Politico's Ben Smith reported yesterday that the James O'Keefe/Andrew Breitbart smear of ACORN, promoted so avidly by Fox News (and particularly Glenn Beck), had finally taken its toll:
The embattled liberal group ACORN is in the process of dissolving its national structure, with state and local-chapters splitting off from the underfunded, controversial national group, an official close to the group confirmed.
"ACORN has dissolved as a national structure of state organizations," said a senior official close to the group, who declined to be identified by name because of the fierce conservative attacks on the group that began when a conservative filmmaker caught some staffers of its tax advisory arms on tape appearing to offer advice on incorporating a prostitution business.
"Consistent with what the internal recommendations have been, each of the states are developing plans for reconstitution independence and self-sufficiency," said the official, citing ACORN's "diminished resources, damage to the brand, unprecedented attacks."
The new organizations, he said "will be constituted under new banners and new bylaws and new governance," he said, consistent with the recommendations of an outside panel.
Much of the group's strength lay in its local chapters in places like New York, which appear to be continuing to operate as normal. New York's City Hall News reported today that the local group there had re-emerged under the name "New York Communities for Change."
However, as CBS' Political Hotsheet reported, the reports of ACORN's demise may be somewhat premature:
... 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."
... 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."
Still, while the dissolution of ACORN's national structure may be occurring slow motion, the outcome is more or less the same: Returning community organizing to its local roots and focusing its strategies there.
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.
On his show yesterday, Beck didn't exactly gloat over the victory for his team. Instead -- as he did after Van Jones resigned -- he made clear he was just getting started. Next in his sights will be those local community organizers.
And the bizarre thing is that the whole outcome is built on a lie.
Nevermind that an independent investigation found that O'Keefe and Co. had grotesquely manipulated their videos. Nevermind that they perpetrated a huge hoax on the public by pretending that O'Keefe had worn an outrageous "pimp" outfit into the videotaped sessions (he hadn't).
The upshot is that Breitbart, Beck and the pro-corporate rightists whose agenda they've been promoting in attacking ACORN have succeeded in demolishing the most effective national community-organizing apparatus.
And yes, Mr. Breitbart, you succeeded through innuendo and sleaze, by making it your mission to destroy people's lives. No irony there, eh?
The lesson: Douchebaggery works. And no one has less compunction about using it than right-wing, pro-corporate operatives.
There is one major reason the Right has so viciously attacked community organizers like ACORN: They have become one of the most effective means of getting out the progressive vote, particularly in enrolling minorities as voters. It was a major component of the 2008 tide that swept conservatives out of power.
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