ACORN affiliate still eligible for CFC, despite concerns
Updated 1:24 p.m. ET
Federal employees can continue to make charitable contributions to a nonprofit affiliate of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now through the government's annual workplace charity campaign despite the concerns of a Republican lawmaker.
As part of an investigation into ACORN's activities, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) in late September asked Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry to drop the ACORN Institute and other affiliates from the list of charities eligible to receive financial assistance through the Combined Federal Campaign.
The giving campaign allows federal employees to donate to eligible charities with cash, checks or payroll deductions.
"The acts perpetrated by ACORN employees were impermissible and should not be supported with CFC dollars," Grassley wrote in a letter to Berry requesting the institute be removed from the list of approved charities.
The ACORN Institute is an affiliate of the national umbrella organization for the community organizing group. Various ACORN constituent parts or affiliates are under investigation for voter registration fraud, embezzlement and other charges. Congress recently froze federal funding to the group after videos produced by conservative activists showed ACORN counselors providing assistance to people posing as a pimp and a prostitute.
"The activities of certain offices of ACORN that have been reported in the media do not provide a legal basis for excluding the Institute from the CFC," Berry wrote in response to Grassley late last week. The institute is a recognized nonprofit organization legally separate from ACORN and does not appear to have violated any laws or CFC regulations, according to Berry. The group's continued eligibility also does not violate the recent joint House and Senate resolution banning federal funding to ACORN or its affiliates, Berry said, since the donations would come from private citizens and not public coffers.
"While Federal monies are, of course, used to accomplish the mission and operations of OPM and other agencies as they execute payroll allotments and perform duties related to the CFC, Federal monies are not 'provided to' the ACORN Institute, Inc., within the meaning or scope of the CR [Congressional resolution]," Berry said.
In a statement, Grassley said that: "The Combined Federal Campaign is a federal program for federal employees. By keeping ACORN charities on the list, the federal government is giving its seal of approval to a group that advised people to lie to the IRS. And this position is inconsistent with congressional intent, as well as the IRS and Census Bureau's stand that they no longer want to do business with ACORN."
The Census Bureau severed ties to ACORN in September following the release of the first video by conservative activists.
Approximately 30,000 charities participate in the CFC, which raised nearly $276 million in 2008, according to OPM.
The ACORN Institute has received less than $50,000 from the CFC since it applied to join in January 2007, according to executive director Brennan Griffin. It works closely with ACORN to provide leadership development and training and helps more than 2,000 families per year apply for various federal benefits, including Medicaid and CHIP.
"We participate in the Combined Federal Campaign on the same basis that all non-profits do: federal workers decide on whether to contribute based on our merits," Griffin said.
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