Embattled community group ACORN has shut down operations in New York, but reports that it is dissolving its national structure may be premature.
Numerous media outlets are reporting that the group -- which faced a torrent of criticism after edited videos showed ACORN employees offering objectionable advice to a pair of young conservative activists masquerading as a pimp and prostitute – has suspended most of its nationwide operations.
Those reports cited sources close to the group. But Kevin Whelan, an ACORN spokesman, denied the reports Monday afternoon, telling The American Prospect that "it is not true that ACORN is closed for business all across the country. It still exists."
That does not mean there isn't something afoot: In Brooklyn, a group called NY Communities For Change lists as its address the offices that had belonged to the Brooklyn chapter of ACORN.
In a statement late Monday afternoon, ACORN confirmed to Hotsheet that "today in New York a group of grassroots leaders and organizers who have worked with ACORN for many years announced today that they are establishing a new, state-based organization."
"ACORN's national leadership respects the decision of this dedicated group of community leaders who have done so much to help make their neighborhoods, cities, state, and the country a better and fairer place," said Whelan, the spokesman. "We know they will continue to do great work and we wish them well."
He went on to say that Bertha Lewis continues to serve as ACORN's CEO and Chief Organizer and that she is unaffiliated with the new New York group.
In California, a group called Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment recently announced "the leadership and staff that were working with ACORN in California made the decision to break off from ACORN and launch a new organization." There are also reports that the Massachusetts chapter of the group has become "New England United for Justice."
ACORN saw its federal funding, as well as some foundation grants, cut in the wake of the video scandal. The group has long been a target of conservatives who accuse it of election fraud, pointing in part to evidence that employees have submitted false voter registration forms. (The group has also had issues with embezzlement.)
A "senior official close to the group" told Politico that "ACORN has dissolved as a national structure of state organizations," adding that "each of the states are developing plans for reconstitution independence and self-sufficiency."
While the national structure does not appear to be dissolved as of now, that process may effectively be underway. Whelan told Hotsheet in a statement that "It's no secret that ACORN has had to fight hard to survive a series of vicious right wing attacks over the past year and half and that this has made it harder for ACORN to raise funds and organize and serve its members."
"We understand the desire of local grassroots leaders in some states to move ahead focusing solely on the fight to improve their communities," he said.