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Did ACORN Affiliate Illegally Get Taxpayer Money?

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Housing Advocacy Group ACORN Holds Protest on Wall Street

Housing Advocacy Group ACORN Holds Protest on Wall Street

Spencer Platt / Getty Images
Updated July 08, 2011

The controversial activist group ACORN and its numerous affiliates were supposed to have been banned from receiving federal funding in 2009 amid allegations of voter fraud and other questionable behavior.

But a government watchdog claims that an affordable housing group tied to ACORN got nearly $80,000 in taxpayer money in 2011 in violation of the congressional ban.

See also: ACORN and Your Money

Is it true?

Did ACORN and its affiliates get illegal federal grants from President Barack Obama's administration after the ban was put in place in 2009?

Group Tied to ACORN

The public corruption watchdog group Judicial Watch claimed a $79,819 grant to the Affordable Housing Centers of America in April 2011 was an "apparent violation" of the ban on funding ACORN and its affiliates.

The grant was issued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development "to educate the public and housing providers about their rights and obligations under federal, state and local fair housing laws."

See also: ACORN Sues Congress

Judicial Watch described Affordable Housing Centers of America as an "offshoot" of ACORN, and cited a federal spending database's description of the grant as going to the "ACORN Housing Corporation Inc."

In a statement, Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said the grant was "another instance of President Obama's appointees stubbornly refusing to follow the law and deny this crooked organization funds."

HUD, GAO Deny Group Ties to ACORN

The Government Accountability Office and Department of Housing and Urban Development, however, both claimed Affordable Housing Centers of America was not tied to ACORN and therefore not subject to the ban on federal funding.

"A GAO appropriations decision concluded that as of September 2010, ACHOA was not a subsidiary, affiliate, or allied organization of ACORN..." the GAO wrote in a June 2011 report on how much money went to ACORN.

"The record does not show AHCOA to be directly or indirectly under the control of ACORN. AHCOA is not related to ACORN by shareholdings ... it is our view that AHCOA is not presently an affiliate, subsidiary or allied organization of ACORN," the GAO stated in the 2010 letter.

About the Ban on ACORN Funding

Why does it matter whether the group is tied to ACORN?

ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, and several related organizations received the federal money in the form of federal grants, primarily to assist poor families who were going through housing foreclosure.

In all, ACORN received more than $48 million in taxpayer funding from 17 federal agencies in 2005 through 2009, according to the GAP report.

See also: Court Upholds Stripping ACORN Funding

But ACORN came under intense scrutiny from conservative activists and lawmakers in 2009 after evidence surfaced that employees of the group had fraudulently registered non-qualified voters in several states.

In addition, video footage from a Baltimore, Md., ACORN office showed community counselors advising people posing as a pimp and a prostitute on how to get a mortgage loan to open a brothel.

The controversies led directly to Congress voting, in September 2009, to cut off federal funding for ACORN, a move whose constitutionality was challenged but ultimately upheld by a federal court.

HUD Defends Grant to Group

In a statement to the media, the Department of Housing and Urban Development said the grant was designed "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."

"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." It was not, HUD said, associated with ACORN.

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