ACORN continues to receive taxpayer cash, group says

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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In spite of a law aimed at de-funding the controversial organization, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) is still receiving taxpayer money through an offshoot group.

Legal watchdog group Judicial Watch discovered that the Obama administration’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a $79,819 grant to an ACORN offshoot, Affordable Housing Centers of America (AHCOA). (NEA’s Obama endorsement comes as union’s influence wavers)

Though HUD intended the grant to be for AHCOA to “educate the public and housing providers about their rights and obligations under federal, state, and local fair housing laws,” the government website listing federal expenditures labels the recipient of the grant “ACORN HOUSING CORPORATION, INC.”

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton told The Daily Caller this newly discovered grant appears to be in violation of an October 2009 law President Obama signed banning all funding of “ACORN and any ACORN-related affiliate.”

Fitton said the grant also appears to debunk what Judicial Watch calls a “controversial advisory opinion” the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued in September 2010, stating it considers AHCOA an entity sufficiently removed from ACORN that the funding ban shouldn’t apply to it.

“If President Obama is serious about the ACORN funding ban he signed in 2009, he’ll try to get to the bottom of this,” Fitton said, adding that Congress can withhold HUD’s funding and conduct oversight investigations into these new discoveries. “I think many members of Congress will be interested in this new development.”

Fitton told TheDC he expects that more grants like this one to turn up. “ACORN basically reorganized under a different name,” he said in a phone interview. “I don’t think this happened by accident. They’re all the same people still involved just working for organizations with different names.”

Fitton said he thinks it’s likely that HUD employees, whether political appointees from the Obama administration or career staffers, knew they were giving money to ACORN-affiliated organizations.

Obama administration HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan has a documented past with ACORN. In 2009, The New York Times reported that Donovan worked “particularly closely” with ACORN while working for New York City Kayor Michael Bloomberg. The Times story also documents Donovan’s ties with ACORN’s chief executive, Bertha Lewis.

Citing the GAO report Judicial Watch casts doubt on, HUD spokesman Jereon Brown told TheDC he thinks HUD is “in complete compliance with the law.”

“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 said.

As for the specific grant, Brown said the government database keeping track of expenditures with organizations’ tax identification numbers associated AHCOA’s number with its previous name: ACORN HOUSING CORPORATION, INC. HUD contends that isn’t enough to qualify AHCOA as ACORN-affiliated.

“In April, HUD awarded a $79,819 grant to AHCOA to provide fair housing and fair lending information and assistance to at least 35,000 minority, non-English speaking and immigrant households in the Miami-Dade metropolitan area,” Brown said. “After the award of the grant, AHCOA submitted its tax identification number which was entered into a government database, which still associated the number with the organization’s previous name.”

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