Published September 23, 2009
Rep. Barney Frank sought to clarify his position on ACORN on Wednesday after backpedaling on a request for an investigation by the Congressional Research Service into the community organizing group.
Frank said his "biggest error was to sign a letter to the Congressional Research Service which I had not thoroughly read and which does not accurately represent my own position in all aspects."
Frank also took issue with reports that said he would have voted against a GOP proposal to eliminate federal funding to ACORN.
"In fact, I would have voted for the motion at that time," he said. "I am very disappointed in the actions that were taken by members of ACORN, and I do not believe that ACORN's response has been adequate for an organization that has received public funding."
ACORN is reeling in the wake of a scandal caused by a sting that appears to show ACORN workers providing tax advice to undercover filmmakers posing as a pimp and a prostitute. The series of videos, filmed by James O'Keefe, a conservative activist, and his partner, Hannah Giles, have led to Congress voting to cut off federal funding, the Census Bureau and IRS severing ties, four ACORN employees losing their jobs and a steady drumbeat of calls by Republicans for a criminal investigation. ACORN has hired a Boston attorney to conduct an independent probe of the group, and it filed a lawsuit against the filmmakers and Breitbart.com, a Web site run by conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart, which posted the videos.
Frank explained that he missed the House vote to defund ACORN because it happened at the same time he attended a White House ceremony in which a member for his district was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama.
"There are questions about the constitutionality of Congress passing a law that singles out one organization, but the basic principle that ACORN should not now be receiving public funding is an important one," he said. "I have therefore urged the Obama administration to withhold any additional funding for ACORN at least until there is very firm evidence that the abuses of which ACORN members have been guilty have not only ceased, but that the procedures are in place to prevent them from happening again."
On Tuesday, Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, sent a letter along with Rep. John Conyers Jr., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, to the Congressional Research Service seeking a "clear and objective analysis to sort through the charges and countercharges surrounding ACORN."
Conyers and Frank said in the letter they want the CRS to investigate five specific areas ranging from voter falsification to the federal funds collected by the organization over the past several years.
But on Wednesday, Frank objected to his signature on the letter because of partisanship that he says has been injected into the issue.
Frank noted that ACORN receiving $14.2 million in funding from Bush administration through HUD.
"And I do not remember during the period from 2001 to 2006 when the Republicans controlled the White House, HUD, the House and the Senate, and ACORN was receiving millions of dollars, any Republican objection to this," he said.
"The wild claims that ACORN is the potential beneficiary of billions of dollars in programs voted by Congress is similarly a sad example of excessive partisanship," Frank said. "It is important for the public to know, given what has been made public about these activities, what funds ACORN has received, under what authority, in what administration etc."
Frank said he has asked a fellow Democrat who heads an oversight subcommittee to be ready for a hearing once the figures are made available.
"And I reiterate that my own view is that the appropriate response here would be to have the Obama administration continue what it began with regard to the Census and withhold any funding or authority from ACORN pending a very serious examination of their past behavior and significant changes regarding the future."