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The untold story of the Obama Administration’s widely reported, $335 million discrimination settlement with Countrywide Financial Corporation is that, under a secret Justice Department program, a chunk of the money won’t go to the “victims” but rather leftist groups not connected to the lawsuit.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) will determine which “qualified organizations” get leftover settlement cash and Democrat-tied groups like the scandal-plagued Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and the open-borders National Council of La Raza (NCLR) stand to get large sums based on the hastily arranged deal which got court approval in just a few days.  

Judicial Watch has investigated this controversial arrangement and in 2010 sued the DOJ to obtain information about the policy directing big portions of cash settlements from its civil rights lawsuits to organizations not officially connected to the cases. In response to JW’s lawsuit, the DOJ was forced to acknowledge that it has no official guidelines regarding “qualified organizations” that get leftover settlement funds and that it doesn’t monitor how the money is used.  

In the Countrywide case, details of the unscrupulous arrangement are buried deep (page 10 of the 17-page settlement) in the court document where Bank of America’s Countrywide Financial Corporation agrees to pay to resolve allegations that it discriminated against qualified black and Hispanic borrowers. The lender denies all of the charges, but wanted to end the case and caved into the government’s terms.

Here’s a synopsis straight out of the court settlement; all money not distributed to allegedly aggrieved persons within 24 months shall be distributed to qualified organizations that provide services including credit and housing counseling, financial literacy and other related programs targeted at African-Americans and Hispanics. Recipients may include “non-profit community organizations that provide education, counseling and other assistance to low-income and minority borrowers…”

This language essentially comes from ACORN’s mission statement. The famously corrupt group has raked in tens of millions of taxpayer dollars over the years but a series of scandals involving misuse of public funds, embezzlement, intimidation tactics, employee abuse, questionable hiring tactics and fraudulent voter registrations led Congress to pass legislation prohibiting the federal government from funding ACORN. The group simply transformed into various “spinoffs” and affiliated organizations and continues to get public money. Read all about it in a special JW investigative report, “The Rebranding of ACORN.”

The NCLR also stands to get money under the Countrywide settlement because the influential Mexican La Raza group is tight with the president and offers Latinos “housing counseling” that’s previously been funded by Uncle Sam. A JW probe uncovered documents in June that reveal federal funding for the group has skyrocketed since one of its top officials— Cecilia Muñoz—got a job in the Obama White House. Keeping with the mutual praise, the NCLR quickly issued a press release commending the administration for holding Countrywide “accountable for targeting communities of color.”

The landmark deal is the largest residential fair-lending settlement in history and has been widely celebrated by liberal groups as well as various media outlets, some of which believe the punishment wasn’t harsh enough. One newspaper editorial called it a “pittance compared to the grievous harm the lender brought to families across the nation.”

The money is supposed to be distributed to more than 200,000 minority victims—nearly one-third of them in California—who took out home loans between 2004 and 2008. According to the DOJ they were charged higher interest rates and fees than white borrowers based on their race not their credit. Thomas Perez, head of the DOJ’s bloated civil rights division, called it “discrimination with a smile” because victims had no idea they were being victimized and instead were thrilled just to get a home loan and realize the American dream.

 

 

 

 

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed a lawsuit in April 2011, against Boeing, claiming that the company’s decision to open a Dreamliner production line in South Carolina was in retaliation against The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers for a series of union strikes that reportedly slowed production of the plane in 2008 in Washington State. Boeing claimed that the NLRB’s action represented radical departure from both NLRB and Supreme Court precedent. Through FOIA, Judicial Watch compelled the NLRB to produce documents demonstrating top NLRB officials cheerleading for union interests and indicating political motivation behind the NLRB’s action. The NLRB recently dropped its complaint following a settlement between Boeing and the International Association of Machinists.

Judicial Watch continues to investigate partisanship in Obama’s NLRB. Last year, President Obama bypassed the U.S. Senate and recess-appointed Craig Becker to head the NLRB’s five-member board. The Becker appointment was made after the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate refused to move forward on his confirmation. An ally of ACORN, Becker had previously worked for the SEIU and the AFL-CIO, major financial backers of Obama and the Democratic Party.

Documents related to a 2006 complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) about the Project Vote/ACORN collaboration during the 2004 campaign cycle. Includes the final draft version of a document by Brian Kettenring, Project Vote’s Head Organizer in Florida, which said that the ultimate goal of this campaign was to “defeat George W. Bush and other Republicans by increasing Democrat turnout in a close election…and…catalyze the construction of permanent progressive political infrastructure that will help redirect Florida politics in a more progressive, Democratic direction.”

The leftist Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and its affiliated organizations have been the subject of great controversy. Concerns have been raised about fraudulent voter registrations, intimidation tactics, involvement in the housing market meltdown, and a partnership with U.S. Census Bureau. Most importantly, Barack Obama has been closely linked to the organization. Judicial Watch is on the front lines investigating ACORN’s activities through the use of such tools as the Freedom of Information Act.

A Justice Department program that annually distributes hundreds of millions of dollars to combat juvenile delinquency is under fire for giving a famously corrupt leftist group—Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN)—money that was fraudulently spent.

It marks the latest of several controversies for the DOJ’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) which has managed to maintain a copious budget through the years despite multiple allegations of cronyism. During the George W. Bush Administration, the OJJDP was accused of giving money to politically-connected groups that didn’t necessarily meet the agency’s goals.

This week the DOJ Inspector General released a report that exposes corruption surrounding a $138,130 grant that OJJDP awarded to an ACORN branch in New York City. The audit found that there were internal control weaknesses, unsupported grant expenditures, lack of contractor monitoring, weaknesses in budget management, inadequate grant reporting, unmet conditions and deficiencies with the program’s overall performance.

The IG also describes the New York group as a “pass-through entity” for ACORN, the crooked nonprofit that’s raked in huge sums of taxpayer dollars over the years. In 2009 Congress actually passed a law (Defund ACORN Act) to ban federal funding for ACORN after a series of exposés about the group’s illegal activities, which include fraudulent voter registration drives and involvement in the housing market meltdown. The group also has close ties to President Barack Obama.

Earlier this year a Judicial Watch probe found that the Obama Administration violated the ban on federal funding for ACORN by giving the beleaguered group nearly $80,000 to “combat housing and lending discrimination” against minorities. After sorting through droves of government records, Judicial Watch investigators discovered that an ACORN affiliate in New Orleans, ACORN Housing Corporation Inc., got $79,819 as part of a larger $40 million allocation to “fair housing organizations” that educate the public and combat discrimination.

This year Judicial Watch also published a special report (“The Rebranding of ACORN”) about the organization’s transformation into various spinoffs and affiliated groups. Amid a massive fraud scandal and a series of criminal probes, ACORN supposedly dismantled but the reality is that it simply changed its name. For instance, under the rebranding New England United 4 Justice, ACORN has been one of the driving forces behind the movement to end economic segregation and social injustice in the U.S. (Occupy Wall Street).

 

A famously corrupt leftist community organization with deep ties to President Barack Obama is largely behind the national movement to “end economic segregation” and social injustice in the United States.Best known as Occupy Wall Street, the rowdy protests have received quite a bit of mainstream media coverage around the world. Besides New York, disruptive marches have been held in other major U.S. cities such as Los Angeles, Seattle, Miami and Boston and more are scheduled in the coming days.Among the goals is to get major banks to stop preying on the poor and people of color, according to the organizer of a Boston offshoot of an Occupy Wall Street rally. The event, promoted as Take Back Boston, was organized by dozens of local community groups that claim big banks have a pattern of pushing “bad loans on people of color and the poor.” As a result of the “predatory lending,” foreclosures have skyrocketed in urban communities, the organizers say.Among the Take Back Boston organizers is a spinoff of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). Amid a massive fraud scandal and a series of criminal probes, ACORN supposedly dismantled but the reality is that it simply changed its name. In fact, Judicial Watch recently published a special report(“The Rebranding of ACORN”) about the organization’s transformation into various spinoffs and affiliated groups.In this particular case, ACORN’s Boston office simply rebranded into New England United 4 Justice. Same crooked group with the same general mission and president, but a different name. Headed by Maude Hurd, the former president of ACORN and ACORN Housing, New England United 4 Justice promotes “social justice” for “low and moderate income families.” The group also seeks to educate the general public about social justice issues and the needs of poor and middle class families.This sort of rebranding has allowed ACORN to skirt a 2009 congressional ban on federal funding, consequence of its many transgressions. A few months ago a Judicial Watch investigation found the Obama Administration gave an ACORN reincarnation called Affordable Housing Centers of America (AHCOA) a $79,819 grant to “combat housing and lending discrimination.”

Scandal-Ridden Activist Group Lives on in the Form of “Bullet Proof Community-Organizing Frankensteins” Created Across the Country

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch, the public interest organization that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, today released “The Rebranding of ACORN,” a special report on the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) network, following an extensive investigation of the organization’s transformation into various “spinoffs” and affiliated organizations.

The ACORN-affiliated groups existing today are ACORN in all but name. These groups tend to occupy ACORN’s former offices, are staffed in many cases with former ACORN employees, and remain committed to ACORN’s mission. Judicial Watch has documented 17 ACORN-affiliated organizations in the following states/regions:  Arizona, Arkansas, California, District of Columbia, Florida, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, New England, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington.

Among the conclusions of Judicial Watch’s special report:

  • ACORN lives on in the form of numerous state entities and in such affiliated organizations as Affordable Housing Centers of America (AHCOA), The Advance Group, The Black Institute, and Project Vote.  In the words of Bertha Lewis, former chief executive officer of ACORN, “… these entities are carrying on ACORN’s work of organizing low- and moderate-income folks…  [We have created] bullet-proof community-organizing Frankensteins that they’re going to have a very hard time attacking.”
  • Tens of millions of dollars in ACORN’s funds and other assets are still unaccounted for.  The Louisiana attorney general’s office and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, as well as Judicial Watch, continue to investigate what happened to these missing resources.
  • Judicial Watch discovered that the Obama administration continues to bankroll ACORN and its affiliates in defiance of the federal government’s funding ban.  For example, on March 1, 2011, ACORN Housing Corporation ─ renamed Affordable Housing Centers of America (though it retained the same headquarters and many of the ACORN officers) ─ received a $79,819 grant from the Obama Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
  • ACORN’s Project Vote, President Obama’s former employer, remains active in trying to register a “Food Stamp Army” of voters on public assistance to re-elect Obama and other leftist candidates.  In Colorado, for instance, Judicial Watch uncovered documents proving that ACORN/Project Vote successfully pressured Colorado officials into implementing new policies for increasing the registration of public assistance recipients during the 2008 and 2010 election seasons.  After the policy changes, the percentage of fraudulent voter registration forms from Colorado public assistance agencies was  four times the national average.  Evidence suggests the Obama Justice Department might be partnering with Project Vote in this campaign.

At its peak, ACORN had over 400,000 members and 1,200 chapters in more 100 cities.  Linked to serious scandals involving misuse of taxpayer funds, embezzlement, intimidation tactics, employee abuse, questionable hiring tactics, and fraudulent voter registrations, ACORN’s corrupt activities finally caught the attention of the American public and members of Congress, the final blow coming after explosive journalist videos were released showing ACORN employees advising undercover reporters on how to evade taxes, as well as immigration, housing, and child prostitution laws.

After the videos “went viral,” in October 2009, Congress passed and President Obama signed into law the Defund ACORN Act which effectively prohibited the federal government from funding “ACORN and any ACORN-related affiliate.”  ACORN subsequently filed for bankruptcy on November 2, 2010.   Long before its bankruptcy filing, however, ACORN’s leadership implemented a plan to ensure the survival of ACORN as independent state corporations and affiliated organizations.  The Judicial Watch report provides details on the individual organizations and their officers.

“As this report clearly shows, rumors of ACORN’s demise are vastly overstated.  The ACORN network, especially its partner in crime Project Vote, is alive and well and operating across the country,” said Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton.  “The Obama, administration, sure enough, has begun funding the ACORN housing group in violation of the law.  We fear a taxpayer-funded repeat of the ACORN/Project Vote voter registration scandal in 2012.”

Barack Obama served as the Illinois executive director of the ACORN partner Project Vote in 1992. His campaign paid more than $800,000 to an ACORN organization to help “get out the vote” in his successful primary campaign against then-Sen. Hillary Clinton in 2008.  In November 2007, then-Senator Obama addressed ACORN and thanked the organization for its work: “I’ve been fighting alongside ACORN on issues you care about my entire career. Even before I was an elected official, when I ran Project Vote voter registration drive in Illinois, ACORN was smack dab in the middle of it, and we appreciate your work.”

“Barack Obama is truly ‘the president from ACORN,’” added Tom Fitton.

To review the comprehensive report by Judicial Watch entitled “The Rebranding of ACORN,” please visit www.judicialwatch.org

 

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Is the Justice Department Partnering with Scandal-plagued Project Vote ?

Contact Information:
Press Office 202-646-5172, ext 305g

Washington, DC — August 24, 2011

Judicial Watch, the organization that investigates and fights government corruption, announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit on August 19, 2011, against the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to obtain records related to the agency’s communications with Estelle Rogers, a former ACORN attorney currently serving as Director of Advocacy for the ACORN-connected organization Project Vote, President Obama’s former employer (Judicial Watch v. Department of Justice (No. 11-1497)). Judicial Watch is investigating the extent to which the DOJ and Project Vote are partnering on a national campaign to use the National Voting Rights Act (NVRA) to register more individuals on public assistance, widely considered a key voting demographic for the Obama 2012 campaign.
Pursuant to a Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed on June 23, 2011, Judicial Watch seeks the following: “All records of communications between the Department of Justice and Estelle Rogers, Director of Advocacy for Project Vote. The timeframe for this request is January 2, 2009, to June 23, 2011.”According to federal law, the DOJ was required to respond to Judicial Watch’s June 23, 2011, FOIA request within 30 working days, or by August 5, 2011. U.S. Postal Service records indicate the DOJ received Judicial Watch’s request on June 28, 2011. As of the lawsuit’s filing, the DOJ has failed to produce the records requested or respond with a date they will be forthcoming.As Director of Advocacy for Project Vote, Estelle Rogers – a former attorney for ACORN, which was besieged with charges of corruption before declaring bankruptcy in November 2010 – is a primary contact person on policy matters at Project Vote on both state and federal levels and has been actively involved in voter registration issues. By threatening lawsuits under Section 7 of the NVRA, Project Vote has aggressively sought to force election officials in various states to increase the registration of people receiving public assistance. (Under Section 7, states are required to offer voter registration services at all public assistance agencies, including unemployment offices and food stamp offices.)On August 4, 2011, Judicial Watch released documents obtained from the Colorado Department of State showing that ACORN and Project Vote successfully pressured Colorado officials into implementing new policies for increasing the registration of public assistance recipients during the 2008 and 2010 election seasons. Following the policy changes, the percentage of invalid voter registration forms from Colorado public assistance agencies was four times the national average. Project Vote also sought a “legislative fix” to allow people without a driver’s license or state identification to register to vote online.Project Vote and the “community organization” ACORN have both been linked to serious incidents of voter registration fraud. In fact, Project Vote’s “Field Director,” Amy Busefink, who handled the online registration campaign for Colorado, entered an Alford plea to two gross misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to commit the crime of compensation for registration of voters in Nevada while working for ACORN. (An Alford plea is a guilty plea, where the defendant does not admit the act or assert innocence, but admits that sufficient evidence exists with which the prosecution could likely convince a judge or jury to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.)In addition to pursuing public agency registration cases in Missouri, Ohio, Indiana, Georgia and New Mexico, Project Vote also filed a lawsuit on April 19, 2011, in partnership with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), against the State of Louisiana alleging violations of the NVRA. Less than three months later, on July 12, the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division/Voting Section sued Louisiana on the same grounds, claiming that “Louisiana officials have not routinely offered voter registration forms, assistance and services to the state’s eligible citizens who apply, recertify or provide a change address for public assistance or disability services.”The DOJ sued the State of Rhode Island on March 11, 2011, alleging violations of the NVRA. The lawsuit led to policy changes intended to increase the number of voter registration applications processed by “public assistance and disability service officers.” These two lawsuits, filed within five months of each other, are the first such lawsuits filed by the DOJ since 2007.Barack Obama has deep connections to Project Vote. He served as the Illinois Executive Director of Project Vote in 1992. His campaign paid more than $800,000 to an ACORN organization to help “get out the vote” in his successful primary campaign against then-Sen. Hillary Clinton.“Judicial Watch is convinced that Project Vote’s activities remain a threat to the integrity of our elections. The fact that Project Vote is bullying states to attack election security reforms in order to register Obama’s ‘Food Stamp Army’ comes as no surprise. But it appears that the Obama Justice Department is using the same playbook as Project Vote – to the detriment of clean elections. The American people deserve to know if the nation’s highest law enforcement agency has become nothing more than a political tool to help this scandalous ACORN-front group re-elect Barack Obama. Again, this Justice Department can’t seem to be bothered to comply with basic open records FOIA law,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

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