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Senate blocks HUD grants to ACORN

The community organization is facing more bad publicity after two conservative activists posed as a prostitute and pimp and videotaped workers' advice on getting housing and reporting income.

September 15, 2009|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Senate voted Monday to block the Housing and Urban Development Department from giving grants to ACORN, a community organization under fire in voter-registration fraud cases.

The 83-7 vote came as ACORN , which stands for the Assn. of Community Organizations for Reform Now, is receiving bad publicity related to surreptitious videos. Two conservative activists posed as a prostitute and her pimp, then released a hidden-camera video in which ACORN employees in Baltimore advised the couple on house-buying and how to account for the woman's income on tax forms. Two other videos, aired frequently on media outlets such as the Fox News Channel, depict similar situations in Brooklyn and Washington, D.C.

If the House agrees with the Senate, ACORN could not win HUD grants for programs such as counseling low-income people on how to get mortgages.

Last week, the Census Bureau severed ties with ACORN, saying it does not want the group's help with the 2010 count. The group, which advocates for poor people, conducted a voter registration effort last year and became a target of conservatives when some workers were accused of submitting false registration forms with names including Mickey Mouse.

Last week, prosecutors in Miami-Dade County, Fla., arrested 11 people on charges that they falsified hundreds of voter applications during a registration drive last year. ACORN tipped off authorities to the suspected fraud.

On the hidden camera controversy, ACORN says it has fired the employees involved but accuses Fox of pumping up the scandal.

In a statement, Bertha Lewis, ACORN's chief organizer, said the tapes had been doctored and violated Maryland's wiretapping laws.

Fox News spokeswoman Dana Klinghoffer said the tapes were vetted editorially before they were aired.

The video was created by James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles and posted on BigGovernment.com. Breitbart.com, which owns the website, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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