The ACORN scandal provides a good opportunity for citizens concerned about profligacy in Washington to explore some of the tools available to find out where their tax money goes.
A good place to start your research is the Federal Audit Clearinghouse on the Census website. All groups receiving more than $500,000 a year from the government are required to file a report. Just type in “ACORN” as the entity and the system pops up the group’s filings. My assistant John Nelson summarized the federal programs and amounts received by ACORN in recent years:
Housing Counseling Assistance $1,168,388
Community Development Block Grants $388,273
Home Investment Partnership $8,000
Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity $204,082
Fair Housing Initiatives Program $85,000
Housing Counseling Assistance $2,209,009
Community Development Block Grants $221,007
Home Investment Partnership Program $21,092
Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity $127,183
Fair Housing Initiatives Program $105,000
Housing Counseling Assistance $2,605,558
Community Development Block Grants $367,560
Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity $153,082
Fair Housing Initiatives Program $140,917
Housing Counseling Assistance $1,955,074
Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity $59,541
Rural Housing and Economic Development $47,619
Fair Housing Initiatives Program $150,000
Community Development Block Grants $238,809
Housing Counseling Assistance $1,813,011
Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity $46,608
Rural Housing and Economic Development $30,504
Fair Housing Initiatives Program $60,000
Community Development Block Grants $372,950
My colleague, Tad DeHaven, has discussed why these HUD programs that funded ACORN ought to be abolished completely.
Subsidy information is also available from IRS Form 990, which is filed by all non-profit groups and compiled at Guidestar and other websites. I am not an expert on this data, but Velma Anne Ruth of ABS Community Research has done a detailed analysis, which she kindly sent to me. She finds that federal funding for ACORN was about $1.7 million in 2008 and about $2.2 million in 2009.
Finally, a user-friendly website to research recipients of federal grants and contracts is www.usaspending.gov.
ACORN’s share of overall federal subsidies is tiny, but as thousands of similar organizations have become hooked on 1,800 different federal subsidy programs, a powerful lobbying force has been created that propels the $3.6 trillion spending juggernaut. ACORN’s own website touts its lobbying success in helping to pass various big government programs. So cutting off ACORN is a start, but just a small start at the daunting task of cutting back the giant federal spending empire.