Friday, June 18, 2010

Congressional report clears ACORN of wrongdoing — after group forced to disband

By Stephen Janis Congressional report clears ACORN of wrongdoing    after group forced to disband

When a duo of right-wing provocateurs posing as a pimp and prostitute released selectively-edited videos trying to impugn the community activist group ACORN, both Democrats and Republicans condemned the organization.

Congress then voted to cut off federal funding for the group (a decision that was later ruled unconstitutional). Following negative press and Congress' vote, ACORN effectively disbanded Apr. 1 and reorganized under new names.

But a just-issued report by the Government Accountability Office that reviewed ACORN's federal funding at the behest of Congress  found little grist for the mill for politicians or right-wing bloggers looking to bash the now-defunct advocacy group for the poor.

The 38-page report surveyed over 31 federal agencies, probing how ACORN used federal funds and whether adequate controls on spending existed.

The report found no evidence of fraud, lax oversight or misuse of federal funds.

In fact, the report discovered that ACORN had adequately accounted for spending $40 million worth of major and minor grants awarded by the federal government to the group since 2005 to combat a variety of problems afflicting poor Americans, including lead poisoning, housing discrimination and lack of adequate job training.

The preliminary report on the group's funding also found that of the grants that warranted audits no irregularities in spending were found.  Smaller grantees said that oversight was adequate as well.

Of eight major grants awarded ACORN by the federal government the report found fault with one, a grant by Neighbor Works.

"Neighbor Works determined that ACORN Housing Corporation had not provided a description of what it planned to accomplish under the grant, as required. After Neighbor Works brought this to the attention of ACORN Housing Corporation officials, these officials subsequently provided the documentation. Oversight of sub-awards is generally delegated to grantees," the report states.

Of fifteen sub-grants awarded ACORN by a variety of federal agencies, the report did not find any irregularities.

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