Barney Frank, D-Mass: Time to de-fund ACORN

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Just as the IRS cut its ties to ACORN, House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., released a statement regarding the Sept. 17 House vote to defund ACORN, in which he did not participate.

Frank's tenor in the statement that follows is certainly different from the one he adopted in May, when Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn. attempted to de-fund the group. At that time, Frank took the position that a mere indictment was not sufficient grounds for withholding funds.

A number of factors, one of which in particular is my own fault, have contributed to my position on ACORN being unclear. My biggest error was to sign a letter to the Congressional Research Service which I had not thoroughly read and which does not accurately represent my own position in all aspects.

Part of the confusion arose from the fact that I had to miss the vote on the motion to cut off funding for ACORN because I was about to enter the White House for a ceremony in which a soldier who had lived in my district before his tragic death was posthumously being awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama. And through a misunderstanding with a member of my staff, it was incorrectly reported that I said I would have voted against the motion to defund ACORN. In fact, I would have voted for the motion at that time. I am very disappointed in the actions that were taken by members of ACORN, and I do not believe that ACORN’s response has been adequate for an organization that has received public funding.

There are questions about the constitutionality of Congress passing a law that singles out one organization, but the basic principle that ACORN should not now be receiving public funding is an important one. I have therefore urged the Obama administration to withhold any additional funding for ACORN at least until there is very firm evidence that the abuses of which ACORN members have been guilty have not only ceased, but that procedures are in place to prevent them from happening again…

While I share, as I have indicated, the criticism of ACORN, I very much disagree with the partisanship that has entered into this. ACORN was the recipient of funding throughout the Bush administration, with $14.2 million going from the Bush administration to ACORN through HUD. And I can attest that this was an entirely Executive Branch decision: No congressional action in any way, shape or form required that any of these funds go to ACORN as opposed to other organization. And I do not remember during the period from 2001 to 2006 when the Republicans controlled the White House, HUD, the House and the Senate, and ACORN was receiving millions of dollars, any Republican objection to this.

The wild claims that ACORN is the potential beneficiary of billions of dollars in programs voted by Congress is similarly a sad example of excessive partisanship. At no point has the House voted to direct any funds to ACORN. We have passed programs to provide funding for housing counseling, and for the acquisition of foreclosed property by cities. ACORN has never been mentioned in these. It is true that, for example during the Bush administration, ACORN received millions of dollars from HUD for housing counseling. But I do not think that ACORN has received any funding for the purchase of foreclosed property, which in any case would have been the decision of state and local governments, which are the dispensers of these funds.

It is important for the public to know, given what has been made public about these activities, what funds ACORN has received, under what authority, in what administration etc. It was for that reason that I signed the letter of request and I will continue to press for that information. I have asked Subcommittee Chairman Dennis Moore of the Oversight Committee of the Committee on Financial Services to be ready to hold a hearing on this question when those figures are made available to us. And I reiterate that my own view is that the appropriate response here would be to have the Obama administration continue what it began with regard to the Census and withhold any funding or authority from ACORN pending a very serious examination of their past behavior and significant changes regarding the future.

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