8/19/08

ACORN-Tides Foundation cash link probed

More ACORN stories: here
More Wade Rathke stories: here

Who is Drummond Pike? What is Citizens Consulting Inc.?

The head of a foundation that has funneled millions to liberal causes anonymously repaid $1 million embezzled from one of the organizations the foundation financially supports.

The New York Times reported Sunday that Drummond Pike secretly agreed to replace the money embezzled from the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or Acorn. Pike is chief executive of the San Francisco-based Tides Foundation.

According to the Times, Pike was aiding Wade Rathke, the Acorn founder and a Tides Foundation board member, when he decided to buy the promissory note requiring the Rathke family to repay money taken by Rathke's brother, Dale.

Acorn discovered the embezzlement in 2000, but did not alert law enforcement officials. Acorn's management committee instead negotiated an agreement to have the Rathke family pay back the stolen funds. The Times reported the agreement was carried on the books of an Acorn affiliate, Citizens Consulting Inc., as a loan to an officer. Pike purchased the loan in June from the affiliate, according to e-mail messages from senior Acorn officials obtained by the newspaper in which they discussed how to keep the transaction a secret.

Acorn's Web site describes the organization as the nation's largest grassroots community organization of low- and moderate-income people, operating in 110 cities across the country.

Acorn has an Allegheny County chapter that most recently garnered attention in June, when its members marched through East Liberty to protest the upswing in mortgage foreclosures.

The Times reported that several Acorn affiliates have received money from Pike's Tides Foundation, which has provided more than $400 million to nonprofit groups since 2000. Much of the money flows out of donor-controlled accounts that Tides manages.

Tides received $8.3 million from 1994 through 2005 from The Heinz Endowments, chaired by Pittsburgh ketchup heiress Teresa Heinz.

(pittsburghlive.com)

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