VADUM: ACORN sprouts new branches

Common-sense court decision still leaves its core intact

It looks like the congenitally corrupt, still-operating Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) won’t be getting any more U.S. tax dollars - for the time being.

That’s because in a startlingly unusual victory for common sense, a federal appeals court slapped down a bizarre ruling by Brooklyn-based federal Judge Nina Gershon. The life-tenured judge had determined that the U.S. government’s spending power belongs to federal judges now, regardless of what that quaint little document called the U.S. Constitution says. Judge Gershon ruled that Congress had violated ACORN’s “rights” and passed an unconstitutional “bill of attainder” punishing ACORN without trial when it decided to stop funding the group.

But the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Aug. 13 that Judge Gershon had overreached. The appellate court found that the “withholding of appropriations” is not punishment. “Congress’s decision to withhold funds from ACORN and its affiliates constitutes neither imprisonment, banishment, nor death,” the three-judge panel wrote. “In comparison to penalties levied against individuals, a temporary disqualification from funds or deprivation of property aimed at a corporation may be more an inconvenience than punishment.”

ACORN had launched the lawsuit challenging its congressional defunding on the advice of longtime ACORN ally Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat, who urged ACORN’s New York-based attorney Arthur Z. Schwartz to fight the cutoff in court. As chairman of a House Judiciary subcommittee, Mr. Nadler repeatedly has refused calls to investigate ACORN. He even turned down a probe request from the full committee’s chairman, Rep. John Conyers, Michigan Democrat.

The fact that ACORN won’t be getting more federal funding won’t have much impact on its operations because it never relied heavily on government funding. Most of its $100 million-plus annual budget comes from membership dues, foundation grants, corporate shakedowns and unknown sources.

Despite dissolving its national infrastructure and laying off most its staff, ACORN continues to operate below the radar. It plans to resurface under a new name after the upcoming elections, according to John Atlas, who recently wrote an institutional hagiography of ACORN titled “Seeds of Change.” In the meantime, ACORN has rebranded its local operations in at least 13 states and the District of Columbia. Significantly, the state chapters are obtaining nonprofit status on their own as advocacy groups under Section 501c4 of the tax code. This is key because 501c4 status allows the new entities to largely conceal their financial activities.

One of ACORN’s most active renamed state chapters is in Missouri. Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE) is led by veteran ACORN organizer Jeff Ordower. MORE is doing its part to sabotage the banking system by demanding a moratorium on mortgage foreclosures that banks need to carry out in order to remain solvent and in business. On July 21, the same day President Obama signed a sweeping financial regulatory bill into law, MORE incited a near-riot at a Chase bank office in a St. Louis suburb. Activists screamed “Predatory lender, criminal offender!” and demanded that banks not foreclose on defaulted mortgages. MORE also was trying to shake down Chase for some more money. JPMorgan Chase Foundation has given ACORN affiliates at least $7.6 million since 1998.

ACORN’s fraud-prone voter-registration-and-mobilization branch, Project Vote, continues to operate and is gearing up for the November elections. Project Vote, which employed President Obama in his youthful organizing days, continues to operate undisturbed, conducting business as usual.

ACORN’s housing-bubble generator, ACORN Housing, changed its name to Affordable Housing Centers of America after undercover conservative videographers recorded its employees offering advice last year on the finer points of prostitution, tax evasion, government grant fraud, money laundering and smuggling illegal immigrants. According to Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is investigating ACORN Housing, which is the main gateway through which federal taxpayer funds flow to the far reaches of the ACORN network. During the Clinton administration, ACORN Housing used AmeriCorps resources to promote partisan objectives.

It’s unclear if much will come of the probe by HUD, which has a long history of working with ACORN, regardless of which party controls the White House. The current HUD secretary, Shaun Donovan, worked closely with ACORN for five years on several projects as New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s housing development commissioner. Not surprisingly, HUD is stonewalling this writer’s five-month-old Freedom of Information Act request for correspondence between Mr. Donovan and ACORN.

ACORN is an inheritor of the teachings of radical community organizing guru Saul Alinsky and Marxist academics Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven, known for the Cloward-Piven Strategy of forcing radical change by placing impossible demands on government. They counseled patience in the long war against America’s limited government traditions. ACORN was an excellent pupil. It won’t be going away any anytime soon.

Matthew Vadum is a senior editor at Capital Research Center.

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