Should ACORN Receive Any More Government Money?

Today, there was a hearing on the lessons learned from the 2008 elections and I was there to tell the unexamined story of ACORN.

Although ACORN has – routinely and repeatedly violated laws – it has been rewarded by the Democrats with up to $2 billion in taxpayer dollars. This is as outrageous as the bonuses AIG paid to the same executives who ran it into the ground.

If you reward bad behavior, you tend to encourage it – one shudders to think what ACORN would do with up to $2 billion, given the fraud and abuse it was engaged in prior to receiving stimulus money.

As background, ACORN, or the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, is, despite its claims, a massive political enterprise that includes as many as 175 subsidiaries, including two labor union locals, and lobbying and political organizations.

ACORN, in violation of numerous laws, strongly supported then-Senator Obama’s presidential aspirations. Its political wing endorsed Obama, and during the 2008 primary, his campaign paid an ACORN affiliate more than $800,000 for political services.

It must be understood that ACORN has both official and unofficial programs called “Muscle for the Money.” The official “Muscle for Money” program is the ACORN political operation. Under this program, the Obama campaign paid an ACORN affiliate nearly $900,000 not only to register voters, but to also convert those voter registrations into votes at the polls. ACORN used employees of other subsidiaries, irrespective of the subsidiary’s tax status, to accomplish this objective.

ACORN also has a different, unofficial program also called “Muscle for the Money,” through which ACORN collects cash. It was called “Muscle for Money” because ACORN intimidates and protests – some would call their actions extortion – and those targeted in many cases ended up becoming corporate sponsors of ACORN’s activities.

What seems clear from sworn testimony by a former ACORN employee is that both the right and left hands of the organization knew exactly what they were doing. The coordination among dozens of ACORN affiliate and subsidiary organizations is so close that all the money for all the affiliates flows through one organization… using separate accounts.

And many in ACORN’s leadership, even lower level employees, act on behalf of different affiliates all at the same time.
First, ACORN appears to have violated federal tax laws, though the IRS has yet to investigate. Project Vote, an ACORN subsidiary, is a 501(c) (3) charitable organization. As such, it is prohibited from intervention in partisan campaign activities. Yet Project Vote employees were involved with the Obama campaign as part of their work at ACORN.

Second, ACORN appears to have violated federal campaign finance laws in several different ways, though the FEC has yet to investigate. Among other incidents, contributions to a campaign, such as Obama’s, are limited to $5,000 per calendar year and may not be accepted from corporations, such as ACORN, under any circumstances. Furthermore, expenditures made by an organization in coordination with a candidate or political committee are considered contributions to that committee and are subject to the $5,000 per election limit.

Finally, ACORN violated federal laws through its voter registration fraud. Here the U.S. Department of Justice began an investigation, but it seems to have come to a halt since Election Day. These violations, along with misreported use of federal grant funds, are documented in the testimony and exhibits.
Congress has been quick to call in AIG’s chairman to publicly testify and investigate the misuse of taxpayer dollars.

Yet, we have not seen any real or meaningful action on the part of Congress against ACORN – an organization receiving taxpayer dollars and investigated in states across the country for fraud.

Congress must address ACORN’s flagrant abuse of federal laws and misuse of taxpayer dollars. By investigating ACORN, auditing their activities, and rescinding its taxpayer funded “bonuses,” Congress can show it is serious about ethics and integrity in both how we conduct our elections and how we govern.