Saturday, February 11, 2012

Obama Defies Congress by Funding ACORN - Chicago Style Corruption

ACORN is alive and well under a different name. The corruption in the Obama administration is endless, and we, as citizens are unable to do anything about it. Everyone talks about the congressional hearings that Issa is chairing. But what has he accomplished? NADA! Obama must be defeated in 2012 and it must be by a true conservative, not a RINO like Romney. That is the only way anything will get accomplished.

There is an old claim, oft-repeated as gospel truth, that the only living thing that would survive a nuclear attack is the cockroach. The power of modern weaponry has likely rendered this false, but in its place we might well put the disgraced “community organizing” organization, ACORN. Reports of ACORN’s demise are greatly exaggerated, a fact by which nobody with even a cursory familiarity with their practices should be surprised. The evidence suggests that the group has weathered the fallout from its scandals with a remarkable fortitude — it is not just surviving, but thriving; and it is doing so with thousands of those federal dollars that it is explicitly banned from receiving.

Since it was ignominiously stripped of all federal funding in 2009, ACORN has steadily maintained its extensive network of “affiliates” — more specifically, tax-exempt progressive 501(c)3 and 501(c)4 organizations, most of which have been renamed since the scandal hit. For 40 years, it appears, ACORN employed many of these groups to funnel millions of federal dollars its way — and it continues to do so today. It appears to be getting away with it. When somebody buys a gun for a convicted felon, it is called a “straw purchase,” and it is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. When ACORN takes money prohibited to it by employing others as collection agents, it is called “accounting.” This is the financial equivalent of being dishonorably discharged, but continuing to serve, and anyone who respects congressional authority should be outraged.

The system ACORN has developed is ingenious. A 501(c)3 is defined by the IRS as a “Religious, Educational, Charitable, Scientific, Literary . . . Public Safety . . . National or International Amateur Sports Competition, or Prevention of Cruelty to Children or Animals Organization.” 501(c)3 groups are prohibited from electioneering or endorsing candidates by virtue of their tax-exempt status, and are severely limited in their capacity to lobby. They are also explicitly barred from using any federal funds to support what little lobbying they are permitted to do. Prima facie, they are useless to those with overtly political aims.

But while 501(c)3 organizations — such as ACORN’s new (i.e., renamed) groups, the Affordable Housing Center of America (AHCOA) and the New York Agency for Community Affairs (NYACA) — are heavily restricted in the political sphere, such impediments can be easily circumvented. This is generally achieved via a mechanism known as “fiscal sponsorship.” Fiscal sponsorship works pretty much how it sounds: In order to help out third-party organizations (“fiscal agents”) that either do not qualify for 501(c)3 status or are waiting for certification, established 501(c)3 groups are permitted to underwrite certain “projects” that they consider to be vital to their mission. In theory at least, this can be a useful and positive tool, one that allows the easy funding of temporary ventures and the sharing of administrative costs, expertise, and infrastructure. (Think, for example, of a college wishing to fund a student documentary.)

But fiscal sponsorship also presents 501(c)3 groups with a highly efficient and sophisticated means of laundering money. Indeed, a leading nonprofit tax attorney, John Edie, suggests that the mechanism is predominantly used for that purpose: “If you’re going to use a fiscal agent, to me you’re saying, ‘Well, I’m going to launder the money through somebody.’” In this particular case, that “I” is any one of the 501(c)3 groups that ACORN has established to do its dirty work, and that “somebody” is ACORN central.

Anyone looking for a large building with “ACORN” written on the side will be disappointed, but to conclude anything from the absence of such is to miss the point entirely.

Heads are starting to turn: Representative Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) has written to the Attorney of New York’s Eastern District, complaining that ACORN-affiliated 501(c)4 group New York Communities for Change (NYCC) is soliciting donations from union members under false pretenses, and questioning whether federal funds are being illegally directed to Occupy Wall Street and others. An illustration of ACORN’s diffuse rebirth: NYCC is headed up by Jon Kest, formerly of NY ACORN, and the group works out of ACORN’s offices in Brooklyn, retaining swathes of ACORN’s former staff. According to one Fox News report, “sources inside NYCC allege that the group has hired approximately 100 former ACORN-affiliated staff members from other cities, paying some of them $100 a day, to attend and support Occupy Wall Street.” My request for a comment from NYCC was met with only with “the statement [NYCC] sent to Fox News when they raised these false allegations in October,” which reads that “[NYCC] is a new organization that fights for low- and moderate-income families. We don’t pay protesters and any monies raised by NYCC’s canvass are used in support of our ongoing issue campaigns.” The statement didn’t address my questions about fiscal sponsorship.

As of yet, however, Issa’s complaint has had nothing to do with the issue of fiscal sponsorship, and he is still scratching at the surface. Both Fox News and Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government have looked into this issue — as have a variety of other groups — but given the apparent complexity of the ruse, it is becoming clear that only a more comprehensive enquiry will suffice. Congressional authority is being flouted and, in a nation of laws and not men, it does not matter whether the infraction is to the tune of a billion dollars or a single cent. Congress might start by enforcing the existing laws, for then, and only then, will John Boehner’s promise that “the writing is on the wall for ACORN” be true.

Read full National Review article here.

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