ACORN Drops Tarnished Name and Moves to Silence Critics

Kevin Mooney, Washington Examiner, June 21, 2009

Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now (ACORN) leaders are using the threat of a law suit to silence and intimidate critics, according to current and former members of the liberal activist group.

In a letter dated June 11 an attorney for ACORN advised top whistleblowers that their unauthorized use of the organization’s name could make them liable for monetary damages and injunctive relief.

ACORN executives have also changed their organization’s name, which was tarnished by investigations in at least 14 states of allegations of voter registration fraud during the 2008 presidential campaign, and charges by current and former members of financial mismanagement and misrepresentation.

The new name will let ACORN leaders continue their operations without worrying about prior bad publicity, according to Marcel Reid of ACORN 8, a group of present and former members.

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{snip} Wade Rathke, who founded the organization, announced on his blog that ACORN International has officially changed its name to “Community Organizations International.”

Reid also said ACORN is in the process of dismantling Citizen’s Consulting Inc. (CCI), a New-Orleans based non-profit, which has been used to maintain centralized financial control, ACORN 8 activists claim. Tax records show that CCI is interlinked with several ACORN affiliates.

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ACORN’s national leaders withdrew a lawsuit Reid filed with fellow board member Karen Inman last October seeking access to internal financial records. Reid and Inman were also expelled from their board positions; a move they say was illegal. Reid and Inman then came together with six other colleagues to form ACORN 8.

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Arthur Schwartz, the general counsel for ACORN, has sent a “cease and desist” letter to Reid and Inman instructing them to discontinue using the name ACORN in a connection with their activities. This same letter threatens legal action if the ACORN 8 members do not provide written assurances that they will comply with this demand by the end of June.

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Reid told The Examiner that ACORN 8 will not comply.

“We have no intention of not using the name ACORN 8, it is not a trademark infringement,” she said. “This get tough attitude is part of larger attempt to silence people and shut them down. We are not going to be silenced.”

Meanwhile, ACORN’s Project Vote affiliate has filed suit against Anita MonCrief, a former employee, who has testified under oath on voter registration allegations. ACORN is currently under investigation in at least 14 states for electoral irregularities. The Project Vote suit claims that Anita MonCrief and an unidentified accomplice gained access into private e-mails from group executives and stole the group’s name without permission. It also accuses Moncrief of using a company credit card for her own purposes.

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ACORN 8 has released its own statement on “whistleblower retaliation” through its national spokesman Michael McCray that expresses support for new protective legislation.

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