Report: ACORN-affiliated group gets $300,000 more in taxpayer money

Matthew Boyle | Investigative Reporter

An affiliate of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) received another $300,000 in taxpayer funding in early August, The Daily Caller has learned.

President Barack Obama’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded the $300,000 grant to the post-ACORN ally: The Affordable Housing Centers of America (AHCOA). The Obama administration awarded the money despite a 2010 law saying no taxpayer funds could be issued to ACORN “or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, or allied organizations.”

AHCOA was previously named “Acorn Housing Corporation,” a group that did a lot of business with ACORN. Acorn Housing changed its name to AHCOA in late 2009.

Until the end of August, AHCOA’s website boasted that it was “formerly Acorn Housing Corporation.” The organization has since removed that bit of history.

The “new” organization has the same Chicago address and phone number as Acorn Housing did. AHCOA has also been using Acorn Housing’s old Data Universal Number System (DUNS) code to apply for and receive taxpayer-funded grants. A DUNS number is unique, organization-specific and location-specific, implying that AHCOA may be no different from Acorn Housing.

The way HUD and the Obama administration justify funding AHCOA is by saying it’s not “affiliated” or “allied” with ACORN. To make their case, the Obama officials rely on a September 29, 2010 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report arguing the case that AHCOA isn’t “affiliated” or “allied” with ACORN.

The GAO argument is that since AHCOA changed its name and cut off official financial ties with ACORN, it’s still legally allowed to receive taxpayer money, as AHCOA is not technically connected with ACORN when applying the legal definition of “affiliated” or “allied.”

Dan Epstein, executive director of the Freedom Through Justice Foundation, told The Daily Caller that the administration and GAO’s interpretation of the law is twisted, and it’s pretty clear that AHCOA shouldn’t be getting taxpayer cash. Epstein said the latest $300,000 grant is a violation of the law that was supposed to have defunded ACORN.

“The recent grant of $300,000 of taxpayer dollars to the Affordable Housing Centers of America reflects the degree to which the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has ignored the will of the Congress and the people it represents to stop wasting federal funds on organizations which have a history of mismanagement and fraud,” Epstein said. “ACORN, its affiliates and subsidiaries, represent the kind of fraud that put all Americans in this economic recession in the first place.”

HUD spokesman Jereon Brown cited the aforementioned GAO report as a legal basis for giving taxpayer cash to AHCOA.*

“Both the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and HUD’s Office of General Counsel have determined that Affordable Housing Centers of America (AHCOA) is not a subsidiary, affiliate, or allied organization of ACORN,” Brown told TheDC.

A spokeswoman for AHCOA did not respond to TheDC’s request for comment on why the group thinks it is not ACORN-affiliated, despite evidence to the contrary.

Another organization, NeighborWorks America, stopped granting funds to AHCOA after Congress banned funding ACORN in 2010. Though it isn’t a government agency, NeighborWorks America acts like one, as it regularly disburses taxpayer funding it receives to other organizations. NeighborWorks has refused to publicly release an internal report it conducting documenting AHCOA’s ties to ACORN.

Epstein’s group has requested a copy of the report from NeighborWorks, but hasn’t received it yet. A spokesman for NeighborWorks told TheDC they expect to complete Epstein’s request by the end of next week but wouldn’t say for sure whether the group will actually release the full report.

This new $300,000 grant isn’t the first time HUD has funded AHCOA with taxpayer money since the law banning funds to ACORN was passed. As The Daily Caller reported in July, HUD sent nearly $80,000 to AHCOA in April.

Epstein said these loopholes for ACORN to still receive funding aren’t acceptable, and something needs to be done about it. If members of Congress want GAO to review its interpretation of the law, they have to do so by September 29, 2011. If they don’t, the GAO review continues moving forward and a new law would be needed to fix any possible oversights.

“Congress acted to shutdown these mafia-like criminal enterprises from defrauding America,” Epstein said. “It’s time the administration follows the will of the people. We must not allow ACORN to continue to function as previously, simply with a new name.”

This story has been updated to reflect a response from HUD.

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