November 13, 2011
Formally established on January 12, 2010, the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) is the new name for the California chapter of ACORN. After massive scandals in 2008 and 2009, ACORN’s California chapter (which had 37,000 dues-paying members, making it the largest affiliate in the ACORN network) elected to change its name in an effort to distance itself from what it called “a campaign of lies, media distortions and incessant attacks” that had been directed against the parent group. A key consideration in this decision was California ACORN’s desire to keep tax dollars and foundation grants flowing into its coffers.
ACCE characterizes itself as “an independent state-wide organization with no legal, financial or structural ties to ACORN.” But ACCE’s Executive Director is Amy Schur, who served more than 20 years as a loyal ACORN employee. During that time, Schur helped lead ACORN’s national campaigns; she also participated in an eight-year-long coverup of a nearly $1 million embezzlement by ACORN employee Dale Rathke, brother of ACORN co-founder Wade Rathke.
ACCE’s office address is also precisely the same as that of California ACORN — 3655 South Grand Avenue, Suite 250, in Los Angeles, California.
Journalist Matthew Vadum explains how ACORN commonly uses front groups like ACCE as escape hatches through which it seeks to evade public scrutiny and accountability for its acts of malfeasance:
“ACORN plays a game of corporate musical chairs when it gets into trouble. When an ACORN affiliate does something admirable, ACORN emphasizes the ties it has to that affiliate. When an affiliate does something infamous, ACORN plays dumb and its byzantine organizational structure allows it to claim plausible deniability. Such chicanery is standard operating procedure at ACORN, according to ACORN lawyer Elizabeth Kingsley. In an internal legal memo in 2008 Kingsley described the hoops that ACORN jumps through to create the façade that its affiliates are independent of each other.”
Rep. Maxine Waters – a California Democrat and a longtime ACORN ally – immediately expressed her support for the newly created ACCE in January 2010.