The head of activist group ACORN came to a federal court Tuesday to observe a legal fight over its funding and said the group was on "life support" after waves of bad publicity and an attempt by Congress to cut off its money.Heartbreaking, isn't it?
Bertha Lewis, the chief executive officer for the group, said ACORN was getting by on about $4 million annually rather than its one-time $25 million budget and had reduced its staff to four, down from between 350 and 600 employees.
"We're still alive. We're limping along. We're on life support," Lewis said in an interview just after a government lawyer asked a federal appeals court to temporarily block a judge's ruling that it was unconstitutional for Congress to cut funding to ACORN.
A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan did not immediately rule on the request after hearing arguments. If granted, a stay of the lower-court order would remain in place until full arguments on the issue can be heard during the summer.
Attorney Mark Stern argued for the Justice Department that Congress did nothing wrong when it took action last year against ACORN after it identified "widespread mismanagement."
May a death panel be in their future.
A series of secretly taped videos filmed at ACORN offices around the country caught employees giving bad advice, sparking a national scandal and helping drive the organization to near ruin.And a job well done.
Lewis said the controversies had left a stain on the group, "sort of like a scarlet letter," forcing ACORN to spend money defending itself against "one investigation after another."
She said money from large foundations and private individuals had largely dried up in the wake of the controversy.
"That was the point: to demonize the ACORN name and break the organization," she said.