America

Beleaguered ACORN Losing Significant Foundation Funding

ACORN continues to hemorrhage important support because of a number of controversies it's had in recent years, from financial mismanagement to workers caught in a sting by a conservative critic who got them on videotape giving advice on how to break the law.

NPR's Pam Fessler reports on All Things Considered about how the community organizing group is becoming something of a pariah to foundations that have provided millions of dollars of support over the years.

As Pam reports:

Several major funders told NPR that they've ended or are re-assessing their ties with ACORN and its affiliates. The Ford Foundation gave almost $2 million in recent years, but says it has suspended ACORN funding because of concerns about inadequate financial controls.

The Marguerite Casey Foundation gave ACORN over $4 million dollars. But spokeswoman Kathleen Baca says the grants are not being renewed, even though the foundation thinks ACORN has done some outstanding work for the poor.

"Part of our funding criteria is fiscal responsibility. And a strong management structure. At this time there are too many questions surrounding the management of ACORN and its finances for us to fund them."

The Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Bank of America and JP Morgan also say they've ceased making grants to ACORN and its affiliates.

Although at least one foundation is bucking the tide. The California Endowment says it's on the verge of approving a new half million dollar grant to ACORN to help low-income families access health care and other benefits. Robert Phillips is the endowment's director of Health & Human Services:

"We feel pretty solid in our relationship with them, for one really specific reason, which is the standards that we've kind of held all of our grantees to, ACORN has met."

But it's unclear whether that will be enough.

Because of this important foundation support is drying up, as well as steps by Congress to cut off federal money, ACORN sent out an urgent appeal this week for donations, Pam reports.

She also has this interesting twist resulting from congressional attempts to crack down on ACORN.

The House has a bill directed at ACORN that would ban federal funding going to any organization that "has filed a fraudulent form with any federal or state regulatory agency." As Pam reports, this could snare not just ACORN but many companies, including defense contractors.

Pam interviewed Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group who said:

"In some weird way, we think this could be fabulous because they're all suddenly going to be swept into serious accountability, which is what we've been trying for years to accomplish."

It's a case of potentially massive tree of unintended consequences growing from this particular ACORN. We're sure those defense contractor lobbyists will be working hard to fix this one.

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