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ACORN Watch: “Honesty is not going to get you the house”

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By Michelle Malkin  •  September 14, 2009 04:46 AM


Photoshop credit: Leo Alberti

James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles visited one of ACORN’s New York offices in August, where they picked up handy tips on how to lie on housing forms to cover up a prostitution business (“Honesty is not going to get you the house,” one ACORN official advises) and how to hide cash from their illicit business (“When you buy the house with the backyard, you get a tin…and you bury it down in there…cover it…and put the grass over it…”).

Watch the whole thing at Big Government. This is now the third videotaped sting exposing the ACORN racket’s law-undermining, truth-sabotaging counseling sessions.

If the Census Bureau no longer trusts ACORN to collect data as a result of these videotapes, why is Congress still allowing taxpayer money to be funneled to the ACORN Housing Corporation?

AHC has received an estimated $16 million in taxpayer funds between 1997-2007, according to the Employment Policies Institute.

Last week, I noted that ACORN is now managing apartments in Bedford-Stuyvesant for the newly completed Atlantic Avenue Apartments.

In April, I noted that the bone-headed Bush administration shoved another $1.6 million into AHC’s pockets to subsidize the left-wing mortgage counseling racket.

AHC has a long history of abusing federal housing funds and Americorps grants for political activities. Thanks to the Consumer Rights League and brave ACORN whistleblowers, we also know their shady practices include working to obtain mortgages for illegal aliens and relying on undocumented income, “under the table” money, that may not be reported to the Internal Revenue Service.

And thanks to the Employment Policies Institute, we know the stench goes back decades. Just one infamous episode from 1994:

AmeriCorps

In 1994 the ACORN Housing Corporation (AHC) was awarded a $1.1 million grant by AmeriCorps, a program of the Corporation for National Service (CNS). The money was intended to fund the training of 42 AmeriCorps members in 13 cities. The workers were expected to identify low-income families hoping to purchase a first home, to assist them in finding suitable housing, and to advise them in securing the
necessary financing.

During the grant-making process, AHC was asked about its relationship to ACORN, because political advocates were ineligible for the grant. At the time, AHC maintained that it was a completely separate entity from ACORN, and CNS awarded the grant based on this understanding.

Evidence uncovered by Luise Jordan, the Inspector General for AmeriCorps, suggests that this promised separation was simply not true. In testimony before a house subcommittee, Jordan stated:

Our preliminary research determined that AHC was part of a number of ACORN-related organizations.

… Not only did we find references to ACORN having “created” AHC to serve purposes common to both organizations, we noted numerous transactions and activities involving AHC and other “fraternal” ACORN-related corporations. These transactions included costs charged to AHC, and thus to the CNS grant, by ACORN or other ACORN-related entities. … Charges of this nature were made to our grant for the AHC locations where AHC and ACORN (or other ACORN-related activities) were co-located.

AHC’s initial subterfuge pales in comparison to the illegal fundraising scheme it subsequently operated, using its AmeriCorps grant to increase ACORN’s membership.

According to Jordan, one ACORN member in the Dallas regional office stated that “the only reason for having the AmeriCorps program was to gain new ACORN members, and that if AmeriCorps loan counseling clients did not start becoming ACORN members, she could and would halt the AmeriCorps project.” Jordan found that this understanding was not limited to the Dallas office. Using government funds to solicit membership in an organization that— like ACORN—participates in direct political advocacy is a violation of federal guidelines.

AHC also utilized its government-funded loan counseling program to steer low-income families toward ACORN memberships. Jordan found that AHC had distributed leaflets stating that low income, first-time homebuyers were required to join ACORN, at an annual cost of $60, in order to receive the government-subsidized counseling. “An AHC loan counseling client in New Orleans (who is a retired high school business teacher),” she explained, “was escorted by an AmeriCorps member to an ACORN organizer who solicited membership in ACORN. The client felt like she was not going to be allowed to leave until she gave the ACORN organizer a $60 check, or authorized a $5 per month automatic bank draft for ACORN membership dues.” And as with ACORN’s own employees who attempted to unionize, AmeriCorps members who refused to participate in this illegal fundraising scheme faced the threat of immediate termination.

The Inspector General’s office (IG) was lucky to find out as much about the improper relationship between AHC and ACORN as it did. And AHC made every effort to obstruct the investigation. The IG issued subpoenas to AHC and ACORN, whose response “did not include several documents, or parts of documents that we had obtained from our other sources.” Jordan later wrote, “Our subpoena clearly called for these documents, and they were critical in supporting the conclusions of our investigation.” Withholding required documentation was only the beginning of AHC’s attempt to hinder the investigation. AHC also limited the ability of investigators to interview AmeriCorps members in private. This greatly hampered the IG’s ability to obtain reliable information regarding the activities of AmeriCorps members. Eventually, in response to a torrent of red flags raised by the IG, the Corporation for National Service terminated AHC’s grant…

• Tax forms show that the ACORN Housing Corporation has received more than $11,230,000 in public funds since fiscal year 1997. More than $5,100,000 was paid in fees or grants to ACORN entities.

I’ll ask again: If the Census Bureau no longer trusts ACORN to collect data as a result of these videotapes, why is Congress still allowing taxpayer money to be funneled to the ACORN Housing Corporation?

It’s all about the coordinated corruption.

Call your congressional representatives (202-224-3121) and say it louder:

ACORN is a criminal enterprise.

Not one more taxpayer dime.

***

Update: Sen. Johanns’ amendment to prohibit transportation/HUD appropriations funding from going to ACORN in the wake of the sting videos just passed at around 5pm Eastern by a vote of 83-7. The Democrats are starting to throw ACORN under the bus. It’s a start.

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