HUD rebuts charge of illegal grant to ACORN

The Housing and Urban Development Department has denied a charge leveled this week by the conservative anti-corruption group Judicial Watch that an $80,000 grant to an affordable housing group goes against the ban on funding of the controversial community organizing group ACORN.

On July 5, Judicial Watch issued a statement criticizing a March 1 HUD announcement of a $79,819 grant to the Affordable Housing Centers of America "to educate the public and housing providers about their rights and obligations under federal, state and local fair housing laws."

AHCOA, the watchdog group says, is an offshoot of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, funding for which was banned by Congress under a 2009 law signed by President Obama following embarrassing revelations about alleged willingness of ACORN branches to counsel community residents to violate tax and anti-prostitution laws.

Judicial Watch, noting the law's language banning funds to "ACORN or any ACORN-related affiliate," also cited a pair of 2010 HUD inspector general reports documenting irregularities in AHCOA's work with the community action group during the past decade.

The Government Accountability Office, however, in a September 2010 opinion reiterated reiterated last month, said, "HUD determined that for purposes of its 2010 agency's appropriations restrictions that ACHOA was not a subsidiary, affiliate or allied organization of ACORN, and a GAO appropriations decision concluded that as of September 2010, ACHOA was not a subsidiary, affiliate or allied organization of ACORN."

On Wednesday, HUD issued its own response, saying its grant to ACHOA is in complete compliance with the law.

"In April, HUD awarded a $79,819 grant to AHCOA to provide fair housing and fair lending information and assistance to at least 35,000 minority, non-English speaking and immigrant households in the Miami-Dade metropolitan area," it said. "After the award of the grant, AHCOA submitted its tax identification number, which was entered into a government database, which still associated the number with the organization's previous name.

"GAO has confirmed and opined in a Sept. 29, 2010, letter that, among other findings, 'The record does not show AHCOA to be directly or indirectly under the control of ACORN. AHCOA is not related to ACORN by shareholdings. Because AHCOA is organized as a nonstock corporation, ACORN cannot own shares in AHCOA . . . AHCOA also does not own any shares of ACORN,' concluding 'it is our view that AHCOA is not presently an affiliate, subsidiary or allied organization of ACORN' and that 'AHCOA does not currently fall within the scope of Section 418 of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act [of] 2010.' "

Correction: The original version of this story included a typo in the first reference to the group Judicial Watch.

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