Wednesday, May 13, 2009


ACORN is no stranger to the spotlight. It has been said there are certain shades of limelight that can ruin one’s complexion. Yet no matter how many times prosecutors investigate and even indict ACORN and its employees, they emerge unblemished as far as the federal government is concerned.

Since 1994, ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) has received at least $53 million in tax dollars. Also, it was reported recently that “the economic stimulus bill enacted in February contains $3 billion that the non-profit activist group … could receive, and the 2010 federal budget contains another $5.5 billion that could also find its way into the group’s coffers.” Plus, the Census Bureau has named ACORN a national partner. Yet simultaneously, ACORN has been linked to voter-registration fraud in more than a dozen states directly, through its employees or both.

Congress has been far too loose with your money for far too long. Accessing federal funds is a privilege, not a right. An organization that demonstrates a pattern of disrespect for our laws and the people hasn’t earned a piece of the pie.

I recently offered an amendment to prevent organizations indicted for voter fraud or related crimes, or that employ individuals indicted for such criminal behavior, from receiving federal housing counseling and foreclosure legal-assistance grants. It seemed common sense to me - particularly because this very same language passed Congress last year under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act. My amendment was accepted quickly by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank and adopted unanimously.

However, within hours, Mr. Frank flipped, saying he had reservations about my amendment and wanted to make changes that would gut its meaning and intent. One wonders who got his ear in the time between the flip and the flop, but ACORN most certainly was a direct beneficiary of the change.

Time and time again, ACORN attempts to deflect its involvement in voter-registration fraud, blaming the bad acts on a few rogue employees. The first time, you might be willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. The second time, you might be more skeptical. But when the number of investigations and indictments climbs and spreads out over several states, Congress at the very least needs to pull the plug on taxpayer funding. We’re talking about repeated accusations made by prosecutors across the political spectrum of voter-registration fraud and tax violations involving ACORN.

Such evidence was mounting even as Mr. Frank brought his case to the House floor: On May 4, the Associated Press reported that Nevada authorities filed criminal charges against ACORN and two former employees for voter-registration fraud. On May 7, the very day the House of Representatives voted with Mr. Frank to keep the taxpayers’ wallet open to those facing indictment, the Allegheny County, Pa., district attorney charged seven employees of ACORN with forgery and election law violations.

Regrettably, despite these brand-new criminal charges being filed against ACORN in two states by two Democratic prosecutors just last week, the House voted along party lines to keep groups like ACORN eligible to receive your tax dollars.

Mr. Frank argued that he does “not want to live in a society where the mere institution of an investigation by any prosecutor anywhere shuts down lawful activity.” Noble, but it misses the point. This isn’t about shutting down an activity or due process. It’s about oversight of your tax dollars and the threshold government sets when deciding who should get them and who shouldn’t.

The ACORN phenomenon isn’t about a rogue prosecutor or a few rogue employees; this is a pattern of bad behavior investigated by several prosecutors, resulting in indictments by several grand juries. As Nevada’s Democratic Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto told the Las Vegas Sun, ACORN’s own training manuals “clearly detail, condone and … require illegal acts.”

I maintain that not only is it legitimate for Congress to decide the threshold for accessing taxpayer funds, it is incumbent upon us to set the bar high. There is a saying - Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. How many more charges, indictments and convictions of employees must we see before Congress deems it “appropriate” to stop funneling your money to such a shady organization? It is a shameful abdication of our fiduciary duties and yet another example of Washington’s disrespect to you and your hard-earned money.

If nothing else, this shows us just how much influence ACORN has over leadership here in Congress. Tax dollars are being abused and the public trust squandered. I hope the American people open their eyes to this corrupt political partnership and demand accountability.

Michele Bachmann, Minnesota Republican, is a member of the House of Representatives.

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