New testimony obtained by a consumer advocate group from former employees of ACORN paints a startling picture of the apparent misuse of taxpayer dollars to further the group’s left-wing political agenda.
Four former employees of ACORN and of ACORN Housing Corp. have supplied sworn affidavits to the Consumer Rights League that provide eyewitness accounts of how the two organizations have commingled funds and resources, in apparent violation of federal law.
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) bills itself as a non-partisan group, supported by tax-exempt contributions from individuals and corporations.
The ACORN Housing Corp. (AHC), an ACORN affiliate, receives more than 40 percent of its funding from government sources, ostensibly to promote affordable housing to low- and middle-income families.
But according to CRL, internal documents obtained from whistleblowers suggest that ACORN has failed to maintain the proper distinction between its tax-exempt housing work and its aggressive political activities.
“ACORN and its offshoots take in millions of dollars in government grants under the guise of ‘consumer advocacy’ to line their own pockets,” said Jim Terry, CRL’s chief public advocate.
The new testimony, from four former ACORN and AHC employees, provides “hard confirmation” that ACORN and its affiliate are in fact one in the same, Terry told Newsmax.
“Here are people who have been in the room, testifying to the criminal intent of the people involved” in shuffling ACORN resources from tax-exempt purposes to political activities, he said.
“Everything they do and say, with the exception of filing their government reports, treats this family of organizations as one cohesive unit. They operated as one organization, controlled from the top down,” Terry said.
One former employee, who was with ACORN for six years, including in a management position, testified that she has “knowledge that AHC has subsidized and believe that AHC continues to subsidize ACORN activities,” in apparent violation of the law.
“AHC subsidies to ACORN include office telephone service, fax, supplies and rental space paid for by AHC funds,” she added.
In addition, AHC management routinely treated federal grants as money that could be shared with ACORN, Terry told Newsmax.
“Between 2004 through 2006, AHC transferred $4.6 million to ACORN in grants and fees, according to their tax returns. This is inherently wrong.”
Since 40 percent of AHC funds came from government grants, that means that U.S. taxpayers were in effect paying for ACORN’s partisan political activities, he added.
AHC required employees to “solicit funds and cash from clients and real estate professionals to pay for AHC operations,” one of the whistleblowers said, detailing what amounted to a “shakedown” operation.
Another former AHC employee said he would testify in court to the fact that “AHC and ACORN have operated as one entity,” and quoted internal e-mails detailing how federal grants were shared between the organizations.
The whistleblowers also stated that:
AHC employees were instructed to hide documents from federal auditors with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
AHC employees were instructed on “steering” loans to partner banks, including Chase (for loans in the New Orleans area) and Bank of America for other areas around the country.
AHC National Field Director Lee Trujillo stated in the presence of several of these witnesses that “AHC and ACORN would be funded out of the same account.”
AHC and ACORN have also shared “voter initiative money.”
Internal AHC e-mails and other documents “clearly show that AHC is paying for lease space occupied by ACORN.”
All of these are potential violations of the laws governing non-profit organizations.
ACORN is currently under investigation for fraudulent voter registration and related activities in at least 11 key battleground states.
Election officials in several states have said that 50 percent of ACORN voter registrations are fictitious.
Just last week, for example, ACORN’s offices in Nevada were raided by state law enforcement officials after reports that ACORN had registered the starting lineup of the Dallas Cowboys to vote in Las Vegas.
In Connecticut, a 7-year-old girl was found to have been registered to vote by ACORN, which changed her age to 27.
ACORN announced last week that it had just completed “the largest, most successful nonpartisan voter registration drive in U.S. history,” by helping “1.3 million low-income, minority and young voters across the country register to vote.”
The group insisted that the allegations of voter fraud are “bogus,” and “aim to camouflage voter suppression,” a term used by many groups on the left to describe alleged police roadblocks in black neighborhoods in Florida during the 2000 campaign.
Despite a two-year investigation by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission under the direction of Jesse Jackson protégé Mary Frances Berry, not a single eyewitness stepped forward who could corroborate the allegations of voter suppression or police roadblocks in Florida during that election.
ACORN has paid more than 13,000 workers to sign up new voters this election season, and admits that “there are always some people who want to get paid without really doing the job.”
In any large voter registration operation, ACORN said last week, there will always be “a small percentage of workers who turn in bogus registration forms.” But discrepancies in voter registration documents “has nothing to do with ‘voter fraud,’” the group insisted.
AHC gets U.S. government grants to provide free advice and counseling services to low and mid-income consumers on how to qualify for a mortgage.
In the advice it offers consumers, AHC warns about “predatory” lending. And yet, CRL alleges in a report issued earlier this year that AHC engages in many of the same practices it condemns.
“ACORN’s ‘financial justice’ operations attack lenders for ‘exotic’ loans, but AHC has recommended ten-year interest-only loans (which deny equity to the buyer) and reverse mortgages (which can be detrimental to senior citizens),” the report states.
AHC also has worked to obtain mortgages for undocumented workers, and has advised intake officers to counsel consumers how to use “under the table” income not reported to the Internal Revenue Service in order to increase their borrowing ability.
ACORN has devoted $50 million to Project Vote activities in the current election cycle, primarily to register minority and low-income voters.
Barack Obama ran the Chicago branch of Project Vote in 1992, and soon afterwards began teaching classes for “Future Leaders Identified by ACORN.”
In 1995, Obama represented ACORN in a lawsuit against the state of Illinois for its supposed failure to implement the new “motor voter” law, the first piece of legislation signed by Bill Clinton after he became president in 1993.
In a statement now immortalized in a YouTube video, Obama promised ACORN and other community organizations in an Iowa presidential campaign forum for Democrats in December 2007 that if elected president, he would bring them into the White House to help shape the agenda of an Obama administration.
“[B]efore I even get inaugurated, during the transition, we’re going to be calling all of you in to help us shape the agenda. We’re going to be having meetings all across the country with community organizations so that you have input into the agenda for the next presidency of the United States of America,” Obama pledged.
ACORN endorsed Obama on Feb. 21, 2008, at the most critical point of the tough primary battle that pitted him against Hillary Clinton. Welcoming that endorsement, Obama said, “I’ve been fighting alongside ACORN on issues that you care about my entire career.”
But now that ACORN’s alleged voter fraud activities have become public, the Illinois senator has sought to distance himself from ACORN, just as he has from other former allies, such as the Rev. Jeremiah Wright or former wanted terrorist William Ayers.
His “fight the smears” Web site now has a statement claiming that “ACORN never hired Obama as a trainer, organizer, or any type of employee,” but acknowledged that he was hired by the organization in the 1995 lawsuit.
“Obama’s failure to disclose the true nature of his relationship with ACORN is very surprising and deeply troubling,” the John McCain campaign said in a press release last week.