Born in 1944, Maude Hurd is best known as the former, longtime president of the now-defunct community organization ACORN. Her affiliation with that group began in 1982 when one of its organizers approached Hurd and spoke to her on the doorstep of her Boston home. In that conversation, Hurd expressed displeasure regarding the fact that large amounts of trash had been mounting in some nearby vacant lots, and that no local government agency had taken the initiative to clean it up. The ACORN representative asked if Hurd would be willing to voice her grievances at the organization’s next meeting. Hurd agreed to do so, and soon thereafter she was appointed chairwoman of ACORN’s Boston chapter. She subsequently helped lead a demonstration at City Hall, where ACORN members brought, as visual aids, large bags of trash that they had collected from the vacant lots in question. Hurd was able to secure an appointment with the city’s mayor, and before long the garbage was removed from the lots.
For the next seven years, Hurd held various leadership positions with ACORN. In 1990 she was elected president of the organization.
In 1994 the newspaper of the socialist New Party, of which then-community organizer Barack Obama was a member, identified Hurd as one of the 100+ individuals who were actively “building” the party. At the time, Hurd was also an associate of the Democratic Socialists of America.
In March 1995 Hurd led a raucous protest at the U.S. Capitol, where demonstrators demanded an opportunity to testify against proposed legislation designed to scale back the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), a federal law requiring money-lenders to maximize — in the names of racial and economic justice — the number of mortgages they approved for undercapitalized and nonwhite loan applicants who failed to meet traditional borrowing standards. Among the protesters’ chants were: “CRA has got to stay,” and “Banks for greed, not for need!” Hurd was one of five demonstrators arrested at the scene. Two ACORN allies, Sen. Ted Kennedy and Rep. Joe Kennedy II, tried unsuccessfully to get them freed. The U.S. Capitol Police let the demonstrators go only when Rep. Maxine Waters came to the detention facility and threatened to stay put until they were released.
In the November 1999 issue of the National Housing Institute’s in-house journal, Shelterforce, Hurd boasted of ACORN’s aggressive campaign to force banks to use “more flexible underwriting standards, reasonable interest rates, and lower down payments” for loans to poor minorities.
In the March/April 2001 issue of Shelterforce, Hurd enumerated a number of national campaign issues that, by her telling, had the potential to “deliver [electoral] victories [for Democrats] and change the political climate” in America. Among these issues were the promotion of “living wage” laws and continued adherence to CRA guidelines. Hurd suggested that under the banner of initiatives such as these, Democrats could “ally themselves with progressive forces” and thereby “create a majority politics” with “broad appeal to the electorate.”
When Hurd’s efforts to protect and preserve the Community Reinvestment Act ultimately proved to be successful, she and ACORN proudly took credit for saving the CRA. But in the long run, the lending practices mandated by the CRA resulted, disastrously, in the infamous housing-market crisis and financial meltdown of 2008, which in turn prompted the passage of a $700 billion federal bailout of the financial industry. Hurd lent her name to a September 24, 2008 statement demanding that a portion of those bailout funds be used for making “major public investment in new energy and conservation, rebuilding schools and infrastructure, extending unemployment and food stamps, [and] helping states avoid crippling cuts in police and health services.” Fellow signers of the statement included Nan Aron, Deepak Bhargava, Brent Blackwelder, Robert Borosage, John Cavanagh, Leo Gerard, Wade Henderson, John Podesta, Andrew Stern, John Sweeney, and Kevin Zeese.
In 2008 as well, Hurd said that Barack Obama was the one presidential candidate who “best understands and can affect change on the issues ACORN cares about.” Alleging that Republicans had manipulated the vote tallies in the two previous presidential elections, Hurd, voicing grave concern that they would do it again, was a signatory to a statement titled “No More Stolen Elections! Pledge of Action.” This document explained that “Americans are rightly concerned that history will repeat in 2008,” and that “once again we will find ourselves ruled by a non-elected, dangerously powerful President” as a result of the “rigging and theft of elections.” Other signers of this statement included such notables as Medea Benjamin, Leslie Cagan, John Cavanagh, Barbara Ehrenreich, Tom Hayden, Jesse Jackson, Van Jones, Michael Lerner, Manning Marable, Kevin Martin, Frances Fox Piven, Marcus Raskin, Norman Solomon, and Kevin Zeese.
By October 2008, however, ACORN itself was being investigated for mass voter-registration fraud in 14 states. After an avalanche of scandal eventually forced ACORN in 2010 to dissolve and then reconstitute itself as an alliance of local and regional organizations going by a variety of different names, Hurd became the president of one of those groups — New England United For Justice (NEU4J). In the fall of 2011, Hurd and NEU4J participated in the “Take Back Boston” rallies which were affiliated ideologically with the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street movement.
In May 2012 Hurd and NEU4J sued the State of Massachusetts, alleging that the Secretary of State and the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance had violated the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (a.k.a. the Motor Voter Law) by failing to offer voter-registration opportunities to people applying for social-service benefits.
Further Reading: “Frank’s Departure Unleashes Radical Waters” (Matthew Vadum discusses Hurd’s support for the CRA, 11-30-2011); “The ACORN Obama Knows” (by Michelle Malkin, 6-25-2008); “Sign The Pledge Of Action: No More Stolen Elections” (2008); “ACORN: Puppet Master of Occupy Wall Street” (by Matthew Vadum, 10-10-2011); “ACORN Offshoot Sues Massachusetts for Failing to Register Welfare Recipients” (by Tom Fitton, 6-9-2012).