Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now



The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) is an international collection of autonomous
community A community is a social unit (a group of living things) with commonality such as place, norms, religion Religion is usually defined as a social- cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, morals, beliefs, worldviews, text ...
-based organizations that advocated for low- and moderate-income families by working on neighborhood safety,
voter registration
voter registration
health care Health care or healthcare is the improvement of health via the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, amelioration or cure A cure is a substance or procedure that ends a medical condition, such as a medication, a surgery, surgical operation, ...

health care
, affordable housing, and other social issues. They, along with a number of other community unions, are affiliated under ACORN International.


In the US, ACORN was composed of a number of legally distinct
nonprofit A nonprofit organization (NPO) or non-profit organisation, also known as a non-business entity, not-for-profit organization, or nonprofit institution, is a legal entity organized and operated for a collective, public or social benefit, in co ...
entities and affiliates including a nationwide
umbrella organization An umbrella organization is an association of (often related, industry-specific) institutions who work together formally to coordinate activities and/or pool resources. In business, political, and other environments, it provides resources and ofte ...
established as a
501(c)(4) A 501(c) organization is a nonprofit organization in the Law of the United States#Federal law, federal law of the United States according to Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C. § 501(c)) and is one of over 29 types of nonprofit organizations exe ...
that performed
lobbying In politics, lobbying, persuasion or interest representation is the act of lawfully attempting to influence the actions, policies, or decisions of government officials, most often legislators or members of regulatory agency, regulatory agencie ...

; local chapters established as
501(c)(3) A 501(c)(3) organization is a United States corporation, Trust (business), trust, unincorporated association or other type of organization exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of Title 26 of the United States Code. It is one of t ...
nonpartisan Nonpartisanism is a lack of affiliation with, and a lack of bias towards, a political party. While an Oxford English Dictionary definition of ''partisan'' includes adherents of a party, cause, person, etc., in most cases, nonpartisan refers sp ...
charities; and the national nonprofit and nonstock organization, ACORN Housing Corporation. ACORN's priorities included: better housing and wages for the poor, more community development investment from banks and governments, better public schools, labor-oriented causes and social justice issues. ACORN pursued these goals through demonstration, negotiation, lobbying for legislation, and voter participation. Unlike in the US, ACORN groups in other countries have little organizational funding. Under the ACORN model, most members are volunteers. Employed union organizers come from those working in local ACORN campaigns rather than from existing organizations and are paid a low wage. The union works on local and national level campaigns.


Founded in 1970 by Wade Rathke and Gary Delgado, at its peak ACORN had over 500,000 members and more than 1,200 neighborhood chapters in over 100 cities across the U.S. as well as groups in other countries. In 2004, ACORN International was created to aid the spread of ACORN's model to other countries. For example, there has been or currently is an ACORN presence in Argentina, Canada, Mexico, Peru and the UK,A. Gilchrist and M. Taylor, ''The Short Guide to Community Development'' 2nd edn (Bristol: Policy Press, 2016) with affiliate groups in ScotlandP. Smythe,
Housing will be the basis for all change in our country': an interview with Living Rent
(29/04/20) in '' The Student''
and France.J. Talpin,
The Americanization of French social movements? Community organizing and its discontents in the ''banlieues''
(29/06/17) on
In the US, ACORN suffered a damaging nationwide controversy in the fall of 2009 after James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles secretly made, edited and released videos of interactions with low-level ACORN personnel in several of their offices, leading to several investigations by state officials that concluded the videos were inaccurately portraying the personnel as encouraging criminal behavior.California AG Determines ACORN Broke No Criminal Laws
FOX News; April 1, 2010
An Independent Governance Assessment of ACORN
, December 7, 2009

/ref>"ACORN and the Ethics of Leadership"
Atlantic Monthly ''The Atlantic'' is an American magazine and multi-platform publisher. It features articles in the fields of politics, foreign affairs, business and the economy, culture and the arts, technology, and science. It was founded in 1857 in Boston, ...
'', December 8, 2009
ACORN Investigation Results
, ''The Nonprofit Quarterly''

New York Magazine ''New York'' is an American biweekly magazine concerned with life, culture, politics, and style generally, and with a particular emphasis on New York City New York, often called New York City or NYC, is the List o ...
''; March 2, 2010
The organization didn't recover from the negative publicity in the US and dissolved,ACORN filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy
Los Angeles Times; November 2, 2010
with ACORN members and organizers forming new organizations such as the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) Action. ACORN groups outside of the US continued unaffected. ACORN, under ACORN International, still works within the US through its Home Savers Campaign, for example.

Issues and actions

Predatory lending and affordable housing

ACORN investigated complaints against companies accused of
predatory lending Predatory lending refers to unethical practices conducted by lending organizations during a loan origination process that are unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent. While there are no internationally agreed legal definitions for predatory lending, a 2006 ...
practices. ACORN also worked to support strict state laws against predatory practices, organized against foreclosure rescue scams, and steered borrowers toward loan counseling; Following a three-year campaign, Household International (now owned by and renamed HSBC Finance Corporation), one of the largest subprime lenders in the country, and ACORN announced on November 25, 2003 a proposed settlement of a 2002 national
class-action lawsuit A class action, also known as a class-action lawsuit, class suit, or representative action, is a type of lawsuit where one of the parties is a group of people who are represented collectively by a member or members of that group. The class action ...
brought by ACORN. The settlement created a $72 million foreclosure avoidance program to provide relief to household borrowers who were at risk of losing their homes. The settlement came on the heels of an earlier $484 million settlement between Household, Attorneys General, and bank regulators from all 50 U.S. states.


In 2001, ACORN opposed the privatization of some NYC schools, favoring its own Charter School plan.

Voter registration

Since the 1980s, ACORN conducted large-scale voter registration drives, focusing primarily on registering poor and minority citizens."Furor over ACORN allegations gaining momentum"
Miami Herald The ''Miami Herald'' is an American daily newspaper owned by the McClatchy Company and headquartered in Doral, Florida, a List of communities in Miami-Dade County, Florida, city in western Miami-Dade County, Florida, Miami-Dade County and the M ...

Miami Herald
,'' 2008-10-24.

Gun control

In 2006, ACORN intervened on behalf of
Jersey City Jersey City is the second-most populous city (New Jersey), city in the U.S. state of New Jersey, after Newark, New Jersey, Newark.
Jersey City
New Jersey New Jersey is a U.S. state, state in the Mid-Atlantic States, Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States, Northeastern regions of the United States. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York (state), New York; on the ea ...
, in a lawsuit brought against the city challenging a local ordinance that limited individuals' handgun purchases to one gun a month. The Hudson County Superior Court struck down the ordinance on the grounds that it violated the New Jersey Constitution's
Equal Protection clause The Equal Protection Clause is part of the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The clause, which took effect in 1868, provides "''nor shall any State ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal ...
, and a state statute prohibiting towns and municipalities from enacting firearms legislation. On September 29, 2008, the
New Jersey Superior Court The Superior Court is the state court in the U.S. state of New Jersey, with statewide trial and appellate jurisdiction. The New Jersey Constitution of 1947 establishes the power of the New Jersey courts.Jeffrey S. Mandel, New Jersey Appellate Pra ...
Appellate Division denied ACORN's appeal of the Hudson County Superior Court's decision striking down Jersey City's ordinance.

Home Defender Program

In 2009, ACORN advocated allowing homeowners delinquent in their mortgage payments to remain in their homes pending a government solution to the housing
foreclosure Foreclosure is a legal process in which a lender attempts to recover the balance of a loan from a borrower who has stopped making payments to the lender by forcing the sale of the asset In financial accounting, an asset is any resource ...
crisis. ACORN introduced a program called the Home Defender Program, intended to mobilize people to congregate at homes faced with foreclosure to "defend a family's right to stay in their homes."

Legal issues

In a 2007 case in Washington state, in which seven temporary employees of ACORN were charged with submitting fraudulent voter registrations, ACORN agreed to pay King County $25,000 for its investigative costs and acknowledged that the national organization could be subject to criminal prosecution if fraud occurred. In May 2009, six ACORN employees in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty to charges of a combined total of 51 counts of forgery and other violations while registering voters during the 2008 election cycle. During the 2008 election season, ACORN gathered over 1.3 million voter registration forms in 21 states. Project Vote estimated that 400,000 registrations collected by ACORN were ultimately rejected, the vast majority for being duplicate registrations submitted by citizens. Project Vote estimated that only a few percent of registrations were fraudulent, based on past years and samples from some drives in 2008. Project Vote estimated that 450,000 of the registrations collected by ACORN represented first-time voters, while the remainder were address changes submitted by citizens updating their addresses. ACORN has fired employees for fraudulent registration practices and turned them over to authorities. Of 26,513 registrations submitted by ACORN over a nine-month period in
San Diego County, California San Diego County (), officially the County of San Diego, is a county (United States), county in the southwestern corner of the U.S. state of California. As of the 2020 United States Census, 2020 census, the population was 3,298,634, making it Ca ...
, 4,655 were initially flagged, but 2,806 of those were later validated. County officials said this resulted in a 7% error rate by ACORN, compared to usually less than 5% for voter drives by other organizations. In plea deals in a 2009
Las Vegas Las Vegas (; Spanish language, Spanish for "The Meadows"), often known simply as Vegas, is the List of United States cities by population, 25th-most populous city in the United States, the most populous city in the U.S. state, state of Neva ...
case, former ACORN field director Amy Busefink and ACORN official Christopher Edwards pleaded guilty to "conspiracy to commit the crime of compensation for registration of voters," in connection with a quota system for paid registration staff. Edwards was sentenced to a year's probation and agreed to testify for prosecutors in charges against ACORN and against Busefink. Busefink appealed her case to the Nevada Supreme Court, challenging the constitutionality of the statute.ACORN pleads guilty to felony compensation for registration of voters
Las Vegas Journal-Review; April 6, 2011
In April 2011, ACORN entered a guilty plea to one count of felony compensation for registration of voters, for which they were fined $5000, but did not concede that the law was constitutional.

ACORN International

ACORN International was created in 2004 as an offshoot of ACORN to aid the spread of ACORN's model to other countries,D. Beck and R. Purcell, ''International community organising'' (Bristol: Policy Press, 2013) including Argentina, Canada, Mexico, and Peru. The first ACORN branch in the UK opened in Bristol in 2014 by three people, two of whom were graduates of the Community Organisers programme. Other groups are affiliated with ACORN: for example, Living Rent in Scotland and Alliance Citoyenne in France.



* * *

External links

ACORN International
- with information about ACORN branches in various countries {{DEFAULTSORT:Association Of Community Organizations For Reform Now Organizations established in 1970 1970 establishments in the United States Civil rights organizations in the United States Community-building organizations Consumer rights organizations United States political action committees Affordable housing advocacy organizations Gun control advocacy groups in the United States Immigration political advocacy groups in the United States Nonpartisan organizations in the United States Progressive organizations in the United States Squatting in the United States