HHS Violates ACORN Funding Ban to Pay for Obamacare Navigators
DECEMBER 16, 2014
Despite a 5-year-old congressional ban on federal funding for the notably corrupt Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), Judicial Watch has obtained documents that show a chunk of taxpayer money went to an affiliate serving as an Obamacare “navigator.”
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) violated the ACORN funding ban by awarding a Louisiana nonprofit called Southern United Neighborhoods (SUN) a $1.3 million Obamacare navigator grant to recruit customers for the president’s disastrous healthcare law and help them “navigate” the complicated insurance exchanges. Headquartered in New Orleans, SUN is dedicated to combating poverty, discrimination and community deterioration that keep low-income people from taking advantage of their rights and opportunities, according to its website.
The group shares its address—and government grants—with another like-minded nonprofit called United Labor Unions Council Local 100, established by Wade Rathke, the radical left-wing community organizer that also founded ACORN. It’s not clear in the documents obtained by JW how much of the $1.3 million HHS grant actually went to Rathke’s local, which is one of SUN’s four partner organizations, but the point remains that the group is an ACORN successor specifically prevented by federal law from receiving taxpayer dollars.
In fact, the “crominbus” bill that funds HHS and the departments of Labor and Education contains specific language restricting any money from going to ACORN. “None of the funds made available under this or any other Act, or any prior Appropriations Act, may be provided to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, allied organizations, or successors,” the bill says. This language is not included in the acts to fund any other government agency, though technically the law still forbids it.
Fraud was so rampant at ACORN, the scandal-plagued community organization with close ties to President Obama, that Congress was forced to pass a law (Defund ACORN Act) in 2009 to stop the huge flow of taxpayer money that annually filled its coffers. The crooked nonprofit with offices throughout the country became best known for its illegal activities, including fraudulent voter registration drives and involvement in the housing market meltdown. Amid a massive fraud scandal and a series of criminal probes, ACORN supposedly dismantled but the reality is that it simply changed its name, rebranding into various spinoffs and affiliated groups. Details of the transformation are available in this special JW report, “The Rebranding of ACORN.”
The Obama administration has repeatedly violated the ACORN federal funding prohibition by giving large sums to a number of the original group’s affiliates—run by the same corrupt officials—and offshoots in the last few years. The money has flowed through various federal agencies. For instance, in 2011 a JW probe found that Obama’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded a $79,819 grant to an ACORN reincarnation called Affordable Housing Centers of America (AHCOA) to “combat housing and lending discrimination.”
A year later a separate JW probe found that the Obama administration gave an ACORN director named Joe McGavin nearly half a billion dollars to offer “struggling” Illinois homeowners mortgage assistance. The money was part of a $7.6 billion Treasury Department program to help the “unemployed or substantially underemployed” make their mortgage payments. McGavin was director of counseling for ACORN Housing in Chicago and operations manager for a Chicago ACORN offshoot called Affordable Housing Centers of America (AHCOA) shortly before getting the money.
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