Every candidate for Congress and sitting member has at one time or another railed against the loss of taxpayer dollars to waste, fraud and abuse. They seem to readily acknowledge that the federal bureaucracy is a sieve through which tax dollars just slip and vanish. And, they are always ready to sharpen their image of fiscal responsibility by calling for greater savings by eliminating waste, fraud and abuse.
But, the vigilance of too many members stops there. They are all too anxious to allow hard-working taxpayers’ money to be given away to outside organizations and then far less anxious to police the way that money is used. Accessing federal funding is a privilege, not a right, and it must be earned. It should be a given that any organization that has been indicted for election-related fraud or that employs people who have been charged with those crimes should not have access to federal funds. But, that’s currently not the case.
Barney Frank Helped ACORN
Several weeks ago, the very same week that new criminal charges were filed against ACORN and its employees in Pennsylvania and Nevada, the House passed the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act. It included $140 million for foreclosure legal assistance grants — money ACORN will be eligible to receive despite the criminal charges. They almost weren’t eligible for that funding. Before the bill made its way to the floor, the Financial Services Committee had unanimously approved my amendment to keep these funds out of their hands. But, thanks to a nearly party-line vote on a last-minute floor amendment by Congressman Barney Frank, my language was gutted. The vote was critical because it made lawmakers go on record about whose side they’re on, ACORN or the taxpayers.
Now, I have introduced the Taxpayer Protection and Anti-Fraud Act, which would prohibit ACORN and any other organization that has been indicted for violations of state or federal election laws from accessing tax dollars through any Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs. Such an organization simply shouldn’t be feeding at the taxpayer’s trough.
Chairman Frank has attempted to make this issue about the bedrock legal principle of innocence until proof of guilt, saying indictment is too high a bar. But that is not what this is about. Neither the language in my amendment nor my bill jeopardizes that principle at all. Decisions on criminal guilt will remain in the capable hands of a jury of peers. This is about how Congress spends the people’s money and about setting a high standard to receive tax dollars.
It is not only legitimate for Congress to decide the threshold for accessing taxpayer funds, it is incumbent upon us to do so. And, for far too long, Congress has cavalierly distributed taxpayer money. We need to show the American taxpayer that we will no longer set the bar so low; that we will require organizations that want to use taxpayer funds to prove that they are worthy of the taxpayers’ trust, as well as their money.
Since 1993, ACORN has received $53 million in taxpayer-funded assistance and it was reported recently that they could be eligible for up to another $8.5 billion between the so-called stimulus and the 2010 federal budget. All the while Congress has been funneling tax dollars to ACORN, it has been linked to voter-registration fraud and related violations of the law in more than a dozen states directly, through its employees or both.
An organization that demonstrates a pattern of disrespect for our laws and the people has not earned a piece of the pie. Congress has a duty to the taxpayers to close the door to federal funding on groups that have violated the public trust like this.
House Republican Leader John Boehner and more than three dozen other Republicans are joining me in demanding Speaker Nancy Pelosi cease funding such untrustworthy organizations. This should be an easy call: Congress should not allow groups repeatedly investigated and indicted for voter registration fraud to receive taxpayer dollars. You cannot violate the public trust with one hand and take the taxpayers’ money with the other.
It is our duty to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and ensure that the bar is set high when determining who can and cannot gain access to such dollars. It’s important for Americans to know that someone in Washington is looking out for them.