Politics

Long-time ACORN affiliate secures $350,000 in new taxpayer funding

Photo of Matthew Boyle
Matthew Boyle
Investigative Reporter

An organization affiliated with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) received a new cash infusion from U.S. taxpayers in early September, amounting to $350,000.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded the Affordable Housing Centers of America (AHCOA) $350,000 in early September. This newly discovered funding is in addition to the $300,000 AHCOA secured in August, as The Daily Caller reported last week.

The new grant was part of a $10 million HUD funding package announced on September 2. Unlike the $300,000 from early August, HUD specifically awarded this $350,000 to AHCOA Pennsylvania, a local affiliate of the national group based in Chicago.

Critics say each time the Obama administration funds an ACORN-related group, greater sums of money are involved and the result is more troubling.

“HUD’s September 2, 2011 grant obligation is the latest instance of federal dollars being improperly steered to an entity with a history of financial mismanagement and election activities paid for by the American taxpayer,” Freedom Through Justice Foundation executive director Dan Epstein told TheDC.

“In just the past year, AHCOA’s receipts from HUD have gone from $80,000 to $300,000 to $350,000; it’s a short matter of time before AHCOA is receiving several million dollars per year of taxpayer dollars,” Epstein adds.

In September 2009, Congress passed a law banning federal funding of ACORN and its affiliates, allies and subsidiaries. ACORN challenged the federal government’s authority to ban its funding, but the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled against the activist group, upholding the federal law.

In June of this year the Supreme Court declined to hear ACORN’s appeal of the Second Circuit Court’s ruling, refusing toconsider overturning the lower court’s ruling.

AHCOA was previously named “Acorn Housing Corporation” and conducted business with ACORN itself before changing its name 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 historical note from the site, but still boasts about having existed “since 1985” in some press releases.

The “new” organization has the same Chicago address and phone number as Acorn Housing did. AHCOA has also been using Acorn Housing Corporation’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, suggesting that AHCOA is identical to Acorn Housing Corporation.

HUD secretary Shaun Donovan said the new funding of AHCOA is “specifically earmarked to provide counseling assistance relating to mortgage modification, avoiding potential mortgage scams, and assisting victims of scams.”

“It is crucial that we support these agencies in helping struggling families do whatever is possible to avoid foreclosure without being victimized by so called mortgage ‘rescue’ companies,” Donovan said in a statement.

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

The GAO argument is that since AHCOA changed its name and cut off official financial ties with ACORN, it is legally permissible to award taxpayer money to the group.

Follow Matthew on Twitter