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Congressional Research Service Report On Acorn

Congressional Research Service Report On Acorn

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Congressional
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Research
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5700
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www.crs.gov
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MEMORANDUM
December 22, 2009
To:
House Judiciary Committee
From:
Charles Doyle, Senior Specialist in American Public LawJulius Jefferson, Information Research SpecialistMeredith Peterson, Information Research SpecialistJulia Taylor, Law LibrarianKenneth Thomas, Legislative Attorney
Subject:
Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN)
In response to your request that CRS research several issues relating to the Association of CommunityOrganizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and its affiliates, CRS has compiled the following information.1.
 
Investigations concerning ACORN
. You asked for a list giving the status and results of a) all pending or previous federal, state or local criminal or agency investigationsconcerning ACORN; b) all pending or previous congressional investigations concerningACORN; c) all pending or previous internal ACORN investigations; and d) all pendingrequests (other than those made to CRS) for investigation of ACORN by any Member of Congress or any committee. The following memo by Julia Taylor (x75609) containsinformation on pending and previous federal, state, local, and internal investigationsconcerning ACORN obtained from news sources. The tables in the memorandum include basic details about the investigation and direct quotations taken from the sourcedocument; however, CRS did not verify the information in the source.2.
 
Federal funding received by ACORN.
You asked for a description of all federalfunding received by ACORN over the last five fiscal years and a description of instanceswhere ACORN violated the terms of federal funding. The following memo by MeredithPeterson (x78990) presents information on federal funding received by ACORN. Asearch of reports of federal agency inspectors general did not identify instances in whichACORN violated the terms of federal funding in the last five years.3.
 
Effect of alleged false voter registrations by ACORN workers.
You asked CRS toresearch improper voter registrations that resulted in people being placed on the votingrolls and attempting to vote improperly at the polls. As you discussed with JuliusJefferson (x75593) a NEXIS search of the ALL NEWS file did not identify any reportedinstances of individuals who were improperly registered by ACORN attempting to vote atthe polls.
 
4.
 
Recent “sting” activity concerning ACORN.
You asked CRS to research and report onthe federal and state laws that could apply to the recent videotaping of ACORN workersand the distribution of conversations with ACORN workers without consent. This issueis addressed in the following memo, “Allegations of Recording Conversations With
 
Congressional
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Various ACORN Affiliated Individuals Without Their Consent: Implications Under Various Federal and State Laws Relating to the Interception of Oral Communications” byCharles Doyle (x76968). The memo explains that “as a general matter federal law permits private individuals to record face to face conversations, as long as the recordingis not done for criminal or tortious purposes. New York law seems even more forgiving,for it only reaches those who record remotely. The laws of the District of Columbiamirror federal law prior to the 1986 amendments to the federal statute. D.C. law permitsone-party consent recordings, although the consequences of the want of completesymmetry with federal provisions are unclear. In contrast, the laws of Maryland andCalifornia appear to ban private recording of face to face conversations, absent theconsent of all of the participants.”5.
 
Effects of ACORN activity concerning housing.
You asked CRS to research anddescribe the extent to which ACORN has assisted the homeless and provided housingopportunities to for low-income individuals. CRS did not identify any rigorous andindependent evaluation of the effectiveness of ACORN’s affordable housing activities.The following literature review prepared by Meredith Peterson (x78990) lists reportedexamples of ACORN’s activities to promote the development of affordable housing, to provide counseling to first-time homebuyers and homeowners facing foreclosure, and tosupport individuals affected by Hurricane Katrina. Please note that CRS did not verifythe information provided in these reports.6.
 
Analysis of legislation to prohibit funding to ACORN.
This issue is addressed in theattached CRS Report R40826,
The Proposed “Defund ACORN Act” and Related  Legislation: Are They Bills of Attainder?
by Kenneth Thomas (x75006). The report statesthat “while the regulatory purpose of ensuring that federal funds are properly spent is alegitimate one, it is not clear that imposing a permanent government-wide ban oncontracting with or providing grants to ACORN under the proposed Defund ACORN Actfits that purpose, at least when the ban is applied only to ACORN and all its affiliates.The brevity of the funding moratorium imposed on ACORN and its affiliates under the2010 Continuing Appropriation Resolution, however, could arguably be justified as anexpedience necessary to address an issue of immediate congressional concern, whileallowing Congress sufficient time to consider a longer term solution.”
 
Attachments referenced in the following memos are provided in a separate file.
 
 Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov
MEMORANDUM
October 20, 2009
To:
House Committee on the Judiciary
From:
Julia TaylorLaw LibrarianKnowledge Services Group
Subject:
ACORN Investigations
We are sending you the following in response to your request for information on investigationsconcerning the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). Specifically, weare responding to the first question from the letter sent to CRS Director Dan Mulhollan from ChairmenConyers and Frank dated September 22, 2009.We searched for news articles using the LexisNexis Major U.S. Newspapers file, CQ.com TopDocsdatabase and GalleryWatch HotDocs database.
1
Then, we compiled the information into tables withdetails about the investigation such as the person initiating the investigation, the person it was directed to,and direct quotations taken from the source of the information.
Table 1
below addresses question 1(a) from the letter. It contains information on pending and previousfederal, state, and local criminal or agency investigations concerning ACORN. We searched for the word
 ACORN 
or the phrase
 Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now
within the same sentenceas the word
investigate
and its variations. We excluded editorials and op-ed pieces. The search includedarticles loaded through October 20, 2009. To avoid duplicating information in the chart, we only citedone source in instances where multiple sources reported on the same investigation.
Table 2
below addresses questions 1(b). It has information on pending or previous congressionalinvestigations concerning ACORN. We searched for the word
 ACORN 
or the phrase
 Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now
within the same sentence as the word
investigate
and itsvariations, as well as the terms
senator
or
congressman
or
congresswoman
or
representative
. We alsosearched the CQ.com Top Docs and GalleryWatch.com HotDocs databases for documents with“ACORN” in the title. In addition to investigations, we included requests for audits.
Table 3
below addresses question 1(c) from the letter. It contains information on pending or previousinternal ACORN investigations. We searched for the word
 ACORN 
or the phrase
 Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now
within the same sentence as the phrases
own investigation
or
internal investigation
. The search included articles loaded through October 20, 2009. Although we used
1
Please note, due to interest, some or all of the information we retrieved may be used to answer other congressional requests.

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