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'ACORN Youth Union' Chapters Were Funded by Justice Department, Says GAO

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‘ACORN Youth Union’ Chapters Were Funded by Justice Department, Says GAO
Friday, June 18, 2010
By Terence P. Jeffrey, Editor-in-Chief

(CNSNews.com) - The U.S. Justice Department gave a group called the New York Agency for Community Affairs a grant of $135,130 in fiscal year 2005 to “provide youth leadership training to students at select New York City schools, form ‘ACORN Youth Union’ chapters, and coordinate student campaigns to address issues such as school funding, neighborhood safety, and school governance,” according to a Government Accountability Office report released this week.

The GAO report says that in fiscal years 2005 through 2009 the federal government gave ACORN and what the GAO calls “potentially related organizations” more than $40 million in federal funds.

According to the report, eight other agencies joined the Justice Department in providing federal funding to ACORN and “potentially related organizations.” These included the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Treasury Department, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), NeighborWorks, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

“Nine agencies—HUD, DHS, DOJ, EAC, NeighorWorks, CPB, EPA, Treasury, and NEA—have identified approximately $37.5 million in direct federal grants and at least $2.9 million in subawards (i.e. grants and contracts awarded by federal grantees) to ACORN or potentially related organizations, primarily for housing-related purposes during fiscal years 2005 through 2009,” says the report.

The GAO explains that for purposes of the report it asked 31 federal agencies that it queried about potential funding of ACORN and related organizations to use a list of organizations created by the Congressional Research Service (CRS). “To enable the 31 agencies, for the purposes of this report, to determine whether they had provided funding to ACORN or any potentially related organizations, we suggested that they search their grant and procurement databases using the organizations identified by CRS as potentially having a relationship with ACORN,” said the report. “We selected the CRS list in part because counsel for ACORN identified the majority of organizations on the list as having some sort of relationship to ACORN.”

The Justice Department grant to the New York Agency for Community Affairs was initially reported by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General when it issued a report last November on Justice Department grants to ACORN and ACORN-affiliated organizations.

The IG report said the grant in question was the result of a congressional earmark, and specifically mentioned that one purpose was to form “ACORN Youth Union” chapters.

“In addition, we identified one direct grant of DOJ funds to an ACORN affiliate, the New York Agency for Community Affairs, Inc. (NYACA),” said the IG report. “We considered NYACA to be an affiliate of ACORN because it acted as a fiscal agent for ACORN, engaged in substantial financial transactions with ACORN, and DOJ grant documentation showed that ACORN was a major partner in the grant program being funded. In FY 2005, NYACA received a grant of $138,130 resulting from a congressional earmark. The purposes of the grant to NYACA were to provide youth leadership training to students at select New York City schools; form “ACORN Youth Union” chapters; and coordinate student campaigns to address issues such as school funding, neighborhood safety, and school governance.”

The grant was given out by the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP). The application for the grant, according to the IG report, said the applicant intended to use the federal money in "building a base of trained student leaders."

“The NYACA’s program title identified in the grant award document was ‘ACORN Youth Organizing,’” said the IG report. “The award period for the grant was from September 1, 2005, to August 31, 2006. The grant program narrative submitted with the application described the program’s goals as: (1) building a base of trained student leaders, (2) winning specific improvements and policy changes, and (3) increasing post-high school opportunities for young people. According to the budget detail submitted with the application, the award funds were to be used entirely for personnel and benefits for the following positions: (1) a part-time Executive Director, (2) a part-time Brooklyn Schools Organizer, (3) a part-time Brooklyn Lead Organizer, and (4) two full-time Youth Organizers. According to OJP, NYACA received all the grant funds with the last draw-down in September 2006.”

Congress included language in its fiscal 2010 spending bills that block funding for ACORN. "Congress passed povisions restricting the funding of ACORN or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, or allied organizations in the fiscal year 2010 continuing resolutions, which were followed by several fiscal 2010 appropriations acts that prohibited any appropriated funds from being awarded to various ACORN or ACORN-related organizations," said the GAO.

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