05.20.2010 1

Sen. Dodd’s Finance Bill Recreates ACORN Inside New Agencies, Reseach Shows

By Kevin Mooney — (Posted on TimesCheck.com)

Does the so-called financial overhaul bill now moving closer to passage re-establish the controversial organization as part of new government agencies?  Even worse, does the legislation intend for new government agencies to actually replicate ACORN’s questionable financial practices?

These questions are explored in an alarming report from Brian Johnson, a meticulous researcher with Americans for Tax Reform (ATR). Sen. Chris Dodd’s 1400 page bill could possible recreate ACORN within the framework of government agencies, he suggests.

Even as the New York Times remains fixated on the “risky behavior” of financial companies in its reporting, it should carefully consider the motivations of federal office holders. Johnson’s could bring some balance and perspective to the newspaper’s ongoing coverage of Dodd’s bill.

The culprit here is Section 1013 of the bill, which includes a segment on community affairs.

Johnson reports as follows:

“In 33 words, Senator Dodd’s bill looks to replicate ACORN’s practices:

`The Director shall establish a unit whose functions shall include providing information, guidance, and technical assistance regarding the offering and provision of consumer financial products or services to traditionally underserved consumers and communities.’

ACORN, on its website, describes itself using similar language:

`ACORN is the nation’s largest grassroots community organization of low- and moderate-income people… ACORN has been building community organizations that are committed to social and economic justice, and won victories on thousands of issues of concern to our members, through direct action, negotiation, legislative advocacy and voter participation.’

Although ACORN’s website uses more obvious language, the goals of both the would-be Community Affairs department and ACORN are the same: force the government to provide loans to people who otherwise wouldn’t qualify for it.”

The political gamesmanship that has consumed the most recent reports in The Times are not unimportant. But they do not cut into the substance of the proposed public policy changes. Johnson’s research cuts right to the heart of financial practices that have severe ramifications for the American economy.

Here is how Johnson concludes his report:

“The genesis behind the current economic downturn is consumers defaulting on real estate loans, a nearly universally accepted fact. Senator Dodd’s bill mimics this precarious practice by instituting a Community Affairs department. Though the goal, increased homeownership, of such programs is noble, such policies will only lead to another housing bubble, and burst.”

This is kind of savvy analysis that would greatly benefit readers who remained uninformed as to the particular elements of Dodd’s legislation.

Instead the Times place greater weigh in needling the opposition.

“Senate Republican leaders, adopting an election-year strategy to oppose virtually every initiative supported by the Obama administration, also voiced loud criticism of the legislation while trying to insist that they still wanted tougher policing of Wall Street,” a recent report says.

“The Republicans, who had a strong role in drafting the bill and won a number of their amendments, seemed to be calculating that voters these days trust the federal government even less than Wall Street and what accept the Republicans’ contention that Democrats in Washington are in cahoots with bank behemoths like Goldman Sachs,” the report continues.

If there a compelling rationale behind greater government control over industry as The Times implies in its reporting, than it should offer up more details about the particular elements of the legislation.

On April 1, ACORN, which stands for the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now, announced that it was dissolving its existing national structure. However, former and current ACORN insiders have said that ACORN merely remarketing and rebranding itself so that it will be better positioned to receive new donations in the wake of last year’s scandals.

“Always note the date, April 1.” Marcel Reid, a former board member has observed. “ACORN is not dissolving, it may be morphing, but it is still is in business and it is still in a position to receive funding, although it may be done under different names.”

Reid current chairs ACORN 8, a whistleblower group named for the eight board members who first revealed the questionable financial transactions that became the subject of congressional investigations. ACORN 8 continues to press for a forensic audit and a wider investigation.

Some of renamed ACORN affiliates tracked by the House Oversight Committee are as follows:

In California, ACORN is now the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (“ACCE”). In Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, ACORN is New England United for Justice. In New York, ACORN is New York Communities for Change. In Arkansas, ACORN has become Arkansas Community Organizations (“ACO”). In Louisiana ACORN is “A Community Voice.” In Missouri, ACORN is Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (“MORE”). In Washington State, ACORN is Organization United for Reform (“OUR”) Washington. In Minnesota, ACORN is Minnesota Neighborhoods Organizing for Change. In Pennsylvania, ACORN has become the Pennsylvania Communities Organizing for Change (“PCOC”) and Pennsylvania Neighborhoods for Social Justice, Inc. In Texas, ACORN is now the Texas Organizing Project.

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