(Repeats to fix glitch in headline)
By Andy Sullivan
WASHINGTON, Sept 14 A poverty-rights group that
has drawn the ire of conservatives suffered another setback in
Washington on Monday when the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly
to deny it access to federal housing funds.
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now,
which helps poor people fight foreclosures and fix tax
problems, has received more than $53 million in U.S. funds
since 1994, but conservatives' charges of widespread fraud have
begun to impact its reputation in the capital.
Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau told the group it did not
want its help boosting participation in next year's census.
The Senate measure, which passed 83 to 7 in the
Democratic-led chamber, was included in a must-pass spending
bill that funds housing and transportation programs for the
fiscal year that starts October 1.
"This is an opportunity for the United States Senate to
stand up and say 'Enough is enough' just as the Census Bureau
did," said Republican Senator Mike Johanns, the measure's
The bill includes $165 million for housing-counseling
programs and $4 billion to help poor communities weather the
worst recession since the 1930s.
ACORN said the Senate's action was disappointing but would
have little impact on its overall operations.
"The only real victims of today's vote are the families who
have benefited from ACORN's important work," ACORN chief Bertha
Lewis said in a statement posted on the group's website.
The House of Representatives passed a similar spending bill
without restrictions on ACORN. The House and Senate must
resolved differences before a final measure can be sent to
Obama to sign into law.
Republicans say ACORN engaged in widespread fraud during
the 2008 presidential campaign when it launched a massive
voter-registration drive in minority communities, which
typically support Democrats and ended up voting overwhelmingly
for President Barack Obama.
ACORN says less than 2 percent of its 1.3 million voter
applications were fraudulent, stemming from canvassers who
sought to boost the number of forms they turned in. Independent
analysts say any actual impact on the election was negligible.
The group has also suffered an embezzlement scandal
involving the founder's brother.
ACORN more recently has been embarrassed by conservative
activists who secretly taped employees in several cities giving
tax advice to a couple posing as a pimp and prostitute.
The group has fired several of those taped while denouncing
the actions as a smear campaign.
(Editing by Philip Barbara)