Did California Taxpayer Dollars Go to ACORN?

Late Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger asked the attorney general to investigate ACORN’s activities in California in the wake of a video showing a volunteer giving advice on setting up a brothel.

On the site BigGovernment.com two activists have posted videos of their visits to ACORN (Association of Community acornOrganizations for Reform Now) offices around the country in which they posed as a prostitute and a pimp seeking advice. The series of videos highlights Acorn employees exhibiting outright disdain for the law.

The most recent video was released Tuesday and reveals a San Bernardino, California ACORN worker telling undercover filmmaker James O’Keefe and his associate Hannah Giles about how she ran a prostitution business, how she shot and killed her husband, and how on a daily bases she talks to multiple lawmakers including Sen. Barbara Boxer and California State Senator Negrete-McLeod.

ACORN is a national organization that serves low-income residents and has been involved in controversial efforts to register Democratic voters. More than 37,000 members make up California ACORN. With exposes now public from three different offices, pressure is mounting on state officials to investigate potential illegal activities and misuse of state funds by ACORN offices.

Through the short memo, Schwarzenegger has now officially asked Brown to launch a “full investigation” into the activities in San Bernardino. His spokesman, Aaron McLear, said the governor wants to find out whether the organization has engaged in criminal activity.

Over the past few days, I have seen a series of news stories regarding the ACORN organization that have concerned me greatly,” Schwarzenegger wrote. “As you may be aware, the most recent report has come out of San Bernardino. Given this, I believe it is appropriate that your office launch a full investigation into ACORN’s activities in California . My administration stands ready to assist in any way necessary.”

Whether or not the Attorney General will pursue such an investigation is unclear, but the Sacramento Citizen has obtained exclusive information regarding the question of whether or not state funds have been issued to ACORN.

The most likely state agency to have issued fund would be the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), the statewide agency with the mission of providing “policies and programs to preserve and expand safe and affordable housing opportunities.” Through various bond and grant monies the Department frequently provides funding opportunities for local governments, groups and organizations which can help to meet the goal of creating and preserving more housing in the state.

HCD shows no record of ACORN receiving any awards from the Department in bond funds, federal funds or from the General Fund. However, the Sacramento Citizen has learned that the California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA), which provides financing and programs tot create affordable housing opportunities for individuals within specified income ranges, reported that in 2008 they did award federal NeighborWorks grant dollars to ACORN offices in California.

NeighborWorks is a national nonprofit organization created by Congress to provide financial support, technical assistance, and training for community-based revitalization efforts.

Last year NeighborWorks made grant funding available for various housing projects. CalHFA applied for a portion of those funds on behalf of California. There were several criteria to be met to make an entity eligible to then apply for those federal funds either directly through Neighborworks or through CalHFA. One of those requirements is that the entity must be a “qualified counseling intermediary” – which means they had to be HUD approved. ACORN met that eligibility requirement, and therefore was eligible to apply for funding the federal funding through CalHFA.

Of the $8 Million in federal monies that CalHFA made available through the first round of funding in 2008 only $611,340 went to ACORN offices in California. Apparently while CalHFA has now opened applications for Round 2 of funding and no ACORN groups have applied for funds.

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