Justice starts ACORN probe


The move comes in response to an inquiry from  Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee.

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Republicans continue to hammer ACORN after their victory last week in cutting off federal funds to the community organization. The House added a provision to a Democratic college-lending bill that prohibited federal funds for ACORN. It was approved on a bipartisan vote of 345-75.

Inspector General Glenn Fine on Monday wrote Smith to confirm plans to look into whether the group received any DOJ funds.

“Your letter asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Inspector General (OIG) to investigate whether ACORN applied for or received any DOJ grant funds, and if so, did DOJ conduct any audits or reviews of ACORN’s use of such funds,” he wrote. “I am writing to inform you that the OIG plans to open a review into this matter.”

Reacting to Fine’s letter, Smith said he was pleased that Fine is trying to find out if any money allocated to support law enforcement was instead used to support criminal activity.

“As the primary federal law enforcement agency, the Justice Department has a responsibility to ensure that no organization receiving federal funds ignores our nation’s laws.

Since 1994, the group has received an estimated $53 million in federal aid. The DOJ is charged with overseeing the nation’s election process and doles out billions in grant funds, some of which are directed to organizations involved in election-monitoring.

Smith also renewed Republican calls for a full FBI investigation into ACORN’s activities.

“It is clear that ACORN has fostered a culture of corruption. With investigations of ACORN now occurring in 20 states, it is time for the FBI to open up a full-scale investigation into possible criminal conduct by ACORN.”

In addition, Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), the top Republican on the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the ranking member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, on Monday called on seven inspectors general to determine whether they have given money to ACORN, and if so, how that money was used.

The letters were sent to inspectors general at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Small Business Administration, the Federal Election Commission, the Treasury Department, the Elections Assistance Commission, the Department of Labor and the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Issa also has called on Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) to hold hearings on ACORN.

Republicans and conservative media outlets have been scrutinizing ACORN’s activities — especially regarding voter registration and election activities — since the 2008 presidential campaign. The matter escalated a week and a half ago when some ACORN workers were videotaped offering tax and other advice to conservative activists posing as people interested in establishing a prostitution business.