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Ex-ACORN operatives helping roll out ObamaCare

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ACORN branches all over the country disbanded in disgrace in 2010, but have come back under new names.

A group formed from the ruins of ACORN is hard at work signing people up for ObamaCare, and may be collecting taxpayer cash for their work despite Congress' efforts to cut the organization and its affiliates off from government funding, a watchdog group charged.

The United Labor Unions Council Local 100, a New Orleans-based nonprofit, announced last month it would take part in a multi-state "navigator" drive to help people enroll in President Obama's health care plan. The labor council was established by ACORN founder Wade Rathke after his larger group was broken up amid scandal in 2009 and banned from receiving taxpayer funds.

“At a time when our government has ceased functioning due to an appropriations gap, it is ironic that America’s tax dollars are being doled out to an entity whose poor stewardship of our funds was well-established by Congress,” said Dan Epstein, executive director of Cause of Action, a nonpartisan watchdog group based in Washington.

"... it is ironic that America’s tax dollars are being doled out to an entity whose poor stewardship of our funds was well-established by Congress.”

- Dan Epstein, executive director of Cause of Action

The government has given out $67 million in Navigator grants to help with the controversial rollout of ObamaCare. It was not clear if Local 100 got a grant of its own, but it has set up a help center with Southern United Neighborhoods, a charity founded in March 2010 with many former ACORN members, to enroll people in ObamaCare. Southern United Neighborhoods received a Navigator grant of $486,123.

Rathke could not be reached for comment, but he recently blogged about attending a meeting where the group discussed and planned outreach efforts under the Navigator program. His original group, founded in 1970 and known by the acronym which stands for Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, once employed Barack Obama as a community organizer. But the group went bankrupt after a journalist's sting operation caught employees allegedly telling clients how to cheat on taxes, causing donations to dry up and lawmakers to cut off public funding.

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Epstein said the ban on funding to ACORN-related groups was mysteriously dropped from the key Health and Human Services appropriations bill in the most recent continuing resolution, which Congress uses to fund the government absent formal budgets. He said there appears to be little oversight as to who gets Navigator grants.

Rep.  Tim Murphy, R-Pa., who heads an oversight committee investigating the Navigator grant program, said several grass roots groups are getting in on the program, despite having no track record -- or in the case of the ULC, having a poor one. He blames what he called a rush to implement the Affordable Care Act, as ObamaCare is formally known.

"With the administration rushing to hand out billions of dollars for the health law to countless groups, the potential for fraud and abuse is exceptionally high," Murphy, who also serves as the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, told FoxNews.com. "The law's rollout has been a disaster, and we will continue our aggressive oversight of Navigators and all grant recipients on behalf of the American people to ensure taxpayer dollars are not misused or wasted."

Matthew Vadum, author of "Subversion, Inc: How Obama's ACORN Red Shirts are Still Terrorizing and Ripping Off American Taxpayers," said the group and its progeny cannot be trusted with people's sensitive information, such as what may be collected in the ObamaCare enrollment process.

"ACORN is also infamous for hiring felons without bothering to do background checks, storming hospital emergency rooms and city council chambers, using voter fraud to turn graveyards across the nation into Democratic electoral strongholds, using mob violence against bank executives and other shakedown targets, and for ruthlessly exploiting its own employees and going to court to seek an exemption from minimum wage laws," Vadum recently wrote.