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ACORN gets ‘vindicated’ by GAO, but remains in decline

A new government report may help restore ACORN’s tarnished reputation
but its release comes as the group is preparing to shutter its doors.

The
preliminary findings of a Government Accountability Office (GAO)
investigation indicate the controversial grass-roots organization did
not misuse the more than $40 million in taxpayer funds it received
between 2005-2009.

{mosads}ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis said the report provided vindication.

The
GAO report “does nothing more than add to the growing list of
government entities who have vindicated us,” she said in a statement.

“The
rush to judgment on our work and the political witch hunt led by
congressional Republicans was based solely on speculation and has been
exposed over and over again for the attempt to destroy an organization
that fights for the rights of our nation’s low-and-moderate income
families.”
 
The group, known formally as the Association of
Community Organizations for Reform Now, came into the crosshairs of
congressional Republicans after it boasted registering some 1.3 million
voters in key swing states that President Obama won in 2008.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has called ACORN “a wholly-owned
subsidiary of the Democratic Party.” In a statement last week, Issa
said the report left too many questions unanswered.

“This
preliminary report underscores the need for the continuation of the
current ban on federal funding for ACORN and its affiliates,” he
said. “ACORN simply should not receive taxpayer funding as a reward for
its criminal activities and illegal partisan political work.”

At its height, ACORN’s had a budget of close to $35 million, about
a third of which came from government grants. The rest came from the
dues of its 500,000 members and private donations. But last fall
Congress voted to defund ACORN amid allegations of voter registration
fraud in several states and widely circulated videos depicting what
appeared to be inappropriate behavior by employees of several local
ACORN chapters.

The group has since been in decline, shuttering its approximately
75 field offices as donors and members stopped giving. Lewis is now in
the process of winding down the group’s activities.

But the
report released last week “did not identify any problems with seven of
the eight grants” the group received from nine federal agencies between
2005-2009. The other grant, provided to ACORN Housing Corporation,
raised concerns because a “description of what it planned to
accomplish” with the funds wasn’t provided. That was later clarified,
according to the report.

Much of the government funding went to ACORN’s housing-related
activities — such as helping the poor achieve home ownership or fight
off foreclosure — but some grant money did help fund its voter
registration efforts.

The report confirmed there were five cases where an ACORN employee
pleaded guilty to charges of voter fraud. “Six cases were identified by
[the Department of Justice] involving voter registration fraud, with
all but one case resulting in guilty pleas,” the report states.

It’s the lingering concerns about voter fraud that are likely to prevent ACORN from making a comeback.

Democrats,
meanwhile, have stepped up their own voter registration effort. The
Democratic National Committee announced last week it was planning to
spend $20 million registering minorities, young and female voters this
cycle.

It remains to be seen whether the DNC can be as effective as what
had been one of the country’s largest grass-roots advocacy
organizations.

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