Repub­li­cans ask: How did ACORN get Home­land Se­cu­rity grant?

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY AU­DREY HUD­SON

Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials said Oct. 7 there is no chance that ACORN will get a Home­land Se­cu­rity grant it was awarded last month be­cause of a pro­vi­sion in a bill signed into law two weeks ago pro­hibit­ing any fed­eral fund­ing to the con­tro­ver­sial group.

Sev­eral mem­bers of Congress said they were pleased that ACORN will not get the money, which would have come from fund­ing typ­i­cally ear­marked for fire de­part­ments across the coun­try, but they ques­tioned why it had been awarded to ACORN in the first place. At least one also still wants of­fi­cial as­sur­ance of a per­ma­nent with­drawal of the $997,402 fire safety grant.

“We are per­plexed as to how this or­ga­ni­za­tion would even be con­sid­ered for a first-re­spon­der grant,” said a let­ter sent Oct. 7 to Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Janet Napoli­tano by Rep. Dar­rell Issa of Cal­i­for­nia, rank­ing Repub­li­can on the House Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Re­form Com­mit­tee, and Sen. Su­san Collins of Maine, rank­ing Repub­li­can on the Se­nate Home­land Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee.

The Wash­ing­ton Times re­ported er­ro­neously on Oct. 7 that the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency, which is part of Home­land Se­cu­rity, awarded the nearly $1 mil­lion grant to ACORN in spite of a clear sig­nal from Congress that it in­tended to cut off fund­ing to the group.

FEMA of­fi­cials said that the award was posted on the agency’s Web site Sept. 4, sev­eral days be­fore a widely pub­li­cized video sting prompted the House and Se­nate to vote to cut off fund­ing to the group.

FEMA spokesman Brent Col­burn told The Times that the agency acted to stop ACORN fund­ing af­ter the Sept. 30 pas­sage of a spending bill to fund gov­ern­ment op­er­a­tions.

“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,” ac­cord­ing to the bill that Pres­i­dent Obama signed into law.

“The group had not [cashed in the grant] and at that point we froze the money. [. . . ] The funds will never go to ACORN,” he said, adding that the agency thinks the bill per­ma­nently bars ACORN from re­ceiv­ing any gov­ern­ment fund­ing. He added that the grant was made orig­i­nally only af­ter “mem­bers of the fire­fight­ing com­mu­nity” led a re­view of it.

Sen. David Vit­ter, Louisiana Repub­li­can, said he was “glad that DHS has ‘frozen’ th­ese funds,” but said the grant still needed to be for­mally with­drawn. He said he fears that the pro­vi­sion will ex­pire along with the so-called con­tin­u­ing res­o­lu­tion that is part of the bill and lapses at the end of this month. The FEMA spokesman said the agency un­der­stands that the pro­vi­sion is per­ma­nent law.

Mr. Vit­ter com­plained about the grant in a Sept. 22 let­ter to Ms. Napoli­tano. On Sept. 17, Repub­li­can Reps. Gus Bili­rakis of Florida and Mike Rogers of Michi­gan also wrote Ms. Napoli­tano say­ing ACORN “has en­gaged in ques­tion­able, and in some cases un­law­ful be­hav­ior, and should not re­ceive fed­eral funds.”

“ACORN em­ploy­ees have been charged with voter fraud in mul­ti­ple states. In ad­di­tion, ACORN em­ploy­ees were re­cently caught on tape en­cour­ag­ing pros­ti­tu­tion, tax fraud and hu­man traf­fick­ing. This is not the type of or­ga­ni­za­tion to which scarce Home­land Se­cu­rity re­sources should be pro­vided,” Mr. Bili­rakis and Mr. Rogers said.

The Se­nate first voted on Sept. 14 to sus­pend all ACORN fund­ing, fol­lowed by a House vote on Sept. 17 to do the same. Mr. Issa and Ms. Collins called on Home­land Se­cu­rity In­spec­tor Gen­eral Richard Skin­ner to be­gin an im­me­di­ate in­ves­ti­ga­tion of all grants, con­tracts and other forms of as­sis­tance to ACORN.

“Ad­di­tion­ally, we ask that you de­ter­mine why ACORN, which does not pre­pare its staff in emer­gency man­age­ment, re­ceived first-re­spon­der grants that are more ap­pro­pri­ately given to ‘a firstre­spon­der or­ga­ni­za­tion,’ ” the law­mak­ers said.

“It is dis­turb­ing that ACORN was awarded a grant when fire de­part­ments all over the coun­try are strug­gling to make ends meet and get the equip­ment and train­ing they need to pro­tect their lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties,” Mr. Issa and Ms. Collins wrote. “A grant of nearly $1 mil­lion in Home­land Se­cu­rity fund­ing was awarded to ACORN, money that might have been awarded to fire de­part­ments.”

In ad­di­tion to the con­gres­sional action against the group, the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice has sus­pended ACORN from the agency’s vol­un­teer tax as­sis­tance pro­gram and the Cen­sus Bureau has barred the group from as­sist­ing with the 2010 cen­sus.

Jus­tice Depart­ment In­spec­tor Gen­eral Glenn Fine has opened an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the group at the re­quest of Congress to probe the use of fed­eral funds and pos­si­ble crim­i­nal vi­o­la­tions.

BAR­BARA L. SAL­IS­BURY/THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

KATIE FALKEN­BERG/THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

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