President Obama’s choice to head the scandal-plagued Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) misspent that agency’s funds—allocated to improve low-rent properties—as mayor of San Antonio, according to a federal audit.
Nevertheless if the president has his way, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro may soon be in charge of the agency whose millions his city evidently misused. This means President Obama has picked yet another winner to join his cabinet. A political news site broke the story this week, but don’t expect the mainstream media to bother covering it. They’re too busy drooling over stories of another Mexican-American running the monstrous agency that aims to create inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all.
The last Mexican-American mayor of San Antonio who ran HUD pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about payments to a mistress. His name was Henry Cisneros and he was appointed by Bill Clinton. Actually HUD has been rocked by a number of scandals—under both Democrat and Republican administrations—over the years. George W. Bush’s HUD secretary, Alphonso Jackson, was forced to resign in the midst of a federal investigation involving cronyism. Ronald Reagan’s HUD secretary, Samuel Pierce, was embroiled in an influence-peddling scandal that saw 16 people, including some of his top aides at the agency, convicted.
Under Obama the agency has maintained this high standard of corruption, by among other things, violating a federal funding ban for the fraud-infested Association of Community for Reform Now (ACORN). After a series of exposés about the leftwing group’s illegal activities Congress imposed the ban to stop the massive flow of taxpayer dollars that for years filled its coffers. Nevertheless, a Judicial Watch investigation found that HUD continued giving the group tens of thousands of dollars to “combat housing and lending discrimination.”
Under Obama HUD has also launched a number of controversial programs, including a special initiative to help illegal immigrants throughout the United States. HUD also intervened against Arizona’s strict immigration control law by warning that federal housing obligations prohibit “discrimination against protected class members.” The agency even deployed its assistant secretary to intercept a Fremont Nebraska measure banning illegal aliens from renting in its jurisdiction.
Then there’s the contentious St. Paul, Minnesota case in which the agency unscrupulously meddled with a local issue in the name of race. In an effort to maintain its neighborhoods, the city improved housing enforcement by targeting landlords with a history of violations. A minority contractor claimed that the new code enforcement measures reduced the availability of low-income rentals, causing a disparate impact upon African-Americans. St. Paul got slammed with federal lawsuits and the U.S. Supreme Court was expected to hear the case, but the city backed down amid intense federal pressure. Judicial Watch has sued HUD for records that will shed light on how the Obama administration improperly and successfully pressured St. Paul city officials to take the extremely rare action of withdrawing a Supreme Court appeal.
Castro, the keynote speaker at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, is undoubtedly expected to keep the Obama administration tradition of playing the race card. In his third term as San Antonio mayor, the 39-year-old is considered a rising star in his party. Castro’s twin brother, Joaquin Castro, represents Texas’s 20th district in the U.S. House of Representatives. Last summer the nation’s future Housing Secretary said that amnesty would be an urban stimulus as undocumented residents become normal participants in local economies. Legalizing illegal aliens will make communities safer, Castro said, and will boost local and national economies.
Judicial Watch, Allied Educational Foundation File Amicus Curiae Brief Challenging HUD Disparate Impact Racial Regulation
Brief argues HUD regulation “attempts to further enshrine the intellectually impoverished concept of race into law”
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it has joined with the Allied Educational Foundation (AEF) in filing an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbiain support of the insurance industry lawsuit challenging the Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) policy of enforcing disparate impact liability under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), even in instances where there is no direct evidence of discriminatory intent.
Under the theory of “disparate impact,” a defendant can be held liable for discrimination for a race-neutral policy that statistically disadvantages a specific minority group even if that negative “impact” was neither foreseen nor intended. In such cases, defendants can be forced to pay for harm caused not by their own actions, but by economic and statistical realities, even if beyond their control.
Specifically, Judicial Watch argues that the HUD disparate impact regulation violates both the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) (restricting federal agencies from exceeding the powers given to them by statute) and the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause. According to the amicus brief:
I. HUD’s Rule Violates the Administrative Procedures Act
Section 804(a) of the FHA does nothing more than make it unlawful to “refuse to sell or rent after the making of a bona fide offer, or to refuse to negotiate for the sale or rental of, or otherwise make unavailable or deny, a dwelling to any person because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin.” The phrase “because of race” conveys the fact that race must be the reason (or at least a reason) for the refusal. Accordingly, under the statute’s plain text, there must be an intent to discriminate against a member of one of the named classes in order for the action to be unlawful. HUD’s interpretation is inconsistent with the plain meaning of the statute, and so the regulation must be stricken.
II. Any Interpretation of the FHA That Would Allow HUD’s Rule Would Violate the Equal Protection Clause
Any interpretation of the FHA Section 804(a) which allows HUD’s regulation would render the FHA unconstitutional … HUD’s interpretation of the FHA would be unlikely to survive strict scrutiny, as the Supreme Court does not view “racial balancing” as a compelling state interest. In fact, the Supreme Court has found quite the opposite: “At the heart of the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection lies the simple command that the Government must treat citizens as individuals, not as simply components of a racial, religious, sexual or national class.”
Warning that HUD’s “unlawful action poses a serious threat to the rule of law,” ” the Judicial Watch/AEF brief argues:
HUD’s broad, race-based housing regulation is especially harmful because it attempts to further enshrine the intellectually impoverished concept of race into law, and seeks to use the law to perpetuate a culture of racial politics in the housing market, and more broadly, in American public life. Such actions will serve to increase racial polarization and resentment in this country, perpetuating our domestic focus on ‘racial’ issues, and inevitably prolonging the misconception that a person’s ‘race’ is a useful distinction for judging who a person is and what they are entitled to.
Judicial Watch previously has gone to court three times in its efforts to expose and oppose the Obama administration’s illicit racial policies. On November 2, 2012, it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against HUD seeking documents relating to possible collusion between the Obama administration and the city of St. Paul, MN, in withdrawing a disparate impact appeal pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. On September 3, 2013, it filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court on behalf of the township of Mt. Holly, New Jersey, arguing that the FHA prohibits only disparate treatment, not alleged discriminatory intent. And on September 24, it filed a Freedom of Information (FOIA) lawsuit against HUD for all records of communications regarding two disparate impact housing discrimination lawsuits, Magner v. Gallagher and the Township of Mt. Holly v. Mt. Holly Gardens Citizens Association. Mount Holly like Magner, was withdrawn from the Supreme Court docket before arguments could be heard.
“The Obama administration wants, in the words of this brief, ‘to perpetuate a culture of racial politics in the housing market, and more broadly, in American public life,’ said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The Obama administration’s race card is dangerous and detrimental to the basic concept of equal justice under law.”
Top HUD official transferred more than $200,000 from ACORN spin-off AHCOA for activities of “former AHCOA affiliates”
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch, announced today that it has obtained documents from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) revealing that on February 12, 2013, HUD Assistant Secretary for Office of Housing Counseling Sarah Gerecke may have violated federal law by requesting that $201,222.07 be transferred from the account of the defunct Affordable Housing Centers of America (AHCOA), an ACORN spin-off, to HUD intermediary Mission for Peace “to specifically pay for the activities of former AHCOA affiliates.”
According to the documents, obtained pursuant to a Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed on May 16, 2013, the Gerecke memo requesting the transfer appears to have been in violation of the first continuing resolution of FY 13. That resolution continued funding levels under the FY 2012 appropriations bills, which provided that no HUD funds “made available under this Act may be distributed to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) or its subsidiaries.”
The Gerecke memo sent to Assistant Secretary for Housing-Federal Housing Commissioner Carol J. Galante, an Obama appointee, through Acting General Deputy Assistant Secretary of Housing Laura M. Marin stated:
In March 2012, HUD’s Program Support Division (PSD) received notice that Affordable Housing Centers of American (AHCOA) had closed and would no longer participate in the HUD Housing Counseling Program. Upon closing, AHCOA had a balance of $201,222.07 in its account.
The Office of Housing Counseling (OHC) is requesting to transfer, under the ‘replacement grant” rule, the AHCOA balance of $201,222.07 to MOP to specifically pay for the activities of the former AHCOA affiliates. PSD met with the Office of the General Counsel and the Office of Budget and Field Resources to confirm transfer was allowable.
According to records obtained by Judicial Watch dated February 19, 2013, the funds were to be transferred to Mission of Peace President and CEO Reverend Elmira Smith-Vincent in Flint, Michigan. A Line of Credit Control System Treasury Detail memo obtained by Judicial Watch confirmed that the transfer had been made on February 25, 2013.
After a series of scandals triggered the collapse of ACORN in late 2009, what was previously called ACORN Housing was renamed Affordable Housing Centers of America in early 2010. Former ACORN Housing president Alton Bennett retained the same position with AHCOA, as did executive director Mike Shea and vice president Dorothy Amadi. Public affairs director Bruce Dorpalen was formerly ACORN Housing’s loan director.
Months later, in April 2010, California Rep. Darrell Issa, then the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, issued a Committee investigative report stating, “Committee investigators have discovered that Affordable Housing Centers of America, Inc. maintains the same Tax Identification Number as ACORN Housing, Inc., its predecessor. This means that, for tax purposes, Affordable Housing Centers of America and ACORN Housing are the same.” According to Fox News, Issa later said, “Just as criminals change their aliases, ACORN is changing its name. But make no mistake about it, just because they change their name, doesn’t mean anything has really changed at all.”
In a September 21, 2010, a HUD Inspector General report noted that ACORN Housing, “now operating as Affordable Housing Centers of America misappropriated funds from a $3,252,399 federal grant.” Despite this finding, the GAO issued a conflicting advisory opinion saying that AHCOA was not, for the purposes of the funding ban, a subsidiary of ACORN. NeighborWorks America, a taxpayer-funded private/public entity, concluded that giving taxpayer funds to the ACORN-front would be in violation of federal law.
“Barack Obama is truly the president from ACORN – as this illegal funding by his administration of these ACORN fronts shows,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “And at the same time we learn that the Obama administration is unleashing a vast new federal program to force ‘low-income’ housing into every single community in America, we find out that HUD is continuing illegally to fund ACORN spin-offs committed to carrying out Obama’s dictums. This is not a coincidence.”
In August 2011, Judicial Watch released a special report on ACORN spin-offs entitled “The Rebranding of ACORN.” The report concluded, “What was previously called ACORN Housing was renamed Affordable Housing Centers of America … New and existing ACORN ‘spin-offs’ are alive and well and will surely continue to flaunt state and federal laws … In the words of [former chief executive officer of ACORN] Bertha Lewis, ‘[We have created] 18 bulletproof community-organizing Frankensteins that they’re going to have a very hard time attacking.’”
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a lawsuit (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (No. 1:12-cv-01785)) on November 2, 2012, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to force compliance with an April 4, 2012, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for documents relating to possible collusion between the Obama administration and the city of St. Paul, MN, in withdrawing a “disparate impact” appeal pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. HUD has refused all JW FOIA requests for public records, even after JW paid in advance for the information.
The disparate impact case arose from a lawsuit by a St. Paul minority contractor claiming that the city’s targeted enforcement of the city’s housing code against rental units reduced the availability of low-income rentals, with a disparate impact upon African-Americans. The Eighth Circuit found in the contractor’s favor, after which the city appealed to the Supreme Court. Generally speaking, under a disparate impact analysis, an entity can be found to have engaged in discriminatory activity for practices that merely have a “disparate impact” on protected minorities, irrespective of any intentional bias.
The Obama DOJ then intervened, apparently persuading St. Paul to take the extraordinary step of withdrawing its cert petition from the Supreme Court docket. On February 13, the Wall Street Journal reported that various federal officials had asked the City of St. Paul to withdraw its petition for certiorari in a controversy that had already been slated for argument before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Obama administration’s concern, explained the article, was that a legal theory known as “disparate impact” might either: 1) harden into law as used by the landlords who had won at the state level or 2) be eviscerated entirely. Apparently, several federal agencies that rely on that legal theory to secure out-of-court settlements in the consumer lending and family housing arena were reluctant to risk a change in the legal landscape. The next day, the parties to Magner v. Gallagher withdrew their case by mutual consent.
Judicial Watch separately obtained documents under the Minnesota Data Practices Act, showing that St. Paul City Attorney Sara Grewing arranged a meeting between the chief of DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, Tom Perez, and Mayor Chris Coleman a week before the city’s withdrawal from the case, captioned Magner v. Gallagher. Following Perez’s visit, the city withdrew its case and thanked DOJ and officials at HUD for their involvement.
On April 4, Judicial Watch sent a FOIA request to the DOJ and HUD seeking access to the following:
- All communications with or about St. Paul, Minnesota, its residents, landlords, low-income properties or employees, specifically those exchanges:
a. relating to the city’s recent petition for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court, including the petition’s withdrawal in February 2012;
b. regarding “disparate impact” theory or analysis in the housing, landlord-tenant, or mortgage arena;
c. involving any member of the U.S. Senate’s Democratic Policy & Communications Committee, the House Democratic Caucus, or the White House, and their respective staffs; and,
d. involving third parties such as the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Thomas Goldstein, orWalter Mondale and their respective staffs;
2. All invoices for travel, food, lodging, communications, or entertainment expenses incurred in connection with any “disparate impact” lawsuit against St. Paul, Minnesota.
In filing its FOIA request, JW requested a waiver of both search and duplication fees, citing its role as a member of the news media. On June 11, 2012, HUD denied JW’s waiver request, informing JW that it would be required to pay a $1,024.43 fee before HUD would release any records.
On June 21, 2012, JW appealed HUD’s denial of a waiver request. On July 23, HUD denied JW’s appeal, and on July 31, JW paid the waiver fee in full.
Despite payment in full, and despite repeated inquiries from JW about the status of its FOIA request, HUD has continued to refuse to release of the documents requested by JW.
“We have reason to believe that the Obama administration improperly and successfully pressured St. Paul city officials to take the extremely rare action of withdrawing an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The Obama administration and its liberal activist allies are desperate to protect their ability to use the discredited ‘disparate impact’ legal standard in lawsuits in order to shakedown businesses and reward allies.”
In its quest to bring poor minorities the same quality of medical care as their wealthier, white counterparts the Obama Administration has launched a “coordinated federal action plan to reduce racial and ethnic asthma disparities.”
As the election nears, the new government task force will show Americans how the president is working to close the racial/ethnic gap on asthma, a disease it claims disproportionately affects minority children and kids living below the poverty level. In announcing the new multi-agency task force recently, the administration reveals that the asthma rates of African American and Puerto Rican children are more than double the rate of Caucasian children in the United States.
Furthermore, poor and minority children are more likely to have asthma and their health outcomes are worse. Black children are twice as likely to be hospitalized and four times as likely to die from asthma as white children, according to the new task force figures. Additionally, asthma is linked to academic performance because 10.5 million school days are missed annually due to asthma.
Thus the need for yet another taxpayer-funded program to help shave the gap. It’s not enough that, under Obamacare, dozens of new “health equity” offices have already been created to end the health disparities between poor minorities and whites. In fact, more than $100 million has already been dedicated to an initiative to help lower chronic diseases “disproportionately seen among poor and minority populations.”
This latest effort focuses strictly on asthma, which may leave some wondering if the administration plans to create task forces for other individual diseases as well. There would be plenty to choose from, according to the U.S. government’s annual comprehensive report on Americans’ health. This year’s edition features an unprecedented section on socioeconomic status that says practically all ailments—from depression to edentulism (lack of natural teeth) to cancer and childhood attention deficit disorder—are more prevalent among poor minorities.
Getting back to the new minority asthma task force, several federal agencies have teamed up with the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to form it. They include the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Health and Human Services (HHS) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD). A key factor in the asthma disparity is the “unacceptable burden of pollution” that “low-income and minority communities often face,” the chair of Obama’s White House CEQ said in a statement announcing the task force.
HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan says it’s essential that the government ensures all children have a healthy place to call home. “The numbers don’t lie. Asthma disproportionately impacts low-income minority families,” Donovan said, adding that the new task force will help the federal government support the development of “innovative new approaches to improve and control asthma.”
That can only mean one thing; doling out more taxpayer dollars for yet another one of the president’s “innovative new approaches” to assist low-income minorities. This includes a $4.5 billion law—pushed through by First Lady Michelle Obama in 2010—that focuses on conquering childhood obesity among poor minorities who live in “food deserts” that don’t have healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables.
The Obama Administration has spent $36.2 million on studies that justify awarding huge sums to leftist groups that help poor minorities with “housing counseling,” a Judicial Watch investigation has found.
JW launched a probe to uncover how much taxpayer money is being spent on research that, incredibly, always concludes housing counseling is a positive and valuable thing for low-income populations and minorities. The Obama Administration has poured tens of millions of dollars into the coffers of leftwing community groups that help minorities seeking a good home or struggling to keep one on the verge of foreclosure. In fact, in last few months alone, the nonprofits have received $42 million.
Among them are hundreds of national, regional and local organizations like the powerful open borders group with close ties to the president, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR). Earlier this year the NCLR, whose federal funding has skyrocketed since one of its top officials got a job on the Obama White House, got nearly $2 million to help combat predatory lending, train poor Latinos about financial literacy and help them become homeowners.
The National Community Reinvestment Corporation, a famously liberal activist group that seeks to eliminate “discrimination” in housing and mortgage lending, and the equally leftist National Urban League, which advocates for social justice and claims voter identification laws are racist also got a chunk of change this year. The first group received $2.5 million from Uncle Sam and the second got $1.05 million.
To justify the exorbitant allocations, last week the administration released two in-depth studies that essentially say the government-funded housing counseling program is the best thing since sliced bread. Not surprisingly, both studies also concluded that Uncle Sam must keep funding the dubious program for the good of mankind. Read all about it in a 197-page report titled “Foreclosure Counseling Outcome Study” and a 91-page “Pre-Purchase Counseling Outcome Study.”
How much did American taxpayers spend on these studies? That’s what JW set out to find and the figure is downright enraging. Since 2009 the company hired by the Obama Administration to conduct the studies, ABT Associates, has received $36.2 million, according to documents obtained by JW. This includes $18.3 million for “program study and evaluation,” the government records show.
To produce the pro housing counseling reports released last week, ABT Associates received at least $2.5 million, according to a government contract signed in the fall of 2011. The deal was for “impact evaluation” of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) “pre-purchasing counseling program.” The administration has yet to reveal the amount it paid for the second study, which is also linked above. JW will continue investigating this matter.
For the second time in just a few months a U.S. government agency notorious for wasteful spending is dedicating tens of millions of dollars to help local communities blow their federal money more efficiently.
It may sound like a bad joke but it’s business as usual at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the bloated agency that’s given leftist groups millions of dollars to provide low-income populations and minorities with “housing counseling.” Read more about that in a Judicial Watch report published just days ago.
This month HUD awarded $70 million in grants to help communities and nonprofit organizations use their taxpayer dollars more efficaciously. The agency announcement justifies the allocation by explaining that the nation is in a “budget climate where state and local governments are challenged to do more with less.” This evidently requires millions to help communities and nonprofit organizations “improve their use of federal funds to revitalize neighborhoods, help the homeless and produce more affordable housing.”
Here is how HUD’s Assistant Secretary, Mercedes Marquez explains it: The cash will complement a program to help communities “ensure that scarce federal dollars are targeted to where they are needed most and can achieve the highest impact.” As a result the money will go a long way toward meeting the agency’s goals of community development, affordable housing and homeless assistance, Marquez added.
The $70 million comes on the heels of a separate $20 million HUD allocation for pretty much the same cause. In that announcement HUD asserted that the money would help “improve performance and boost the capacity of state and local governments to implement their federal block grant programs for housing and community development.” Marquez made a similar statement about stretching federal dollars for the greatest possible benefit to the public.
This sort of thing is par for the course at HUD. Under Obama the agency has launched a number of controversial programs, including a special initiative to help illegal immigrants nationwide. HUD also intervened against Arizona’s strict immigration control law by warning that federal housing obligations prohibit “discrimination against protected class members.” HUD also deployed its assistance secretary to intercept a Fremont Nebraska measure banning illegal aliens from renting in its jurisdiction.
HUD has also been embroiled in a huge scandal surrounding federal grants awarded to the famously corrupt Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now (ACORN). In 2009 Judicial Watch sued the agency for the records and in 2010 a HUD Inspector General report revealed that ACORN embezzled millions of dollars for “housing counseling” in one year alone and destroyed the documents to hide the fraud.
The Obama Administration keeps pouring huge sums of taxpayer dollars into the coffers of leftist groups that specialize in “housing counseling” for minorities seeking a good home or struggling to keep one on the verge of foreclosure.
The latest allocation—$42 million in counseling grants—was announced just a few days ago by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as part of the administration’s continuing effort to help families find decent housing and prevent future foreclosures. The cash will go to hundreds of national, regional and local organizations that profess to assist low-income populations.
Among them is the National Community Reinvestment Corporation, a famously liberal activist group that seeks to eliminate “discrimination” in housing and mortgage lending, and the equally leftist National Urban League, which advocates for social justice and claims voter identification laws are racist. They are getting $2.5 million and $1.05 million respectively. The entire list of recipients and what they do can be found here for those who care to sort through it.
The powerful open borders group with close ties to the president, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), is also getting a chunk of change this round. Under this latest housing counseling allotment, the NCLR will receive nearly $2 million to help combat predatory lending, train poor Latinos about financial literacy and help them become homeowners.
The NCLR has raked in tens of millions of taxpayer dollars for its various causes over the years and has seen its federal funding skyrocket since one of its top officials got a job in the Obama White House. Last summer a Judicial Watch investigation uncovered government documents that show the NCLR’s federal funding more than doubled the year its one-time senior vice president (Cecilia Muñoz) joined the Obama Administration.
The NCLR’s government cash flow boomed from $4.1 million to $11 million, according the internal documents obtained in the course of JW’s probe. A large portion of the money (60%) came from the Department of Labor, which is headed by a former California congresswoman (Hilda Solis) with close ties to the La Raza movement.
Muñoz was originally hired by President Obama in 2009 to be his director of intergovernmental affairs. Earlier this year she was promoted to White House Domestic Policy Director, which means she’s the president’s top adviser on domestic issues and the coordinator of the policy-making process. Now Muñoz supervises the execution of domestic policy in the White House.
Her new power and influence in the administration can only mean one thing for the NCLR, which remains dear to her heart; more taxpayer dollars for projects like Latino housing counseling.