- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 1, 2009

House Republicans on Tuesday accused the Obama administration of covering up criminal activities of the embattled community activist group ACORN, saying that the president has used the group as an illegal political tool to help himself and other Democrats get elected.

“The current administration is fast becoming, in reality, the war room of ACORN’s political machine,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican. “I am concerned that the era of corruption promulgated by ACORN and protected by the White House is just the beginning.”

The California lawmaker, the top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said ACORN has engaged in “illegal, partisan activities designed to help individual Democratic members.”

“This [action] goes from city councilmen to state assemblymen all the way to President Barack Obama,” he said.

Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said Mr. Obama’s past ties to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) will “taint any conclusions” by any Justice Department probe into the group.

Mr. Issa and Mr. Smith made their remarks at a Capitol Hill forum they sponsored on ACORN and attended by a handful of House Republicans but no Democrats. Many of the lawmakers used the event to try to link the White House to ACORN — a group under intense scrutiny since hidden-camera videos showed its workers advising a woman posing as a prostitute on how to cheat on taxes and loan applications.

The liberal organization also has been accused of voter registration fraud in several states that benefited Democratic candidates.

Mr. Obama’s law firm did work for ACORN during his time in Chicago but Mr. Obama has since cut his ties with the group since elected as president.

“When this investigation is finally finished … these roads following ACORN will lead to the White House,” said Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican.

The Justice Department’s independent inspector general last month revealed that ACORN or affiliated groups won approval for nearly $200,000 in grants from the department since 2002 and mismanaged some of the money.

The grant tally, though only from a single department, provides a glimpse of the taxpayer dollars the liberal activist group has received.

Republicans have pressed the Justice Department and the FBI to conduct a comprehensive investigation of ACORN. They also are upset that the Democratic-controlled Congress hasn’t launched its own probe.

Mr. King also has been critical of Mr. Obama’s recent appointment of White House counsel Bob Bauer, whom he accused of having a track record covering up ACORN activities.

Mr. Bauer, while serving as Obam’a campaign general counsel during for the 2008 election, called for the Justice Department to investigate whether the administration of former President George W. Bush was working with Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain to raise charges of voter fraud.

Congress recently canceled federal funding to ACORN and its affiliates. The organization has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the law.

The Justice Department released a memo last week concluding the government should pay ACORN for contracts that were in place before Congress approved the funding ban.

ACORN touts itself as the nation’s largest community organization of low-and moderate-income families, campaigning since 1970 on issues such as living wages, better public schools and expanding homeownership.

ACORN supposedly has collected millions of dollars in federal taxpayer dollars a year, including at least $53 million since 1994 for its housing programs alone. However, it is difficult to determine exactly how much federal funding ACORN collects because the organization and its more than 300 affiliated groups, which often use the same accounting firm and the same address in New Orleans, can vie for myriad federal grants.

The videos that sparked the long, hard look at ACORN’s funding were shot by conservative activist James O’Keefe, who appeared in the footage posing as a pimp and was accompanied by a female colleague, Hannah Giles, posing as a prostitute.

The pair got counseling at ACORN offices in Baltimore, Washington, New York and San Bernardino, Calif., to obtain a home loan for property where they could conduct a prostitution business, which they said also would employ girls from El Salvador.

ACORN fired the employees involved but filed a lawsuit against Mr. O’Keefe and Ms. Giles, accusing them of violating Maryland law that requires two-party consent for electronic surveillance.

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