An eagerly anticipated ACORN report that whitewashes the group’s lawbreaking and corruption was unveiled yesterday. ACORN ordered the sham study as political cover in September after videos surfaced showing its employees abetting child prostitution.
I participated in listen-only mode in the teleconference call in which the allegedly independent “audit” was released. I regret it was difficult to make out what the players were saying. That’s because as the left ferociously circled the wagons, all the creaking wheel noises in the background drowned out much of what was said.
One the main points that ACORN ally/former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger (pictured above) and ACORN chief organizer Bertha Lewis were trying to make was that ACORN and ACORN Housing are separate entities.
Because ACORN Housing and ACORN are different organizations neither is responsible for the other, they argued. In other words, ACORN is not responsible for the ACORN Housing employees caught on video encouraging prostitution and tax fraud, and vice versa, they reasoned.
This is, of course, patent nonsense and rhetorical misdirection. So said Elizabeth Kingsley, ACORN’s lawyer, in an internal legal memo last year.
Kingsley faulted ACORN for “thinking of all these different corporations as part of the family.” ACORN affiliates “have wanted to maintain that they are not ‘affiliated,’ ‘related,’ or ‘controlled’ by or with each other, for various legal purposes, while allowing actual control to be exercised in a highly coordinated manner.” She criticized ACORN for “trying to pretend that these groups are not connected to one another.”
So much for the notion that ACORN’s affiliates, including ACORN Housing, are free of interference from above.
Tax liens pending against ACORN Housing provide more proof that it is run by ACORN headquarters. Currently, 25 tax liens pending against ACORN Housing list the organization’s address as 1024 Elysian Fields Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana, the former funeral home that until recently served as ACORN headquarters. Those 25 tax liens were issued by California, Indiana, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
Yet ACORN Housing says its home address is 209 West Jackson Boulevard in Chicago, Illinois.
ACORN Housing (AHC) has also been in trouble in the past for using government money for partisan activities.
“AmeriCorps members of AHC raised funds for ACORN, performed voter registration activities, and gave partisan speeches. In one instance, an AmeriCorps member was directed by ACORN staff to assist the [Clinton] White House in preparing a press conference in support of legislation.” (”Report on the Activities of the Committee on Economic and Educational Opportunities During the 104th Congress,” Report 104-875, January 2, 1997)
And while ACORN Housing may have helped some poor people obtain mortgages they otherwise wouldn’t have qualified, that help came at an enormous social cost.
That’s because it helped to convince banks to loosen underwriting standards for mortgages. ACORN Housing even bragged about strongarming banks into accepting food stamps as income on loan applications.
Financial tomfoolery like including food stamps on loan applications was encouraged by the Carter-era Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), which opened banking to ACORN-style agitation that over time weakened underwriting criteria and helped to alter the culture of financial institutions in the U.S. This 1977 law, whose enactment ACORN lobbied for, punishes lenders for limiting loans to wealthier, more creditworthy markets, a practice called “redlining.” It gives banking regulators discretionary authority to make trouble for banks that fail to lend enough money to “underserved” minority communities.
After the CRA went into effect, Saul Alinsky-inspired groups such as ACORN used the law to get into the shakedown business. Rev. Jesse Jackson egged them on at an ACORN “banking summit” in 1992, asking rhetorically, “Why did Jesse James rob banks? Because that’s where the money was.”
The shaking down of lenders intensified when then-Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin presided over the Clinton administration’s effort to put the CRA on steroids. Banks began to make risky subprime loans and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac aggregated them for sale in the secondary market as mortgage-backed securities. These practices made it easier for banks to give in to ACORN’s demands to originate more and more doomed mortgages because they knew they could offload their high-risk debt on quasi-governmental suckers Fannie and Freddie, which were under intense political pressure to service the subprime market.
In other words, ACORN Housing, which ACORN supporters now defend as a well-intentioned branch of the ACORN empire, bears partial responsibility for the subprime mortgage meltdown.
Don’t expect ACORN or Congress to actually investigate the activities shown in the undercover videos or the group’s culpability in the nation’s economic woes anytime soon.