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Conservatives Want ACORN Hearing

Conservative Republicans in the House prodded the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee on Thursday to investigate alleged evidence that ACORN, an advocacy group for low-income families that has strong ties to the Democratic Party, used federal funds for political purposes.

Thirty-nine mostly conservative Republicans, led by Reps. Tom Feeney of Florida and Jeb Hensarling of Texas, sent a letter to Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank asking the Massachusetts Democrat to hold hearings examining recent claims that the group co-mingled federal grant money with political funds set aside for a vote-registration drive.

Frank countered that if these Republicans "think there were incidents of abuse, they should go to the IRS."

The House recently approved a massive housing bill that included $4 billion in federal grants to restore low-income housing in communities where foreclosure rates are the highest and another $5 billion for affordable housing, mortgage restructuring and financial counseling for people struggling to re-pay their home loans.

In the run-up to that vote, Conservatives complained that some of these funds would eventually be funneled to groups like ACORN, which advocate on behalf of low-income families while organizing voter-registration drives for the benefit of national Democrats.

But Frank said those funds are specifically directed to the state governments so local officials can reinvest in these communities.

In the letter, the Republicans cite a report published by the Consumers Rights League - a libertarian group chartered, in part, by payday lenders - that reproduces ACORN documents "that suggest that there is an ongoing practice of comingling of taxpayer funds with political projects," according to the letter.

The Feeney-Hensarling letter comes on the heels of a Wall Street Journal piece that chronicles ACORN's effort to register Democratic voters as the group also lobbied hard on behalf the housing bill. These conservative claims echo those made by Democrats when Republicans controlled Congress that the GOP directed federal funds to religious groups that also served as the party's political base.