Tag Archives: The Atlantic

A prime example of the ends justifying ANY means

ACORN’s progressive supporters, not to its mention leaders, should begin by taking responsibility for its decline.  The depth of ACORN’s dishonesty and dysfunction was clearly indicated over a year ago by New York Times reporter Stephanie Strom’s stories revealing Dale Rathke’s embezzlement of about $950,000 and its nearly decade long cover-up.  (ACORN had been accused of misconduct before, but the Times story could not simply be dismissed as another right wing smear campaign.)  The Times reported that not even the ACORN board had been informed of the theft, (“a small group of executives decided to keep the information from almost all of the group’s board members and not to alert law enforcement.”)  ACORN executives probably told themselves and each other that the cover-up was in the organization’s interests, but the organization was not even reimbursed for its loss: The embezzlement reportedly occurred in 1999 and 2000; in July 2008, when the first Times story appeared, only a reported $210,000 had been paid back, and Dale Rathke had been allowed to remain on the payroll until mid 2008 when “disclosure of his theft by foundations and other donors forced the organization to dismiss him.”…

… Whether or not ACORN recovers, this crisis of its own making should serve as a cautionary tale for other groups, like the ACLU, that consider themselves too pure to fail; but I doubt that it will.  Lying is a habit that’s very hard to break, especially when people justify their lies in the service of a greater good. Wade Rathke said he concealed his brother’s embezzlement so as not “put a “weapon” into the hands of enemies of Acorn.”  And, people who begin covering up the misconduct of others out of concern for an organization’s reputation (as well as their fear of being ostracized,) inevitably end covering up for their own complicity, and perpetuating conspiracies of silence.

Full column here.