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ACORN Shutting Down Tax Clinics, Vows to Continue Voter-Registration Efforts

By Carol D. Leonnig
ACORN, the community organizing group embarrassed recently in a video sting, announced Wednesday it will shut down it free tax preparation clinics while it undergoes a broad review of its operations.

The news came the same day the new head of the federal Census Bureau revealed why the bureau had dropped ACORN as an agency partner mid-month. He said the bureau's link to the community organization was hurting efforts to get Americans to participate in the count.

ACORN executive director Bertha Lewis told reporters in a conference call that she hopes ACORN can regroup after getting the results of an external investigation ACORN commissioned Tuesday.

"We want to be sure that before we start helping people with services that our operation is running well," she said. "It doesn't hurt us financially. It does hurt the poor people we have served for many years."

ACORN is reeling in the wake of the airing in the past two weeks of secretly taped videos that show ACORN housing counselors giving advice to two young conservative activists posing as a pimp and prostitute on how to conceal their criminal business. Congress voted last week to ban federal funding for ACORN, and the organization hired a former Massachusetts attorney general to investigate and recommend changes. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, on Wednesday asked the House Judiciary Committee to summon Lewis, former ACORN founder Wade Rathke, and other ACORN officers for a hearing on its activities.

Lewis said Wednesday that rumors of ACORN no longer registering low-income and minority voters -- the part of its mission for which ACORN is best known and most controversial -- are false.

"Our position is the government should be automatically registering every citizen who is qualified to vote," Lewis said. "But until that happens, until the day when disenfranchised people, historically, are [automatically registered], ACORN is going to make sure its members participate in the political process."

Lewis notified the Internal Revenue Service on Monday ACORN would shut down its free tax help clinics for low-income residents filling out their 2009 tax returns -- a partnership with the IRS -- until she could have an external review completed of ACORN work.

"As you know, ACORN has been the target of a sustained attack from conservative forces for a number of years," Lewis wrote. "Recent videos generated by conservative activists, including one from our tax clinic in Baltimore, MD, have raised questions about our service programs."

To read Carol Leonnig's exclusive interview with ACORN founder Wade Rathke, click here»

By Web Politics Editor  |  September 23, 2009; 5:45 PM ET
Categories:  Cast of Characters  
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