House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. has backed off his plan to investigate wrongdoing by the liberal activist group ACORN, saying “powers that be” put the kibosh on the idea.
Mr. Conyers, Michigan Democrat, earlier bucked his party leaders by calling for hearings on accusations the Association of Community Organization for Reform Now (ACORN) has committed crimes ranging from voter fraud to a mob-style “protection” racket.
“The powers that be decided against it,” Mr. Conyers told The Washington Times.
The chairman declined to elaborate, shrugging off questions about who told him how to run his committee and give the Democrat-allied group a pass.
Pittsburgh lawyer Heather Heidelbaugh, whose testimony about ACORN at a March 19 hearing on voting issues prompted Mr. Conyers to call for a probe, said she was perplexed by Mr. Conyers’ explanation for his change of heart.
“If the chair of the Judiciary Committee cannot hold a hearing if he want to [then] who are the powers that he is beholden to?” she said. “Is it the leadership, is it the White House, is it contributors? Who is ‘the power?’”
Capitol Hill Democrats had bristled at proposed hearings because it threatened to rekindle criticism of the financial ties and close cooperation between President Obama’s campaign and ACORN and its sister organizations Citizens Services Inc. and Project Vote.
The groups came under fire during the campaign after probes into possible voter fraud in a series of presidential battleground states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Mexico and Nevada.
ACORN and its affiliates are currently the target of at least 14 lawsuits related to voter fraud in the 2008 election and a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act complaint filed by former ACORN members.
The group’s leaders have consistently denied any wrongdoing and previously said they welcomed a congressional probe. The group did not immediately respond Thursday to questions about Mr. Conyers being convinced to drop those plans.