Continued from page 1

But in the letter addressed to the whistleblower group a year ago, ACORN indicated through its attorney that the name was highly coveted and must not be extended to alternative organizations.

“By virtue of its registration and continuous use for over thirty years, our client has the exclusive right to use the ACORN name/mark in connection with community organizing services,” the attorney wrote. “Usage of names like ‘ACORN 8‘ without ACORN’s permission has confused third-parties into believing you are part of, you speak for, or have been endorsed by ACORN. Donors, existing members, prospective members, other organizations and public officials are likely to be confused into believing that you are affiliated with and/or sponsored or endorsed by ACORN. It appears you are benefiting from the goodwill established by ACORN at great expense to ACORN. … Given that ACORN posits itself as a grassroots community organization, your use of the ACORN name and mark is likely to result in ongoing damage to ACORN.”

The “goodwill established by ACORN” appeared to run its course last year when corporate benefactors and foundations announced that they would suspend financial support. Despite negative publicity, the whistleblower group sees value in remaining attached to the name as part of its ongoing reform efforts.

“We don’t view the name ACORN 8 as a particular obstacle because ACORN 8 is what we” incorporated as an LLC, Ms. Reid said. “ACORN does not and cannot own the name; it’s an acronym and we LLC’d the name ACORN itself as part of ACORN 8 and we don’t see this as an impediment at all. We want to keep the name ACORN 8 as a way to bring the people in ACORN to some level of accountability. The people we named in our original complaint have not answered for what they have done.”

Since ACORN wrote the June 2009 letter, the whistleblower group has expanded to more than 20 members, Ms. Reid said. In July 2008, board members who are now part of ACORN 8 submitted 31 questions at an ACORN national meeting that included requests for the following information:

• Listing of all accounting firms (with contact information) for all ACORN-related entities.

• Copy of all existing contracts with the accounting firms for all ACORN-related entities.

• Copy of all organizational documentation for the chief organizer fund.

• Copy of all ACORN-related payments made to the chief organizer fund.

After persisting in their push for a wider investigation, Ms. Reid and Ms. Inman ultimately were removed from their board positions.

“How can anyone oppose the original mission of ACORN, which is to empower lower- and moderate-income people?” Ms. Reid asked. “If those 31 questions had been answered, ACORN would have been forced to close, or clean up.”

ACORN Housing Corp., the national affiliate at the epicenter of the videotape scandal, has renamed itself Affordable Housing Centers of America. Several state affiliates followed suit and rebranded themselves.

Despite a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld the congressional ban on funding for ACORN, Rep. Michele Bachmann, Minnesota Republican, said she sees little appetite among Democrats to permanently cut off federal support.

ACORN’s cover has been blown and its true identity has been revealed, but it remains a viable entity beneath different names with the same patrons and same funding sources,” she said in an interview. “I don’t see a tremendous change in the structure that called itself ACORN. But there is more scrutiny, which means they have to play a more sophisticated shell game.”

Moreover, Mrs. Bachmann said, the renamed entities remain well-positioned to receive support from left-leaning foundations and corporations that are no longer burdened by the ACORN name.

Story Continues →