ACORN Issue Fueling Bailout Opposition

Earlier today, when House Republican leadership framed its opposition to the bailout bill as it currently stands, a principal objection focused on the group ACORN, which the e-mail alert called "the scandal-tarnished 'community organizing group'" -- with scare quotes in the original.

They're referring to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, a group generally allied with Democrats and derided by the GOP as corrupt, inefficient and a front-group for Democratic efforts on the ground.

In issuing the statement, House leaders are reflecting -- and also feeding -- a reaction to the provision that has exploded in the last day or more. Our colleague Ben Smith says he's gotten more than a dozen anti-ACORN e-mails in just the last few hours. The viral uprising is both organic and institutionally driven. Prominent bloggers have fed the flames and so has the Wall Street Journal editorial page; several of the e-mails sent to Smith reference a House leadership alert on the "ACORN Slush Fund" and others refer to the Journal opinion. On Thursday night, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told The Crypt that his friend Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) opposes the provision.

"The draft bill includes a left-wing giveaway that would force taxpayers to bankroll a slush fund for a discredited ally of the Democratic Party," reads one leadership alert. "At issue is ACORN, an organization fraught with controversy for, among other scandals, its fraudulent voter registration activities on behalf of Democratic candidates. Rather than returning any profits made in the long-term from the economic rescue package, Democrats want to first reward their radical allies at ACORN for their (often illegal) help in getting Democrats elected to office."

In the end, how much of the bailout's potential profits are earmarked for ACORN? "None. Absolutely none. All funds would go to state and local governments," said Steven Adamske, spokesman for Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the chairman of the Financial Services Committee and a lead negotiator.

The opposition has grown so intense that critics refer to the measure in arcane legislative lingo. Erick Erickson titled a Friday morning blog post at RedState: "Section 105(d) of the Bailout Must Go."

Here's the relevant language:

TRANSFER OF A PERCENTAGE OF PROFITS.

DEPOSITS. Not less than 20 percent of any profit realized on the sale of each troubled asset purchased under this Act shall be deposited as provided in paragraph (2).

USE OF DEPOSITS. Of the amount referred to in paragraph (1) 65 percent shall be deposited into the Housing Trust Fund established under section 1338 of the Federal Housing Enterprises Regulatory Reform Act of 1992 (12 U.S.C. 4568); and 35 percent shall be deposited into the Capital Magnet Fund established under section 1339 of that Act (12 U.S.C. 4569).

REMAINDER DEPOSITED IN THE TREASURY. All amounts remaining after payments under paragraph (1) shall be paid into the General Fund of the Treasury for reduction of the public debt.

And here's Frank's one-page summary of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and to find the relevant bill go here and search for H.R. 2895.

State and local governments can then dole out the funds and could send money to ACORN if they so choose and if the organization's efforts meet the standards set out in the law. For their stand against the provision, Adamske tweaked House Republicans, who have long called for more state control of federal funds.

"Are they worried that the Governor of Alaska and the Mayor of Wasilla will give money to Acorn?" he asked. 

Regardless, House Republicans are saying that unless the possibility of ACORN seeing any money from this bailout is eliminated, there's no deal. "Doling out favors to ACORN and other liberal special interest groups are a non-starter for House Republicans," said Behner spokesman Kevin Smith. "If Rep. Frank wants to keep ACORN in the bill he can secure the necessary Democratic votes for passage because he'll need every one of them."
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