Despite the all-consuming budget standoff in Harrisburg, lawmakers found time Wednesday to take aim at a favorite Republican bogeyman: the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). A bill prohibiting the state from providing funding to the group passed the State House by a 157 to 42 margin. According to the bill's sponsor, Rep. Stephen Barrar, the legislation would cut off state money to organizations that are under indictment.
"Pennsylvania cannot continue to provide state funding to organizations that are under investigations for criminal violations in a number of jurisdictions," said Barrar, in a post from the PA House Republican blog. "We must ensure that recipients of taxpayer dollars are operating within the law, and they are using those dollars for their intended purpose."
Although the bill applies to all non-profits, Barrar made clear to me in an interview that his primary target is ACORN. According to him, the group got nearly $380,000 from the state in the past year. That includes direct state funding, federal pass through money, and legislative grants (also know as WAMs).
ACORN has come under fire in recent weeks thanks to a video produced by two conservative activists showing a staffer offering tax advice to them as they posed as a pimp and prostitute. Barrar's bill comes on the heels of a similar vote by the House of Representatives, which cut off federal funding for the group in September.
ACORN, which has chapters in six cities across Pennsylvania, is primarily known for registering low-income voters and advocating for affordable housing. Much of the funding the group gets from state and federal sources is used for programs designed to prevent foreclosures.