible check; I don't need some government representative forcibly extracting my money to do it for me.