WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., may have won the battle related to ACORN last week, but Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann isn’t letting that stop her.
On a blustery morning outside the Capitol, Bachmann announced to a handful of reporters today that she was preparing to introduce separate legislation that would withhold federal housing funds from organizations that have been indicted on voter fraud and related issues.
“This is about how Congress spends the people’s money in our country,” Bachmann said. “It is about the bar that Congress sets for accessing federal funding. The question before us is: Is it a right that anyone is entitled to, or is it a privilege that must be earned?”
Last week, Finance Committee Chairman Frank successfully removed wording that Bachmann had added to a home mortgage bill that sought to withhold federal funding from organizations or individuals that have been indicted for voter fraud.
The language did not specifically mention ACORN, but Bachmann made it clear that the intent was to restrict funds specifically from ACORN and other organizations that have faced indictment.
The main issue that Frank objected to, at the time, was the use of an indictment as the standard as opposed to a conviction.
“There ought to be a bright line between penalties for indictment and fraud convictions,” Frank said.
Indeed, Frank’s substitute language established conviction as the bar.
Meanwhile, Nevada authorities filed criminal charges last week against ACORN and two former employees for allegedly paying canvassers illegally to sign up new voters.
Seven ACORN volunteers in Pennsylvania were recently charged with voter registration fraud, including forgery and falsification of voter records.
“This is not a single isolated incident with ACORN … there has been a pattern of behavior,” Bachmann said.
During their debate last week, Frank seemed to indicate that he might be more open to language that specified a pattern, or history, of indictments as opposed to an isolated instance.
Bachmann said today that her team was looking into couching the new legislation in those terms, but hadn’t made a decision yet.
“I think there is a difference between an organization that may have just an isolated instance as opposed to repeated behavior,” Bachmann said. “That is something that we are looking at. We are talking about the legislation. We don’t want it to be so tight and so restrictive that it has an unintended consequence of leaving out organizations that deserve the money.”
Bachmann estimated that the legislation would be ready in about two weeks.
Sherman Wilburn, Minnesota ACORN Board Chair, later responded this afternoon to Bachmann’s comments. “ACORN is working hard every day in Minnesota to stop predatory lending, and is even helping Rep. Bachmann’s own constituents to save their homes,” Wilburn said.
Kevin Whelan, ACORN deputy political director, later specified that ACORN had never been convicted of voter fraud, and in the Pennsylvania case had turned over the information about a handful of employees. The organization has denied any wrongdoing in the Nevada case.
Also, Whelan clarified that while former employees may be currently under investigation in at least 12 states, the organization itself is not.
Cynthia Dizikes covers Minnesota’s congressional delegation and reports on issues and developments in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at cdizikes[at]minnpost[dot]com.