Congressman Barney Frank’s Statement Regarding ACORN
A number of factors, one of which in particular is my own fault, have contributed to my position on ACORN being unclear. My biggest error was to sign a letter to the Congressional Research Service which I had not thoroughly read and which does not accurately represent my own position in all aspects.
Part of the confusion arose from the fact that I had to miss the vote on the motion to cut off funding for ACORN because I was about to enter the White House for a ceremony in which a soldier who had lived in my district before his tragic death was posthumously being awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama. And through a misunderstanding with a member of my staff, it was incorrectly reported that I said I would have voted against the motion to defund ACORN. In fact, I would have voted for the motion at that time. I am very disappointed in the actions that were taken by members of ACORN, and I do not believe that ACORN’s response has been adequate for an organization that has received public funding.
There are questions about the constitutionality of Congress passing a law that singles out one organization, but the basic principle that ACORN should not now be receiving public funding is an important one. I have therefore urged the Obama administration to withhold any additional funding for ACORN at least until there is very firm evidence that the abuses of which ACORN members have been guilty have not only ceased, but that procedures are in place to prevent them from happening again.
I have previously communicated to ACORN my dissatisfaction with their lax supervision of employees and volunteers. The fact that people who were improperly registered to vote did not actually cast ballots in no way excuses the organization’s failure to exercise better control in this way. Further, the motivation of those who went to ACORN offices and initiated the discussions involving prostitution are wholly irrelevant to the fact that ACORN’s employees’ actions were outrageous and further indication of an organization that is at best poorly run in many regards. The defense against sting operations is not to ban them, but to behave properly so that they do not reveal as they did in this case clear evidence of gross impropriety.
I cosigned the letter because I do think it is important that we get accurate and complete information on ACORN funding. While I share, as I have indicated, the criticism of ACORN, I very much disagree with the partisanship that has entered into this. ACORN was the recipient of funding throughout the Bush administration, with $14.2 million going from the Bush administration to ACORN through HUD. And I can attest that this was an entirely Executive Branch decision: No congressional action in any way, shape or form required that any of these funds go to ACORN as opposed to other organization. And I do not remember during the period from 2001 to 2006 when the Republicans controlled the White House, HUD, the House and the Senate, and ACORN was receiving millions of dollars, any Republican objection to this.
The wild claims that ACORN is the potential beneficiary of billions of dollars in programs voted by Congress is similarly a sad example of excessive partisanship. At no point has the House voted to direct any funds to ACORN. We have passed programs to provide funding for housing counseling, and for the acquisition of foreclosed property by cities. ACORN has never been mentioned in these. It is true that, for example during the Bush administration, ACORN received millions of dollars from HUD for housing counseling. But I do not think that ACORN has received any funding for the purchase of foreclosed property, which in any case would have been the decision of state and local governments, which are the dispensers of these funds. It is important for the public to know, given what has been made public about these activities, what funds ACORN has received, under what authority, in what administration etc. It was for that reason that I signed the letter of request and I will continue to press for that information. I have asked Subcommittee Chairman Dennis Moore of the Oversight Committee of the Committee on Financial Services to be ready to hold a hearing on this question when those figures are made available to us. And I reiterate that my own view is that the appropriate response here would be to have the Obama administration continue what it began with regard to the Census and withhold any funding or authority from ACORN pending a very serious examination of their past behavior and significant changes regarding the future.