Congressional Republicans are exerting pressure on agencies like HUD, the Census Bureau and soon the IRS to sever their ties with the low-income housing advocacy group ACORN in the wake of recent hidden camera video footage.
ACORN, short for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, has been providing income tax assistance as part of the IRSs Volunteer Income Tax Preparation, or VITA, program for years. However, if the video footage that has been circulating online in recent days is to be believed, a worker in the groups Baltimore office gave tax advice to a man and woman posing as a pimp and his prostitute on how to falsify their tax returns so they could claim underage prostitutes from South America as dependents and classify prostitution as a performing art on a Schedule C. Video footage of similar sting operations in other ACORN offices around the country have also emerged.
On Monday, the Senate voted to strip ACORN of over $1.6 million in funding to help low-income people get housing loans from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. That followed a decision Friday by the U.S. Census Bureau to also sever its relationship with the group.
Now the IRS is the next target of efforts to strip the group of VITA grants for low-income tax assistance, according to the National Review Online. The organization has long been a target of Republicans who have objected to ACORNs voter registration efforts on behalf of the poor, and it has been the subject of numerous voter fraud investigations, some of which uncovered evidence of falsified voter registration forms filled out by overeager volunteers. However, the group has also enjoyed broad Democratic support, at least until the recent video footage emerged.
ACORN has fired at least four employees in response to the incidents, but it is hard to imagine how workers at the organization could have taken the clients who came in for the tax prep services seriously, especially if they were as outlandishly dressed as they appear in the Baltimore video. Even if the workers were making a good-faith effort to provide tax assistance, they should have dismissed the purported clients from their offices and sent them on their merry way. ACORN claims on its Web site to have prepared approximately 150,000 free tax returns since 2004 totaling $190 million in refunds. All of that now stands in jeopardy because of a pair of video con artists and some gullible employees.