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ACORN-linked group raising funds for California 'Occupy' protest

Occupy protestors marching through downtown Sacramento in December 2011

EXCLUSIVE: A re-branded ACORN branch in California is raising money to help fund an upcoming "Occupy" protest in Sacramento, FoxNews.com has learned.

The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment sent out letters this month pleading for contributions of up to $20,000 for buses, food, printing, sound and other supplies for an upcoming event dubbed "Occupy the Capitol."

“Thousands of us are arriving in Sacramento on March 5 to Occupy the Capitol with our demand that the 1 percent pay for jobs, education, essential services, and a better future,” reads a copy of the letter obtained by FoxNews.com. “We need your activists and staff to join us. …We also urgently need funding.”

The letter, which was posted on the California Federation of Teachers' website, lists a tiered system for donors. To be a “Working Class Hero,” donors must give $20,000, or enough to "rent 20 buses" for the protests. A gift of $5,000 earns an "Occupy Ally” designation.

Critics said the fundraising is yet more evidence linking the remnants of ACORN, a national organization that disbanded after a series of scandals, to the national "Occupy" movement. Like ACORN, the new group, a 501(c)3 non-profit, could be using federal funds for political ends, said Dan Epstein, executive director for Cause of Action, a Washington-based watchdog group.

“We have seen that ACCE has lobbied for federal funding, thus raising a serious concern:  If they are acting as a fiscal sponsor for the 'Occupy' movement, are they using federal dollars for the same political ends,” Epstein said.

Assets from the now defunct ACORN were transferred to ACCE in March 2010. The ACCE took ACORN's database of California supporters and computer equipment used by former employees hired by the new organization.

In October, FoxNews.com reported that New York Communities for Change, the successor to ACORN in New York, was aligned with the "Occupy Wall Street" protests last fall. The group hired nearly 100 former staff from the defunct ACORN branch and paid them up to $100 a day to attend the demonstrations.

ACCE officials did not immediately return call for comment.

FoxNews.com's Jana Winter contributed to this report.