Maybe conservatives can salvage the terrible day they’re having with this news. ACORN, the national community organizing group slandered by the conservative movement and sullied by a misleading series of videotapes, will cease to exist as a national operation, they say in a statement.

The ACORN Association Board met on Sunday March 21 and approved a set of steps to responsibly manage the process of bringing its operations to a close over the coming months. These include:

Closing ACORN’s remaining state affiliates and field offices by April 1st; and
Developing a plan to resolve all outstanding debts, obligations and other issues.

ACORN’s members have a great deal to be proud of–from promoting to homeownership to helping rebuild New Orleans, from raising wages to winning safer streets, from training community leaders to promoting voter participation — ACORN members have worked hard to create stronger to communities, a more inclusive democracy, and a more just nation.

ACORN has teetered toward bankruptcy because of fiscal management, but mainly because their national fundraising dried up after conservative activists supposedly caught ACORN field office employees on tape engaging in illegal tax fraud. Nothing could be further from the truth – to this day, ACORN has not been charged with a crime or found guilty of any wrongdoing, despite the tapes being heavily edited to convey that impression. This conservative hit job sadly succeeded in its goal, abetted by a media which went out of its way to hype the tapes.

Some state and local organizations will probably survive and floursih after ACORN folds – perhaps many of them. And the financial troubles are at least partially self-inflicted. Maybe the people representing ACORN come out of this a smarter, savvier, more decentralized set of organizations.

But let’s be very clear about the effects of this smear job. It won’t hurt conservatives who pushed a discredited story, or the media who helped them, or weak-kneed Democrats who went along with an unconstitutional law to defund ACORN during the hysteria. The breakup of ACORN only hurts the poor and disenfranchised people who now have one less place to turn to for help. It also robs poor people of one of their more effective voices in seeking justice at the local level.

I hope it was worth it to liberals to pile on to a conservative misinformation campaign that succeeded in knocking out a powerful organizer on behalf of the poor.

David Dayen

David Dayen