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Catholic Church cuts off ACORN funding

  • Story Highlights
  • Roman Catholic Church announces plans that it will sever ties to ACORN
  • ACORN officials say founder's brother embezzled nearly $1 million from group
  • Bishop: Registration fraud complaints "raise additional serious concerns"
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By Drew Griffin and Kathleen Johnston
CNN Special Investigations Unit
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(CNN) -- The Roman Catholic Church is cutting off funds to the community organizing group ACORN, citing complaints over its voter registration drives in the November 4 election as part of the reason.

Authorities raid a Las Vegas, Nevada, ACORN office after allegations of voter fraud.

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development froze its contributions to the group in June amid allegations that Dale Rathke, the brother of ACORN founder Wade Rathke, had embezzled nearly $1 million.

This week, as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops met in Baltimore, Maryland, the campaign's chairman said it was cutting all ties with the group.

"We simply had too many questions and concerns to permit further CCHD funding of ACORN groups," Roger Morin, the auxiliary bishop of New Orleans, Louisiana, told his colleagues in a letter to the conference. Video Watch why fired board members allege a cover-up »

The CCHD has donated more than $7.3 million to ACORN-related projects over the past decade, including $40,000 to an ACORN chapter in Las Vegas, Nevada, that was raided before the election in an investigation into fraudulent voter registration forms. Among other questionable documents, the ACORN chapter submitted registration forms for members of the Dallas Cowboys football team.

ACORN contends it has tried to help head off election fraud.

"In nearly every case that has been reported, it was ACORN that discovered the bad forms and called them to the attention of election authorities, putting the forms in a package that identified them in writing as suspicious, encouraging election officials to investigate, and offering to help with prosecutions," ACORN said in an October 9 news release.

Morin said a church review completed in November found ACORN no longer met standards of further funding.

The reported embezzlement dates back several years, but was only recently disclosed to ACORN board members and donors. Morin said the registration fraud complaints "raise additional serious concerns."

"Nonpartisan voter registration, especially in poor communities, is important and needed work. Too often, poor voters are not registered or are not encouraged to participate in the vital choices that affect their families and communities," he wrote. However, he said, the ban on donations to ACORN won't be lifted "until and unless it is clear that CCHD funds will not go to an organization that has engaged in unlawful activities or voter registration fraud."

In a statement to CNN, ACORN Executive Director Steven Kest said his group is grateful for the church's funding in the past.

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"We look forward to continuing discussions with CCHD officials and the bishops in the months ahead in hopes that we can continue working together on projects, which have been so important to so many in low-income neighborhoods across the country," Kest said.

However, Ralph McCloud, the Human Development campaign's director, said the church has "severed ties" with ACORN and there are no plans for further discussion at this time.

CNN's Marcus Hooper contributed to this report.

All About Association of Community Organizations for Reform NowThe Roman Catholic ChurchElection Fraud

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