NEW YORK — ACORN has been cut off by banks, the government and most of its private foundation funders, severely hampering its housing operations and raising the possibility that it will not survive in its current form, according to a lawsuit the group filed Thursday against the U.S. government.
The lawsuit claims that Congress’ decision to drop all funding to the group and its affiliates was unconstitutional because it punitively targeted an individual organization.
In affidavits accompanying the lawsuit, ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis and other employees paint a bleak picture of an organization damaged by a string of scandals and the loss of federal funds.
When the funding measure first passed Congress, “I thought ACORN could survive. But I underestimated the effect … and its consequences with our other sources of funding,” Lewis said. “We want to comply with every investigation, but we cannot comply if we do not have staff and are closing our offices.”
ACORN, or the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, portrays itself as an advocate for tens of thousands of low-income and minority homebuyers and community residents who are served by offices around the country. Republicans describe it as a pro-Democratic group that violated the tax-exempt status of some of its affiliates by engaging in partisan political activities.
The law that halted ACORN’s federal funding took effect Oct. 1 and was extended at the end of the month. On Dec. 18, it will either expire or be extended again.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Brooklyn federal court by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of ACORN and two affiliates, seeks reinstatement of the funds.
Exactly how deeply the cuts have hit ACORN remains unclear.
The group has laid off employees, closed offices and “drastically reduced services to low and moderate income people across the United States,” according to the lawsuit.
The organization says tens of thousands of families will go without its services because of the cuts.
ACORN has been dogged by allegations of voter-registration fraud and embezzlement.