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ACORN Aims for 1 Million 'Member Families'

Tuesday, 28 Apr 2009 01:47 PM

By Dan Weil

The liberal activist group ACORN is trying to turn its negative publicity into a positive.

The group, formally known as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, wants to double its membership to 1 million members next year, as it celebrates its 40th anniversary.

The group has turned into a punching bag for Republicans over the past few years. Just this month, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele accused the Obama administration of partnering with ACORN to rig the upcoming census in favor of Democrats.

In an ACORN voter registration drive during the 2008 election, 400,000, or about 30 percent, of the registrations proved to be faulty, and some were fraudulent. The activity triggered investigations in 13 states.

The Obama campaign denied that ACORN was involved with its own voter registration drives.

ACORN also had an embezzlement scandal last year involving the brother of ACORN founder Wade Rathke, who was dumped by the group’s board.

Bertha Lewis, ACORN’s CEO says the GOP’s criticism has a plus side.

“We never expected the vehemence and the relentless attacks that we got,” she tells Roll Call. “We must have been doing something right…. It’s given us 80 percent name recognition.”

ACORN focuses on a wide range of issues -- “from potholes to the presidency,” Lewis tells Roll Call.

Its top priorities now are affordable housing and foreclosures, health care reform and immigration reform. ACORN lobbies at all levels of government.

It has a yearly budget of $20 million-$25 million. About 30 percent of that total comes from membership dues, and the rest from foundations and individuals.

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