Illegal Federal Dollars For ACORN
JULY 08, 2011
July 8, 2011
From the Desk of Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton:
Obama Administration STILL Bankrolling ACORN
ACORN employees have been nailed time and time again for fraudulently registering voters (including Mickey Mouse and the Dallas Cowboys football team) — allegedly for the purpose of sweeping Democrats into office. They were caught on tape advising undercover reporters on how to evade tax, immigration, and child prostitution laws. They were unceremoniously kicked off a U.S. Census Bureau program as a result of a Judicial Watch investigation. And ultimately, the organization was officially cut off from federal funds by Congress and President Obama.
So why is ACORN still receiving taxpayer dollars in defiance of the funding ban? That’s what we’d like to know.
Judicial Watch investigators recently discovered that the Obama Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has issued a $79,819 grant to the Affordable Housing Centers of America (AHCOA) — an offshoot of ACORN — in apparent violation of the ACORN funding ban passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in 2009.
Moreover, this grant was provided to the organization less than a year after ACORN/AHCOA was criticized by HUD’s inspector general in two separate investigations for misappropriating funds from federal grants.
You remember the funding ban, right? It was a signature moment for Barack Obama (dubbed the “ACORN President”) when he signed a law on October 1, 2009, known as the Defund ACORN Act, which effectively prohibited the federal government from funding “ACORN and any ACORN-related affiliate.” Following a lawsuit filed by ACORN challenging the law, which passed both branches of Congress by wide margins, the federal courts in New York upheld the constitutionality of the funding ban on August 13, 2010. The Supreme Court last month refused to hear ACORN’s appeal of this funding ban.
A Judicial Watch investigation revealed that on March 1, 2011, HUD announced a $79,819 federal grant to AHCOA to “educate the public and housing providers about their rights and obligations under federal, state, and local fair housing laws.”
The Government Accountability Office issued a controversial and ridiculous advisory opinion in September 2010 stating that AHCOA is not an “allied organization” of ACORN and is therefore not subject to the funding ban. However, the government’s website listing federal expenditures identifies the organization receiving this grant as “ACORN Housing Corporation Inc.” and even lists ACORN’s New Orleans, Louisiana, address. Moreover AHCOA maintains the same board of directors, executive director and offices as its predecessor, ACORN Housing Corporation, Inc.
Make no mistake, AHCOA is ACORN. So this is a clear violation of the funding ban. But it is also an especially irresponsible waste of taxpayer funds considering the documented corruption at ACORN Housing/AHCOA.
For example, according to a September 21, 2010, HUD inspector general report, which notes that ACORN Housing is “now operating as Affordable Housing Centers of America,” the organization misappropriated funds from a $3,252,399 federal grant. The inspector general concluded that ACORN Housing/AHCOA had charged salary expenses to the HUD grant that “were not fully supported.” The organization also continued to pay its counselors even after they were terminated, did not meet federal procurement standards and allegedly destroyed documents to conceal the fraudulent activity.
The inspector general articulated a number of benchmarks that must first be met by AHCOA before the organization could begin receiving any future federal funds, including reimbursing the government for the misappropriated funds.
A separate November 8, 2010, HUD inspector general report documented additional fraudulent activity by ACORN/AHCOA. The ACORN group “inappropriately expended more than $3.2 million from its fiscal years 2004 and 2005 grants for the elimination of lead poisoning in its housing program,” the report concluded. The misappropriation included the use of funds “not identified in its grant application’s detailed budgets,” including “campaign services” and “grant fundraising activities.”
So why is ACORN still on the government dole, instead of the focus of a major federal corruption investigation? Look no further than the top.
In November 2007, then-Senator Obama addressed ACORN and thanked the organization for its work. Obama has denied that he had any involvement with ACORN other than some legal work he did for them in 1995, but this claim rings hollow when considering statements made by Obama in 2007.
In Senator Obama’s own words: “I’ve been fighting alongside Acorn [sic] 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 [sic] was smack dab in the middle of it, and we appreciate your work.” Barack Obama 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.
But Obama is not the only one at the White House pitching for ACORN. As reported by The New York Times in 2009, “perhaps no administration official has had more interaction with Acorn [sic] than [Shaun] Donovan”, who is Obama’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. The Times notes that Donovan “worked closely” with ACORN’s politically-powerful New York housing affiliate when he was a New York City housing official. And now he’s helped secure a nice chunk of change for ACORN from HUD’s coffers.
ACORN’s ties to Obama and Donovan run deep. So it is no surprise they would continue to dole out tax dollars to an ACORN affiliate with a documented history of fraudulent activity. This is another instance of President Obama’s appointees stubbornly refusing to follow the law by not denying funding to this crooked organization.
And I have to ask the question: Is the Obama gang ensuring that ACORN is around to help them again in 2012?”
By the way, in 2011, HUD provided $40 million in grants to 108 “fair housing” organizations, representing a $13.2 million increase over the 2010 award. According to HUD’s press announcement, the general purpose of these grants is “to educate the public and combat housing and lending discrimination.” This funding of activist groups like ACORN Housing helped lead to our housing crisis. These socialist revolutionaries leveraged your tax dollars to press for government and mortgage policies that gave housing loans to people who couldn’t afford them. That led to the ongoing mortgage crisis.
You can see that the Obama administration is doing three bad things at once — funding a group barred by law from receiving funds, funding a group that has record of fraud, and funding a group and policies that have helped destroy the housing market (and depressed our economy).
Thankfully, the media has picked up on our story (Fox News Channel extensively covered our new ACORN findings). And I know Congress is almost certain to react.
This is another great example of your support helping Judicial Watch uncover and, hopefully, stop government corruption right in its tracks. In the meantime, I’ll be sure keep you updated as to what happens next with this new Obama ACORN scandal.
Did Obama Officials Lie About Their Stealth Amnesty Scheme?
The Obama administration stealth amnesty scandal that emerged last year is heating up. It all began with an internal U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services memo outlining ways the Obama administration could bypass Congress to enact amnesty for millions of illegal aliens through “administrative means.”
And then the Houston Chronicle exposed an effort by the administration to suspend the deportations of illegal aliens that supposedly have not been convicted of any “serious” crimes.
Well you may recall that JW filed two FOIA lawsuits against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to get to the truth about this deportation plan. And according to documents our litigation recently pried loose, not only did Obama administration officials skirt congressional authority when implementing this unlawful scheme behind closed doors, but apparently they also lied about it when they got caught.
The documents, which we obtained from the Obama DHS, show that DHS officials misled Congress and the public about the scope of the immigration enforcement policy change which gave wide latitude to local immigration officials to dismiss illegal alien deportation cases.
And perhaps most shocking of all, officials considered the dismissal of charges against illegal alien criminals convicted of violent crimes!
The documents concern the response by Houston immigration officials to a June 30, 2010, memo from John Morton, Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), to all ICE employees instructing local immigration officials to use their discretion in “prioritizing” illegal immigration deportation cases.
This new policy resulted in the dismissal of hundreds of immigration cases and an overall 40% increase in deportation dismissals with local Houston ICE officials taking a particularly aggressive approach to the policy’s implementation.
In response to calls by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee for more information regarding this new, relaxed, deportation policy, DHS spokesman Matt Chandler said, “The idea that DHS is engaged in ‘selective enforcement’ couldn’t be further from the truth.” However, the documents uncovered by Judicial Watch show that Houston immigration officials moved quickly to implement a broad interpretation of Morton’s memo, earning praise from ICE agency headquarters:
- Email from Gary Goldman, Chief Counsel for Houston ICE to Riah Ramlogan, ICE’s Director of Field Operations, August 6, 2010:
I was uncertain whether to write you this short note but I am comfortable in doing so.
In brief, I will push every policy that was disseminated to the Chief Counsels to my staff…effectively and quickly. I understand the responsibilities of my position and I take great pride in my work. I will…ensure each attorney is fully knowledgeable and compliant with policies regarding courtroom expectations, written work, humanitarian cases, reporting requirements, etc.
(Ramlogan’s response to Goldman’s efforts, August 10, 2010: “Outstanding, Gary.”)
- Memo from Goldman to all attorneys, Office of Chief Counsel, August 12, 2010 (ultimately rescinded per the instruction of ICE headquarters):
Beginning immediately on all duty files and court files every attorney must determine whether the case may be amenable to the exercise of prosecutorial discretion pursuant to guidelines outlined in the June 30, 2010 Assistant Secretary John Morton memorandum…If the crime is remote in time and the alien has a substantial number of equities, all factors will be weighed to determine if an exercise of PD [prosecutorial discretion] is appropriate.
- Memo from Goldman to all attorneys, Office of Chief Counsel, August 16, 2010 (ultimately rescinded per the instruction of ICE headquarters):
ICE Senior Leadership does not want their attorneys to merely fill a seat in immigration court and blindly prosecute every case handed to them. The current administration wants attorneys of greater sophistication, independence and complexity in decision making…
Moreover, despite the claims of immigration officials, ICE considered ending deportation proceeding for illegal aliens with violent crime offenses. A spreadsheet obtained by Judicial Watch lists the specific violent crimes that immigration officials were prepared to overlook. They include: sexual assault, solicitation of murder, aggravated assault, assaulting a police officer, and kidnapping, as well as numerous drug charges.
A far cry from the “very narrow class of illegal immigrants with pending green card applications” Obama administration officials described to the press, wouldn’t you say?
The documents also show that following the press coverage of the memo, which resulted in widespread outrage, immigration officials sought to contain the damage by narrowing the scope of the policy change:
- An email from Raphael Choi, Chief Counsel for Arlington ICE to Gary Goldman, August 18, 2010:
…in-house I’m way behind. We continue to review cases piecemeal. The problem is every time I’m about to wield a blunt instrument to our docket, some case shows up in the press that gives me pause. I think its [sic] given Riah pause too.
- Letter from Ramlogan to Goldman on the day the Houston Chronicle exposed the new policy on deportations, August 25, 2010:
I am concerned that your interpretation of the memorandum, although well-intentioned, could create a gap in basic immigration enforcement. Your approach that our attorneys should only litigate cases within the agency’s highest priorities is not an accurate interpretation of the Assistant Secretary’s guidance and is not consistent with agency policy…please immediately rescind your memoranda.
(Note: Ramlogan had been provided a copy of Goldman’s memo on August 10, 2010 but provided no comment until the day the Houston Chronicle story was published.)
The June 30, 2010, memo that kicked off our investigation is not the last we’ve heard from John Morton regarding deportations. On June 17, 2011, John Morton sent yet another memo to all field officers, special agents and chief counsel to further define the term “prosecutorial discretion.”
And what does he mean by “prosecutorial discretion?”
Here’s how Morton defines the term: “In basic terms, prosecutorial discretion is the authority of an agency charged with enforcing a law to decide to what degree to enforce the law against a particular individual.”
I would describe it as a permission slip for immigration authorities to ignore federal immigration law. And here’s what I mean.
Thanks to Morton’s new mandate, immigration officials can cancel deportation proceedings against illegal aliens, release illegal aliens on bond, ignore certain kinds of criminal conduct, “settle or dismiss” a proceeding and make a host of other broadly defined immigration enforcement decisions.
And what kind of mitigating factors will these immigration officials consider when deciding which illegal aliens to let off the hook? Morton covers that as well.
An illegal alien’s “length of presence” in the U.S., pursuit of education, age, ties to the community and other factors will all be taken into account. Even the pregnancy status of an illegal alien can be considered, with illegal aliens who are “nursing” apparently at the top of the list for preferential treatment. (Important to note, the children of illegal aliens born in the United States, called “anchor babies,” automatically become U.S. citizens. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, “In total, 4 million U.S.-born children of unauthorized immigrant parents resided in this country in 2009.”)
Overall, Morton has 19 mitigating factors on his list, which he says is “not exhaustive.” And he does not bother to couch his directive carefully: “[T]he universe of opportunities to exercise prosecutorial discretion is large,” Morton writes. And regarding timing, “It is also preferable for ICE officers, agents and attorneys to consider prosecutorial discretion in cases without waiting for an alien or alien’s advocate or counsel to request a favorable exercise of discretion.”
In other words, it appears that not only does Morton want a “large universe” of illegal aliens to be released. He wants them released quickly.
Morton claims this new policy will help preserve precious government resources, but let’s get real. The Obama administration doesn’t care a whit about government spending. In fact, “the more the better,” has been the Obama mantra. This is just a bald-faced attempt to enact stealth amnesty policies without having to persuade Congress or the American people to change the law.
Morton’s new policies have understandably elicited strong opposition from members of Congress. Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX), for example, announced recently that he plans to fight against Morton’s new directive:
While this authority is justifiable when exercised responsibly, the Obama administration has made clear that it plans not to use but abuse these powers. That is why I will soon introduce legislation to prevent the Obama administration from abusing this authority. The Obama administration cannot continue to pick and choose which laws it will enforce. It is outrageous that they have put illegal immigrants and their liberal political base ahead of the American people.
We couldn’t agree more.
There is no question these documents show that the Obama administration is implementing “stealth amnesty,” which is an end-run around the rule of law and Congress.
The Obama administration doesn’t seem to care about its constitutional responsibility to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” but instead is pushing the selective enforcement of immigration laws. And they are thumbing their noses at Congress and the American people by stonewalling information requests and lying to cover up their stealth amnesty scheme. Congress should initiate a full investigation to get to the truth of the matter. This lawlessness must stop.
By the way, if you want to know more about the illegal alien crisis in Houston, click here to read about our lawsuit on behalf of the widow of a police officer murdered by illegal aliens and here to read about the sex trafficking organization operated by illegal aliens right under the nose of the Houston Police Department.
As suspended deportations of illegal alien criminals continue, expect crime rates to climb.
Blagojevich Convicted — Is Accountability in the Offing for Rep. Jackson, Jr.?
It took more than two years and two trials, but disgraced former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was finally brought to justice on Monday, June 27. He becomes the state’s fourth governor, and one of at least 79 Illinois public officials, to be found guilty of a crime since 1972, proving that Illinois has certainly lived up to its reputation as a cesspool of corruption.
According to CNN:
Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was convicted…on 17 of the 20 public corruption charges against him related to his attempt to sell the U.S. Senate seat held by Barack Obama before he resigned to become president.
The 11 women and one man reached the verdicts on their 10th day of deliberation in the trial, which began April 20. As the verdicts were read, Blagojevich turned to look back at his wife, Patti, who dropped into her seat. None of the jurors would look at the defendant as the verdicts were being read.
Technically, Blagojevich could spend the rest of his years in prison due to the compounding charges. However, legal experts believe he’ll serve six-to-ten.
Blagojevich is a colorful character — and a TV star, owing to his appearance on Donald Trump’s program “Celebrity Apprentice.” And he certainly captured an enormous amount of public attention. But lost in all of the pomp and circumstance of his two very public trials is the potentially criminal role that high ranking officials inside the Obama administration — perhaps even the president himself — played in this corrupt scheme.
A few weeks ago, I published excerpts from JW blogger Irene Garcia’s reports from the trial. (You can read them in their entirety on our blog here.) And according to sworn testimony, White House officials were intimately involved in the back-and-forth horse-trading over Obama’s then-vacant Senate seat. (In fact, the FBI had a “sit-down” with Barack Obama to talk things over even before he was sworn in as President of the United States, which is, I believe, unprecedented.) Of course, it was Obama’s bagman, former White House Chief of Staff and current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who allegedly acted as Obama’s key go-between:
As Irene reported:
Rod Blagojevich’s onetime chief of staff, John Harris, testified about negotiations between his former boss and President Barack Obama to fill the U.S. Senate seat once held by the commander-in-chief… Shortly upon taking the stand…Harris testified that he and Blagojevich discussed the Senate appointment in October 2008 and Blagojevich asked him “What do you think I can get for this?”
Obama’s top aide, Rahm Emanuel, called Harris in 2008 to suggest the then-governor appoint Obama’s close friend Valerie Jarrett, according to Harris’s testimony…In the first trial Harris testified that Obama sent Blagojevich a list of “acceptable” Senate candidates to fill his old seat. The list included then Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth, Illinois State Comptroller Dan Hynes, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky. Obama eventually named Duckworth to a top position at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
You may also recall in 2009, JW obtained public records that prove Obama and Blagojevich had repeated contact after Obama became president even though the White House vehemently denied it.
So again, we have the alleged crime inside the Obama administration (attempting to strike a deal over the then vacant Senate seat) and the cover-up (lying about it publicly).
In the first Blagojevich trial, prosecutors jeopardized their case against Blago in an effort to protect Obama White House officials such as Emanuel, and the jury deadlocked on the charges. This time around Emanuel did take the stand, but denied everything in his scant five-minute testimony.
But while Emanuel appears to have been spared any accountability for his role in the Blagojevich scheme, another Illinois politician might not be so lucky, as ABC News Chicago reports:
The end of one case could be the beginning of another: A congressional investigation of South Side U.S. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr.
In this Intelligence Report: Now that Rod Blagojevich’s trial is finished, the door is open for House Ethics investigators.
An investigation by the House Ethics Committee was set to begin last November, looking into whether Congressman Jackson offered to raise campaign funds for Blagojevich in exchange for Jackson’s appointment to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama. But last November, with federal investigators preparing for Blagojevich’s retrial, Justice Department officials asked the House Ethics Committee to hold off until the ex-governor’s trial ended.
Irene explains the details of Jackson’s alleged involvement:
Prosecutors claim Blagojevich considered awarding the seat to Jackson because the congressman’s emissaries had promised to raise at least $1 million for the former governor’s campaign fund. In fact, Jackson is mentioned as “Senate Candidate 5” in the government’s original 76-page indictment, though he has repeatedly denied having any knowledge of a bribery scheme on his behalf.
“Appearing somewhat nervous,” Irene reports, Jackson again denied the charges when he took the stand.
Blagojevich deserves to be sitting in prison for his crimes. But it’s clear he did not act alone. Negotiations are two-sided affairs. If Blagojevich was wheeling and dealing, someone was on the other end holding the cards. Let’s hope that at least Rep. Jackson, Jr. is held to account if he played a role in yet another sad chapter in Illinois political history. And don’t believe the spin that this scandal doesn’t eventually lead to the Oval Office.
Until next week…
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