ACORN Lawyer Admits Group Too Close to Project Vote, might have Violated Federal Law

The ACORN story just never stops. Each day brings new revelations about the radical community group that helped cause the crisis on Wall Street and that is now aiming to steal the upcoming election through fraud at the ballot box.

Now the New York Times reports that ACORN’s lawyer told the group this summer that its tangled network of affiliates, sloppy record-keeping, interlocking directorates, embezzlement scandal, and a host of other concerns could land the group in legal hot water: 

As a federally tax-exempt charity, Project Vote is subject to prohibitions on partisan political activity. But Acorn, which is a nonprofit membership corporation under Louisiana law, though subject to federal taxation, is not bound by the same restrictions.

“Project Vote and Acorn have a written agreement that specifies that all work is nonpartisan,” Michael Slater, Project Vote’s new executive director, wrote in answer to e-mailed questions about the relationship.

But Ms. Kingsley [ACORN’s lawyer] found that the tight relationship between Project Vote and Acorn made it impossible to document that Project Vote’s money had been used in a strictly nonpartisan manner. Until the embezzlement scandal broke last summer, Project Vote’s board was made up entirely of Acorn staff members and Acorn members.

Ms. Kingsley’s report raised concerns not only about a lack of documentation to demonstrate that no charitable money was used for political activities but also about which organization controlled strategic decisions.

She wrote that the same people appeared to be deciding which regions to focus on for increased voter engagement for Acorn and Project Vote. Zach Pollett, for instance, was Project Vote’s executive director and Acorn’s political director, until July, when he relinquished the former title. Mr. Pollett continues to work as a consultant for Project Vote through another Acorn affiliate.

“As a result, we may not be able to prove that 501(c)3 resources are not being directed to specific regions based on impermissible partisan considerations,” Ms. Kingsley said, referring to the section of the tax code concerning rules for charities.

She also found problems with governance of Acorn affiliates. “Board meetings are not held, or if they are, minutes are not kept, or if minutes are kept, they never make it into the files,” she wrote.

Project Vote, for example, had only one independent director since it received a federal tax exemption in 1994, and he was on the board for less than two years, its tax forms show. Since then, the board has consisted of Acorn staff members and two Acorn members who pay monthly dues.

But George Hampton, who was listed as a board member from 1994 to 2006, said that while he had been a member of Acorn, he had never heard of Project Vote. “I don’t know anything about this,” Mr. Hampton said.

Cleo Mata, listed as a board member on tax forms from 1997 to 2006, also said she was not aware she was on the Project Vote board. “If that’s what you say,” Ms. Mata told a visitor to her home in Pasadena, Tex. “I tell you that I didn’t realize I was.”

Mr. Slater said he “cannot speak to why Mr. Hampton and Ms. Mata fail to recall their involvement on the Project Vote board.” He noted that Ms. Mata, 63, was “in poor health.”

Project Vote assembled a new board this fall that Ms. Kingsley said had greater independence, even though five of the six new members have longstanding ties to Acorn.

Will the Huffington Post, which has been carrying water for ACORN and Project Vote for months, finally admit it was wrong?

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