Last week the Wall Street Journal carried a long page-one story by Elizabeth Williamson and Brody Mullins on the permanent funding of Democratic allies such as Acorn buried in the mortgage bailout bill signed by President Bush last week. They report:
Democrats on Capitol Hill have helped to steer millions of dollars in housing and other grants from the federal government toward Acorn and groups like it. The groups must qualify and compete for the money, which is typically doled out from the federal government to states and municipalities. The housing package includes a new, permanent source of affordable-housing money that congressional Democrats and grass-roots groups have sought for years. The Affordable Housing Trust Fund and the Capital Magnet Fund will be funded by a tax on mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored mortgage titans.
That tax eventually will channel upwards of $600 million annually in grants for developing and restoring housing, mostly as low-income rentals, available to Acorn and other groups. Democrats on Capitol Hill and housing groups say the housing-assistance money is vital to helping Americans hit hardest by what some call the largest drop in home values since the Great Depression. But they acknowledge the perception of political conflict in giving federal funds to an organization that does political work.
“We are guarding against it,” said Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank in an interview. He secured the Affordable Housing Trust from his seat as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. “We have a lot of restrictions in the bill” banning using the housing money for lobbying or political purposes, he said.
He added that housing-advocacy groups aren’t unique in having an affinity for government officials who can steer money their way. “People who build affordable housing tend to support the Democrats…who support affordable housing,” he said. “I am a lot less worried about this relationship than I am about the Pentagon and Lockheed.”
Acorn undertakes voter registration through the legally separate offshoot Project Vote. Targeting its efforts on areas likely to yield potential Democratic voters in the Denver area, Project Vote “trawl[ed] parks, public-assistance agencies and liquor stores.” Checking in with one worker in Aurora, the Journal finds Project Vote’s targeting to be effective:
Tina Sepulveda, a 23-year-old single mom canvassing in Aurora for the Project Vote effort, says she checks her forms to see how people will vote. “In a week, I get maybe six to nine Republicans. And I’m getting 20 people a day.”
At the least, this is a story that deserves more attention than has been devoted to it to date. John Fund has been on Acorn’s case for some time. Fund wrote about the indictment of seven Acorn voter registration workers for fraud in Seattle last year. Michelle Malkin devoted a good column to Acorn in June.
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