FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, figures in many paranoid fantasies about government control. Popular fiction often depicts it as a shadowy agency whose sinister operatives are planning to manufacture a crisis that will give them unlimited power and funding. In the X-Files movie, back in 1998, they were going to use genetically engineered bees and an alien virus.
In reality, FEMA occupies itself with harmless and benevolent activities, such as funding ACORN. Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) has written a letter to the FEMA administrator, asking him to explain why it pumped nearly half a million dollars into the notorious voter-fraud operation for “fire safety” during fiscal year 2007.
Last year, Bilirakis discovered a million-dollar grant for “fire prevention and safety” from FEMA to the New Orleans chapter of ACORN, which he forced the federal agency to rescind. An October 2009 report from the Washington Times pointed out this money would normally have been disbursed to local fire departments, such as a parish fire district that “applied for a $120,000 grant to purchase smoke alarms for low-income families, after a January fire killed four children in a home that had no working detectors.” They didn’t get their grant, but the community organizers at ACORN got a million bucks.
Bilirakis is the ranking member of the Homeland Security subcommittee on Management, Investigations, and Oversight, a job that apparently involves reading the kind of budget reports that make you spit your coffee across the room. Not only did FEMA throw piles of money at ACORN, but the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General reported they “did not perform sufficient oversight of ACORN once the grant was awarded,” according to a press release from Bilirakis’ office. Addiontally, “ACORN neglected to complete activities for which it was responsible under the grant,” and “ACORN could not account for expenditures for more than $160,000 of the grant money.”
ACORN is gone now, although its old components have been quietly re-organizing under new names. They soaked up better than fifty million dollars in federal funding between 1994 and 2009, and were making a play for billions more when public outrage forced the government to shut off the fire hose of taxpayer cash. The ridiculous subsidies Congressman Bilirakis discovered are just one more example of how such groups will always find ways to bathe in the sea of money from a federal budget so immense that it takes years for oversight committees to find out where all the money went. “Community organizers” don’t know much about firefighting, but there is one thing they’re exceptionally good at.