GAO tells Smith, Issa it will probe ACORN

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has informed two House Republicans that it will investigate ACORN’s use of federal funds.

The GAO sent a letter to Reps. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, and Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the ranking member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, informing them of its decision. Smith and Issa on Thursday released the letter, dated Dec. 7.

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“GAO accepts your request as work that is within the scope of its authority,” wrote Ralph Dawn, managing director of GAO’s government relations department.

Dawn also noted that in September, Issa, Smith and 20 members of the Senate, as well as Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), requested the GAO investigation.

Issa applauded the GAO for looking into the ACORN controversy.

“ACORN’s criminal acts over many years have robbed taxpayers and charitable donors of the honest public services ACORN was paid to provide,” he said. “This GAO study should be another step toward understanding the scope of funds from across the federal government that were sent to ACORN yet cannot be verified that they were used as intended.”

Smith said the GAO probe is a “good start” but called on the FBI to launch its own investigation, considering the large number of criminal allegations related to ACORN that have surfaced in recent months.


“The GAO review is a good start, but given ACORN’s extensive record of criminal conduct, the FBI must also step in,” he said. “Only an independent criminal investigation conducted by the FBI can get to the bottom of the nationwide allegations against ACORN.”
 
ACORN is under investigation in more than a dozen states. Many members of the organization and its affiliates have been convicted of criminal conduct, including voter registration fraud.
 
Congress voted to prohibit ACORN from receiving government grant money after the organization came under fire mid-year for a string of embarrassing scandals, including the disclosure by conservative activists of video showing ACORN counselors encouraging criminal conduct by providing mortgage advice to people posing as a pimp and a prostitute interested in setting up a brothel.

Last week, a federal court struck down the congressional ban on ACORN grants, saying the prohibition amounted to an unconstitutional bill of attainder, a legislative determination of guilt without trial because it targeted one group for punishment. Smith and Issa have called on the Justice Department to appeal the decision.

Justice Department attorneys filed papers Thursday in federal court arguing for a reversal of the judge's ruling last week.

This article was updated at 6:13 p.m.