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Right-Wing Campaign Jeopardizes Rights of the Poor, Working Class

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This week, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a 38-page report which found no misuse of federal funds by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). The GAO report, "Preliminary Observations on Funding, Oversight, and Investigations and Prosecutions of ACORN or Potentially Related Organizations ," was issued after calls for an impartial investigation into federal funding awarded from 2005 to 2009 to ACORN, a community organization that serves poor, working class people, and its affiliated organizations. The report was issued in response to a Congressional request for a 6-month investigation into the federal funding awarded to ACORN.

Such findings come as no surprise -- ACORN is the nation's largest and most successful community organization of low and moderate income families, with more than 500,000 members from over 1,000 neighborhood chapters in 75 cities across the country. Since 1970, ACORN has been building powerful community organizations committed to social and economic justice, and has won thousands of victories in the defense of its members.

Ironically, it was Congress itself that initiated an unconstitutional attack on both democracy and poor, working people when they defunded ACORN--an organization that the GAO concluded "play[s] an important role in providing a wide range of public services."

Like many progressive organizations and individuals who work tirelessly for open democracy, social change and justice, ACORN has also been targeted by the right as part of a conspiracy to silence the Left. Congress bowed to this politically-motivated campaign in Fall 2009 when it acted as judge, jury and executioner by barring federal government funds from reaching ACORN and all of its affiliated organizations and allies without a fair investigation and trial.

ACORN must continue to receive federal funding in order to advocate for poor, working class people across the nation and to ensure their rights to affordable housing, a healthy environment, and to a living wage. Without this critical funding, ACORN, its affiliated organizations, and the poor, working class people it serves will be devastated.

In November 2009, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a federal lawsuit challenging Congress ' actions. A federal judge sided with CCR and ordered the United States government and several federal agencies to rescind orders cutting off funding to ACORN and its affiliated organizations in March 2010. The Government has appealed this order and next week, CCR is heading to court to demand that ACORN receives the funds it is due.

Congress defunded ACORN as a result of a public relations campaign orchestrated by the right, which has persistently attacked and defamed ACORN and similar community groups and social justice organizations. In doing so, Congress has effectively acted against the rights of the poor, working class people of this country.

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This post was co-authored by Nahal Zamani, an education and outreach associate at the Center for Constitutional Rights.