As I reported yesterday, federal investigators are recommending that government funding for ACORN‘s still operating housing affiliate be cut off immediately. In a recently completed probe, the inspector general for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) found that ACORN Housing (now renamed Affordable Housing Centers of America) appeared to have committed massive fraud against the taxpayers of the United States.
Investigators must have felt it was necessary to urge the funding cutoff because the federal government’s prohibition on funding ACORN isn’t a permanent ban. It exists at the whim of lawmakers and (because it was attached to annual appropriations bills) runs out at the end of this month. There is no indication currently that the federal ban on funding ACORN, whose last day in effect is Sept. 30, will be extended.
As of writing (Tuesday morning) spokesmen for the House and Senate appropriations committees told me they had no idea if the funding prohibition was going to be extended. Ellis Brachman, spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee said the Senate was taking the lead on the continuing resolution that will fund the government past Sept. 30. (Note: Inserting the ban into the continuing resolution would be the logical way to extend the ban.) John Bray, spokesman for the Senate Appropriations Committee, told me yesterday he had no idea if the ACORN funding ban would be extended and that he would get back to me. He hasn’t call me back.
Many Americans -and some lawmakers- seem to believe Congress cut off ACORN from any sort of funding permanently, but this belief appears to be unfounded.
This confusion about ACORN can probably be blamed in part on the quirks of parliamentary procedure and the complexity of the appropriations process. The legal language prohibiting the funding is contained in spending legislation that covers only the federal government’s current fiscal year which ends this Sept. 30. The House and the Senate first passed legislation banning funding for ACORN in fall 2009 after undercover videos showed ACORN Housing employees offering activists James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles “how to” advice on establishing a brothel, defrauding the government and banks, and evading other laws.
Mass media news reports rarely explain details of spending bills, such as when the fiscal year they cover comes to an end. But the fact that the funding ban is not permanent was noticed by ACORN lawyers and Judge Roger J. Miner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Miner wrote the court’s opinion in August that overturned Judge Nina Gershon’s perverse ruling that the funding ban was an unconstitutional “bill of attainder” that punished ACORN without a trial.
Public Law 111-68, signed by President Obama on Oct. 1, 2009, is formally known as “An Act making appropriations for the Legislative Branch for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2010, and for other purposes.” [emphasis added] Section 163 of the Act reads: “None of the funds made available by this joint resolution or any prior Act may be provided to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, or allied organizations.”
Similar de-funding language was included in other spending bills signed into law by President Obama that followed in the weeks after. All those bills covered federal spending only for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2010. (See Section 427 of Public Law 111-88; Division A – Section 418, Division B – Section 534, and Division E – Section 511 of Public Law 111-117; Section 8124 of Public Law 111-118.)
One bill pending in Congress would extend the funding ban but it’s not going anywhere. Section 417 of the Transportation-HUD appropriations bill for fiscal 2011 (S.3644) would prohibit funding of ACORN in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, 2010. It’s very unlikely that the bill will become law by Oct. 1; in other words, despite the earlier funding ban, ACORN is alive and kicking.