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tv   American Politics  CSPAN  December 7, 2009 12:30am-2:00am EST

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we want to help areas by creating jobs, not causing unemployment. >> the prime minister has just told us that he hopes that in a couple of years' time, we will have 300,000 troops fighting the taliban that happens to be exactly the number that i told the government that they would need when they first went in with an adequate troops. should he not now as i? >> mr. speaker, can i say that president obama will be grateful for his endorsement of our strategy. at 300,000 means that there are 150,000 afghan troops trained and ready. i am very grateful that president obama has made it at the center of what we have
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proposed. can i thank him again for his advice. he has not always been right. >>  particularly to help sustain the post office. >> mr. speaker, the service proposed our children's savings accounts and small businesses and a weekly budgeting for those to take advantage of those. once again, we're giving this a new purpose and this is what the labor government does. >> >> each week, the house of
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commons is in session, we hear conversations live. then again, on c-span at 9:00 a.m., eastern. you can find a video archive of past prime ministers questions and links to the house of commons and prime ministers web sites. >> >> up next, house republicans discuss the group known as acorn. and then health legislation. and then the rally against the men 11 terrorist trials. >> federal reserve chairman ben bernanke speaks to the economic
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club of washington. >> what new rules that the internet need to govern the way that the permission travels over networks. to use on the neutrality of the future of the internet, monday night on c-span >> on monday, there was oversight of a group maine acorn. the justice department says the obama administration can pay the association for contracts established before that law. this is just over two hours. >> this republican forum will come to order. i want to make it clear that this is a joint forum with the government reform and oversight committee. the ranking member is girl i said and we are cochairing in this meeting or for that we are
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having today. we especially appreciate the interest and the expert witnesses that we have today. the attendance of all the members that are here as well. recognize myself in an opening statement, and then others for opening statements, and we will proceed and looking for the having the testimony of our witnesses shortly. we're here today to investigate the nature and extent of potential wrongdoing engaged in by the association of community organizations for reform now, otherwise no one -- known as acorn. for months we have been calling our democratic counterparts to investigate the very serious allegations against acorn. today is an opportunity to move toward on an issue of importance to the american people, to determine whether it taxpayer
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dollars have been allocated to an organization engaged in illegal conduct. i am pleased to hold this -- in conjunction with darrell heisei. -- issa. he has been leading the way in investing this conduct and i support -- i appreciate their support of this forum. for years they have been the subject of allegations of fraud, misconduct, and criminal activity. they have been investigated with voter registration fraud in over a dozen states, and charged with 50 different counts of election- related fraud. in addition, acorn is paid over $1 million in restitution to avoid criminal prostitutions and has admitted to submitting 400,000 false or fraudulent voter registrations for in the 2008 elections. the following is just a sample of the conduct acorn has engaged
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in. in 2008, it was uncovered that approximately $1 million was embezzled from a corn by the brother of its founder. they failed to report the theft until the theft was made public by the media. in louisiana, the attorney general believes the amount embezzled might be as high as $5 million. a seattle prosecutors indicted seven acorn workers for the worst voter registration fraud in washington state history. oddly nine were confirmed as bayou -- only nine were confirmed as valid, and 97% were fake. acorn employees fell -- pled guilty to election registration fraud there. one person was given crack
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cocaine in exchange for fraudulent registrations which included deceased individuals. one acorn employee was charged with perjury and identity theft. this summer, allegations against acorn reached prime time thanks to a now famous undercover video with short acorn employees advising a pimp and prostitute, the undercover du loup, on trafficking girls for sex. they seemed all too willing to provide assistance on how best to avoid detection. but that is not all. the allegations against acorn continue to pour in. according to documents obtained by oversight staff, it appears that they directed an appellate the target republicans in the 2008 election. this type of political activity is a clear violation of the organization's non-profit status.
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with mountains of evidence, federal law-enforcement agencies can no longer ignore the shape the actions of acorn. because it appears to be organized and widespread, the fbi should look into whether this is a criminal enterprise. the president's close ties with acorn, dating back over 15 years, are of additional concern. president obama previously served as acorn's lawyer, participated in acorn training programs in chicago, and sat on the boards of two organizations that provided funding to acorn's chicago chapter. just last year, his campaign misrepresented that it had paid more than 800,000 to an offshoot of acorn. the obama campaign initially said that they used this for polling. there really use the money for the same types of voter registration project that have mired acorn in criminal
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investigations in at least 12 states. the president's ties to acorn take any conclusion that the justice department may reach with regard to whether or not to investigate and prosecute acorn employees. that is why i requested date the attorney journal -- i have requested that the attorney general appoint a special prosecutor. congress also has an obligation to investigate the apostle -- the possibly illegal conduct of acorn. acorn has received $53 million in federal funding. it is disappointing that that is a pat -- the democratic majority have taken no steps investigate the wrongdoing, even though the majority of the senator -- of congress people have voted to ban the acorn from federal funding. so far it has been all talk and no action. for years our colleagues on the other side of the aisle criticized us.
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in the face of clear wrongdoing, the same members have ignored congress's obligation to investigate acorn. members of the judiciary committee have a responsibility to look into allegations that acorn, and affiliated organizations and employees, are engaged in activities to undermine the integrity of our democracy. today, our republican colleagues began that process. i will not turn to the gentleman from california, mr. issa, for his opening remarks. is the ranking member of the oversight and government reform committee. >> thank you. i want to thank you again for co hosting this form and continuing your leadership acorn to leadership accountable for its criminal activities. we enjoyed joint jurisdiction when it comes to ensuring that luck -- elections are fair, that
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our constitution be maintained, and that government be governed by the congress and not in fact determine who would be in the congress. i regret that this forum today is necessary because in fact the oversight and judiciary committee chairman have refused to do the type of oversight that should be done. the american people deserve an official hearing into a corn. we have repeatedly asked for that and have not gotten it. today's government-sponsored forum will attend to -- i attempt to shed light on this abuse, in spite of the fact that it is by definition partisan. and it is necessarily partisan. we would like to have this committee appropriately non- partisan. partisan. we will show that acornno carri0
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as they know about it on a corn. anyone having any information concerning further wrongdoings of acorn can go to our whistle- blower web site. write to us or call us. this the first that and having the needy in america, those needing to renegotiate loans, those maintaining -- those with problems maintaining their housing, and those who would like to take advantage of their
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rights as citizens to take advantage -- to use organizations that are not tainted with one party. we're grateful but the documents -- for the documents that we have today, it thousand pages provided by various states. my staff tells me that in fact these documents are likely only the tip of the iceberg, but page after page of this evidence shows that acorn officials have abused taxpayer money to enrich themselves, and led lavish lifestyles in sharp contrast with those of the americans acorn purports to help. what other top acorn officials discovered an embezzlement, instead of acting to a cop -- all those responsible fully accountable, these officials covered up the wrongdoing. evidence also indicates acorn is
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engages in illegal partisan activities designed to help individual democratic members. but in the primary and in the general. this goes from city councilmen to state assemblyman all the way to president barack obama. rather than using taxpayer grants to help the poor communities, of home acorn was organized, it they enrich themselves in this criminal organization. it can only be described today as a political machine. because light shed on their many misdeeds, including videos of numerous acorn employees and location across the country, which buys two posing as a pimp and prostitute on how to engage and prostitute on how to engage in illegal activities -- the senate voted to cut funding to make corn. days later the house did the
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same. on september 24, 2009, congress passed and the president signed continued appropriations. several state legislatures have done the same. while the are enjoying their family holidays with family and friends, they released an opinion that designed to overturn the very law that congress passed. it intended to cut off federal funding to acorn. this raises obvious questions that deserve an answer. is this payback to the political machine that helped get him elected. is he trying to circumvent his own signature? from hud and several banks and
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foundation, some of the largest banks and america, including those that received tarp money. congress was clear -- all federal agencies were to immediately suspend their contracts with acorn, even the ones that preexisting. now the office of legal counsel at the department of justice has told hud that it can honor those contracts. as a result, a corn will continue to receive taxpayer funding. before begin, let me briefly go over a few conclusions that our investigations beginning in january have discovered. acorn makes $48 million a year from its membership dues. today we will hear how those dues are received and how often they do not properly reflect what most people would consider to be membership. prior to the justice department decision to partially restore
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federal funding, acorn was financially bankrupt and had begun closing offices nationwide. acorn is currently in the process of changing its name and has already translated -- transferred resources to several chapters of the service employees international union, and possibly to the working families party, changing to win, and the council and unity. these organizations are less well known but they helped acorn survive and prosper in its political ambition. it reflects a business model in which money is taken from poor people and bottle to partisan political efforts. acorn corporations lack fire walls. they blend tax-exempt and taxable and political activities as though they were one.
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acorn's on the internal audit revealed severe abuse of tax- exempt and taxable accounts. acorn creates in shares with its tax-exempt affiliate's data targeting at state and federal representative districts to ensure votes for democrats. acorn has voter registration material the specifically instruct members to tell people to vote for barack obama for president. acorn has mishandled the personal financial information of its members, and those it serves, putting them at great risk for identity theft. the purposes of this forum is to explore the scope of acorn's misdeeds. the organization -- the degree of concern that every american
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should have that the current administration is fast becoming in reality the war room for acorn's political machine. why did the department of justice approved the furtherance of taxpayer funds acorn? why has the president and his administration continued to dismiss growing concerns about acorn's criminal acts as a "distraction clause " and that "he has not followed it closely?" perhaps they have not received answers to these important questions, because acorn is a wholly owned subsidiary of the democratic party. nearly two decades ago, the american people were told by another democratic president that the era of big government was over. what we now know is that it was not over with president
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clinton's administration. today we are witness to an era of big and bad government with the obama administration, a chicago-style tactics, and its cozy relationship with those to defraud the american people. i'm concerned that the era of construction, propagated by acorn and protected by the white house, is just beginning. the federal government has a duty to ensure that correct organizations are not given the power to disenfranchise a our citizens and threaten our liberty. i look forward to our witnesses and i certainly hope that today's forum will be the beginning of a wake-up call to the majority -- for the majority to hold real hearings. and i thank the gentleman. >> thank you. some other members wish to make opening statements. we will turn to them now. the tillman from n.c. is recognized. -- that gentleman from north carolina is recognized.
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>> i think you have addressed the pertinent issues and not look for to hearing from the panel was the meeting progresses. i yield back. >> the gentleman from iowa, mr. kean, is recognized. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i appreciate you for holding this hearing together, this forum, more technically correct. but scan over the things that come out in my mind as i listen to the presentations that each of you have made and covered a lot of the actual data. i have been watching acorn for four or five years. if anybody wonders about my dedication, i carried a constitution in my pocket every day, and end of my -- and in my other pocket i carry one of these, acorn. this is a threat to this constitution. of all the things that are guaranteed in this constitution, the rights that come from god to humanity that are enumerated in
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this constitution, the underpinning of the constitution itself, the very foundation, is the american people faith and confidence in the legitimate election process. and acorn, a criminal enterprise, has been engaged in many things. but the most dangerous to our republic is the corruption of the electoral process, but will fall and intentional submission of fraudulent voter registration forms. and some will say, nobody voted fraudulently. we turned and a lot formed. acorn themselves admitted that 400,000 were fraudulent. but we have prosecution's going on in places like troy, new york for fraudulent votes 3 who would imagine that you would spend the millions of dollars that acorn has spent to produce all sorts of fraudulent voter registration forms and not have anything come out of that but a legitimate election? it defies any but a sense of logic. this is million of dollars
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spent. and the detroit -- and a fraudulent elections that come from false or fraudulent voter registration forms, what of their components? what is happened with the community reinvestment act? how is it that acorn was front and center, bragging about shaking down lenders to get them to make bad loans? acorn was it they came to this congress and asked us to lower standards for fannie mae and freddie mac said they could pick off the loans that have party been shaken down by them? and a shakedown term is not mine. that is the chairman of the judiciary committee, john conyers, who put that into my years. a number of the appropriations committees, this congress needs to do it full court press. i'm interested in hearing from
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one of the witnesses to see if he has the resources to do way investigation of the national organization that are engaged in these things, including the of the small -- the embezzlement process, the coverup, the facilitation of false and fraudulent voter registration forms, and by the way, i will make a point also that i believe that when this investigation is finally finished, whether it is done with legitimate investigation of state and federal authorities working in conjunction with congressional investigations and hearings, or whether it is finally uncovered by the historians, we are going to find out that these roads falling acorn to lead to the white house. we know that the president has worked for acorn, and he has been part and parcel of that, he has talked about it openly, project vote in particular, and i know he was a pro bono
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attorney. that entire network is something, the chicago organization, and the last point i will make is, the new white house counsel is the one who said -- set a seven-page letter to the attorney general urging him to investigate president bush and the mccain organization for alleging that acorn was promoting fraudulent voter registration activities and arguing that they should be investigated and prosecuted if charges could be found. i think it is the exact opposite. now we can see what his job is in the white house, and historians will figure this out if we do not, but it is our congressional duty to get to the bottom of the acorn. >> let me get this right. there are roughly 100 acorns in the container. each one represents 400 fraudulent votes? >> that is a close estimate. >> can we of certain that none
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of the acorns were obtained fraudulently? dollars they may have all been obtained fraudulent. these came from the capitol grounds. that would be the acorns that belong to the american people. they represent the public's interest in investigating acorn. >> mr. gohmert is recognized for an opening statement. >> thank you, mr. chairman, ranking members met -- i wish it were otherwise. and ranking member issa. i do think the witnesses for being here. this is such an important issue. for a government that wants to take over everybody's health care, where there are estimates of 50% of fraud, it really does same that we ought to be more interested in fraud.
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i know that there was he went right after the 2000 election issue from the other party? i know that there are democrats they care about fraud and corruption. they are friends of mine. but apparently the leadership has not felt it was worth investing the time and effort on. this is critical. how can we run anything if we can i get this right and eliminate fraud when people have the courage to come forward and address it themselves. so i appreciate this hearing and the efforts that have already gone into this.
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i appreciate the efforts of the witnesses and i look for during your testimony. and as i looked down at the acorns, we know that from one acorn, many nets can grow. >> thank you, mr. gohmert. i recognize the gentleman from indiana. the former chairman of the government committee. >> let's get that right. i want to thank both the ranking members for having this hearing. i wish we could have a complete hearing with the democrats being involved so we can get into some details in an efficient way, more efficient than this one today. all that they are secretary of state for being here. he is a real fighter. he works so hard to get the photo identification past, and also to make all the way through the supreme court, and they wonder if you are one of my theories and i really appreciate you being here today.
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i would like a lot of comments about what you have done but i will not still your thunder. let me just say that i do not think that there is any doubt that acorn is a corrupt organization. when you look at the things that they have done, they have evaded taxes, obstructed justice, engaged in self aided and abetted coverups about the brother of that organization, that convicted investment fraud, deprive the public of its right to on a service is, committed conspiracy to defraud the united states, and as has been mentioned by my colleagues, the president was one of their " president was one of their " advisers and legal counsel -- i believe white house will do everything possible and that is why everything is so important. we need to keep the pressure on
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and make sure that we talk to our democratic congress so they do not try to sweep this under the rug. the also submitted false documents to the irs and department of labour. this was in violation of the employee income security act. they have become embroiled in numerous voter fraud cases. this is an organization that needs to be completely disbanded, should not get a dime from the federal government and we need to be very vigilant in making sure we continue to pursue this. thank you. i yield back the balance of my time. >> thank you, very much i know that acorn has an exception in louisiana. had its inception in louisiana, so i
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want to thank the assistant secretary general for being here to testify. i want to get the details -- if the backs of the situation, to see whether or not acorn was involved in illegal activities in louisiana, because coming in louisiana, because coming from new orleans, i note the organization has done some good things in order to address the issues of minorities as well as other issues that concern the african-american community. again, thank you for being here and i look for to your testimony. >> thank you, mr. cao. >> i thank you for holding these hearings. allegations against acorn keep growing and growing. the more that we look at this
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organization, the more it looks like a criminal enterprise -- nationwide criminal enterprise. most disturbing is that this criminal enterprise has at its tentacles at the most fundamental aspects of our democracy, voting. voting is sacred in this country for it is one of the reasons that we started this country, so that people would have a voice in our democracy. and have some organization come and and flaunt their right to vote fraudulent voting procedures is something that we ought to be very concerned about because it is an attack that is the basic fundamental premise of our country, the right to vote. we get been attache in third world countries when they have voter fraud in their relations. all self righteous, not that we should not. but we talk about democracy is all over the world. we are quick to say that there is voter fraud in those elections.
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well, we ought to look at home and start dealing with our own issues. voter fraud comes up, i think, every two year's summer in the country. we talk about voter fraud and after the media goes on to the next event, it disappears and no one goes to jail. it is time that those coated jail for voter fraud in this country. and it needs to start where these people in acorn, if they are guilty, they need to go behind bars. then they lose their right to vote. that is what happens to convicted felons in this country. i think it is imperative that we have an open dialogue and we find out the truth and get to the basis of what is taking place in this country, and in a taxpayer-funded organization that is supposed to help votes and denies other people the right to vote. that seems to be the worst of everything. the secretary of state for the state of washington recently said that acorn voter fraud is
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the worst case of voter registration fraud in history. of the state. of the 1800 names submitted by acorn in washington, 97% were falsified. and of course this is not unique to the state of washington. it is all over the united states, in missouri, ohio, and 12 other states. does it not seem like criminal enterprise is taking place here? are all of these acorn groups organized to commit voter fraud against the american public? who knows? it is certainly time to find out. it is not an isolated problem. it appears to me acorn has systematically and purposely work to subvert the democratic process in this country and it makes me mad and it ought to make americans matt, too. people need to be held accountable. they are guilty of voter fraud, we should not just just -- we should not just talk about it.
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someone should be tried and go to jail. how would you back to the ranking member. >> thank you, mr. pope. but thank all eight members for their excellent opening statements today. we will not go to introducing our expert panel. our first witnesses secretary todd rookiquita. he has overseen indian oblations with the commitment to innovation and technological advancements. his efforts to combat investment and mortgage fraud have led to the convictions of dozens of white collar criminals, over 300 years of jail time, and millions of dollars return to the victims. he went on to obtain a law degree from the indiana university school of law in in in the -- in indianapolis. he practice and an attorney before serving as general counsel to the secretary of
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state sewer and gilroy, and later as deputy secretary of state. our second witness is david caldwell. is the deputy director of the criminal division for the louisiana attorney general's office. he is also the head of these special corruption and prosecution unit. he graduated from louisiana state louisiana with a degree in english and russian. after graduating from tulane law school, he worked the attorney general in the criminal law division. he is try and obtain convictions in white-collar cases in insurance fraud and vote rigging. he served as an advisor and coach for lsu law school, and for another program which began in 2003. our third witness is a senior
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legal fellow at the heritage foundation's center for zero legal and judicial studies where he manages civil reform initiative spirit before joining heritage in 2008, he severed two years as a member of the federal election commission. previously worked at the justice department as the council for the assistant attorney general for civil rights. a former litigator, and a senior corporate officer, he worked on tort reform and civil justice issues for more than a decade in the insurance industry. he is a 1984 graduate of vanderbilt university school of law. he received his bachelor's degree in political science in 1981 from the massachusetts institute of technology. our final witness is a writer in washington, d.c., working with the american bar association
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acorn and association. she has partnered with a european organization as an election observer and macedonia. in 2008, she came for to expose the damage that acorn has done to the impoverished and marginalized communities. we appreciate all of you being here today, and for your various perspectives, all useful and informative, and will begin with the secretary. >> thank you, ranking members met. -- ranking members smith and issa for holding this committee. representative burton, thank you for providing on the people of the fifth district of indiana. i share your concern. i am not sure why this is a
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partisan issue, quite honestly. when i talk to the indiana secretary of state about what we're doing, it is not just for republicans. it is democrats and everyone asking me. >> can you see if your green light is on? i can link closer. dollars this is an american issue. this is a constitutional issue, as congressman king points out. as congressman poe points out, i think americans ought to be mad because we are in indiana. this is going on in our election process. we have worked very heart of the last several years to make sure that our process works. that it has the appropriate measure of a sensibility and integrity, and both are needed if we are to have a process that belief -- that people believe in. if people stop believing in the process, if they think their
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votes are deluded or stolen by zealots who would cheat the system in favor of the party or candidate or cause, then they stopped coming. and when we stopped coming to the polls, we lose the republic. that is why this is a fundamental matter. i am submitting written testimony along with two attachments. i will attempt to abbreviate them here now and make your points. i'm happy to take your questions. i view my role as chief election officer for the state of indiana where i try to increase participation and maintain the cup -- the public confidence in the process by conducting a process that is a sensible and fair to all of those eligible to vote. in that sense, but registration fraud is voter fraud. this is a holistic problem -- process and that is one of the many ways that we as a state
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make sure that we have parameters in place, that we do not have chaos in the system, that we do have a process in fact. and voter registration is an integral part of that. i want to point out that in that same campaign, i think the third parties are very important to help us in voter registration. i do not think it would be a good idea to make the solely a government process. it is lost on most of us, but the distinction is there. in a free society, we as people select to we want to send to government and then we'll let them to do that. that is why we basically have volunteers as poll workers. that is why it is acceptable and needed to have third parties responsible -- responsible for part is helpless in the -- responsible for party is helpless in the voter registration process. and i do not want to do away with that third party held, but the emphasis should be on the word responsible.
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as early as february 2008, in a work -- in a year that would be historic for indiana, we began receiving alarming reports from constituents in several counties throughout the state about fraudulent voter registration activities and the acorn chapter located in gary. they dropped approximately 5000 voter registration applications at the office during the last few days and the hours of the voter registration period. apart from the chaos that this causes for election administrators to process all of that, and we are required to process those under law to make sure that no one is inadvertently disenfranchised. but many of these turned out to be suspicious, incomplete, or unverifiable. at that point i ask the lake county board to secure those
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applications, all the evidence associated with them, and sent as examples of what they were talking about. they did, and my office ended up sending copies of 1438 border registration application that had been flagged by the lake county board. evidence of a pattern of voter registration fraud was striking. for example, 61% of the applications had one or more critical defect observable on the face of the application, rendering them in balladur useless 388% of that 1438 application number could not be verified the the in the end of voter mia -- vote -- the indiana motor vehicle registration. you should know that indiana law requires the identification on
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the application of anyone offering, completing, or updating voter registration information. only three of the altered applications identified the third party. 22% of the acorn applications appeared to be multiple applications prepared by the same individual. attorneys for acorn made several defenses. one of the main ones being that indiana law requires acorn and other groups to turn and all voter registration applications. my opinion is that it is an absurd interpretation of indiana law. an analogy would be to our tax return. no one is required to turn in an knowingly fraudulent one. and the same holds true for indiana's voter registration law. the intent was not there that we turn in fraudulent voter registration applications, only that we did not want valid
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registration application sitting in someone's truck are turned in after the election or something like that. we went and in the heat of processing the election, we got the percentages that i gave you, the statistics, by doing the preliminary, informal investigation. in indiana, only a county prosecutor or the u.s. attorney can file charges, and the relevant law enforcement agencies have investigated power. we found what could be found if further investigation could be done. we have been talking to them repeatedly for the last year. they assure us that an investigation is ongoing and
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charges have yet to be filed. i was certainly encourage -- i would certainly encourage people here to enforce federal law when it comes to the 2008. there were federal candidate on the ballot which gives the federal government jurisdiction over this matter in indiana and elsewhere. i'll submit my testimony for the record. >> without objection, the complete testimony will be made part of the record. >> thank you, congressman, and i appreciate the opportunity to be here today. the opinions i am expressing our mind on and not those of the heritage foundation. i would say that representative king was holding at heritage copy of the constitution. [laughter] acorn is a far-flung operation
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with numerous subsidiaries and affiliates. one person discovered 200 affiliate's, almost an under estimate, operating at a new orleans. it claims operations and 100 cities. some of these organizations engaged in political work, like its affiliate's citizen services which received more than $800,000 last year from the obama presidential campaign. others have a tax-exempt charitable status. yet the $127 million in donations or tax dollars that acorn has reported to have taken in since 1993, and again that is an under estimate, are apparently moved around is that work of organization and coming but with no concern of the propriety or legality of doing so. congressman issa released a report that he talked about that found but structurally and operationally acorn hi behind
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the paper wall of non-profit corporate protection to conceal criminal conspiracy on the part of its directors to launder federal money in order to pursue a partisan political agenda and manipulate the american electorate. the report and other reports also show that acorn has been accused of evading taxes, obstructing justice, covering up of million-dollar embezzlement submitting false filings to the irs, as well as violating the fair labor standards act. i think the million dollar investment may have been $5 million according to the louisiana attorney general who we will hear from. it was hidden by acorn for 10 years. senator grassley released a report which was a review of acorn's tax-exempt status. he found almost 50 such tax- exempt subsidiaries of acorn,
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mainly receiving charitable donations. he concluded that the flow of money among the acorn family of organizations is a big shell game. dollars raise for charitable activities appear to be used for impermissible lobbying and political activity. in 2008, elizabeth kingsley, acorn's own lawyer, prepared an internal report later leaked outlining their interlocking directorate. its lack of documentation about transfers of money between acorn and its many affiliate's, the possible use of tax- deductible, charitable donations for political purposes, and the conflicts of interest acorn interest employees who have dual roles in the tax-exempt entities and the other affiliate's that engage in political activities. acorn even fired some of its own members on the border trusties
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after they started seeking information on that flow of money and the internal operations of the organization. acorn is a tangled mess where a small group controls the dozens of shell companies that routinely, and possibly illegal transfer of millions of dollars. that is the classic pattern used by criminals to launder money and control their operations. former arkansas acorn chaired dorothy perkins says that acorn was "run right -- run like a jim jones cult, where all the money ended up under the control of the founder and longtime head of the organization." then we get to the undercover videos. they show five separate acorn offices providing assistance and advice to a couple posing as a prostitute and her pants on how operate an illegal business, commit tax and mortgage fraud,
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and money-laundering. the couple also admits they are smuggling and underage girls from south america for prostitution. not only do the employees not report human trafficking and sex slaves, they provided by some house successfully cover-up such an end -- such an operation from the authorities. acorn has had dozens of its employees convicted of voter registration fraud and numerous elections. there are many different third party organizations batting cage in voter registration, but there is only one with a record of that kind of criminal activity, an obvious sign of problems within the organization itself. one former acorn employees said that there is no quality control on purpose. such voter registration fraud is a criminal violation of federal law, punishable by up to five years in federal prison. this criminal activity also
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interferes with the ability of regular voters to participate in the election. acorn has a habit, as the secretary has pointed out, of dumping huge numbers of voter registration forms on local election officials just before the deadline for voter registration for upcoming elections. so while officials are trying to process the registration of legitimate voters, they have to spend a disproportionate amount of limited time and resources sorting through thousands of fraudulent and invalid forms submitted by acorn. one state audit alone in india not found that 83% of the registrations filed by a acorn and its affiliate, but private vote, were invalid. in the internal report, it said that the tight relationship between project but an acorn make it impossible to document that project vote boss money had been used in a strictly non- partisan manner.
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there appeared to be numerous violations of federal law by an organization receiving millions of federal tax dollars and may have abused its tax-exempt status. yet the department of justice in the fbi have been almost entirely silent and seemingly negligent in carrying out their duty to investigate and prosecute violations of federal law. as has the irs. credit goes to officials in states like louisiana and nevada for opening investigations, but acorn is a sprawling, multilayer organization with offices all over the country. it operates in a multitude of different areas from elections to housing to even operating radio and tv stations. i'm sorry, is my time up? , could you summarize? >> the bottom line is that only the fbi and the justice department have the power to perform a nationwide investigation. and there is more than enough evidence for the undercover
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videos and all of these other reports to provide a basis for a federal investigation. the government has launched a major investigations of businesses and government contractors on much less evidence. what needs to happen is they need to act immediately -- the dumping of california of 20,000 documents in the trash by the san diego office only days after the secretary of state -- the attorney general announced an investigation shows that they are willing to destroy evidence and perhaps obstruct the law enforcement investigations. oversight hearings need to be in -- conduct and not just a acorn but also of the justice department and the fbi so that they are not doing an investigation, they can explain why not. >> thank you. mr. caldwell.
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dollars thank you for holding this hearing. can you hear me? i will keep my comments very brief. i do not want to rehash any of the stock already talked about. i did want to answer a question mr. king had with regards to the massive investigation, whether we have the resources to do that, just in case i kick off. i would like to say no to start off with. but we are going to do what we can with what we have. it is probably unusual that a number of law enforcement and the investigating agency is here to testify before a committee regarding an ongoing investigation. we are aware of that but in this case it is necessary, because this is a nationwide issue. acorn is based out of new orleans. there is an allegation of fraud in several different areas, particularly involving taxpayer
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money, which is what we are principally interested in. and the public nature of this has been very helpful to us through the committees here. we have seen a lot of information and witnesses have come forth. you have been a great help enlighten us on a lot of different issues to help us narrow bands -- the focus of our investigation. it is important to point out that as to the financial fraud, it was those people who brought this forward. it is not a democrat or republican issue. you put people in jail -- the justice not ask them if they are democratic -- democrat or republican. this is important to everybody and since this occurred in louisiana, a legion -- a louisiana agency would be remiss to sit on their hands and not do anything about it. that is why our office is involved in particular.
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i did want to point out that it was covered in the media that we executed a search warrant on the acorn offices in new orleans. i believe it was friday, november the sixth. we did that because we had gotten information from acorn attorneys that some of the hard drives were turning up missing. a lot of us were concerned that maybe some more would turn up missing. unspent -- instead of spending years haggling about what was going to be turned over and what would not, we went ahead and secured all of that. we've got a lot of it back to those offices and we have done what we said we were going to do. what that search warrant yielded were 178 hard drives, the servers, on massive amount of information. also documentation that we were looking for that we had subpoenaed and had not yet gotten up until that date.
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what our mission is, if there are violations of state law, louisiana state law, we will pursue those. but if there are other potential violations of laws of other state or the federal government, i think we would be remiss if we did not handed over to somebody. i do not want to stick that in the back closet. we put out the word to other state agencies, in contact with california, their attorney general's office regarding some nonprofit issue, and to the extent that we can legally and ethically share and provide the affirmation that we have obtained, we are certainly willing to do that. the issues that we're running into now is the people reviewing those documents are myself and my investigator, scott bailey, and we're in the process of getting another accountant. we tried to enlist the help of the governmental accounting
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office, perhaps the hands -- the inspector general, and we're reaching out to other states. we got an estimate for the forensic review of these hard drive and servers. the targeted estimate that we got back was approximately $3.5 million. just for a targeted review of disinformation. the forensic people have to go in and determine what is privileged and what is not, and we have to have lawyers involved. we know that all runs up the bill pretty well. that is what we're dealing with. that is what we're dealing with. to the extent that any of y if any of you can help with those agencies in your jurisdiction to provide manpower or federal assistance, what ever we need to do to effectuate that. we have asked our state government for funding, and we will see how that turns out.
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i wanted to let you know that it is an issue for us. we are in the process of hopping around on one leg with this investigation. we're going to keep hopping until it falls off. if we run across some think that is pertinent to other states, we're going to do that and be active in that regard. i would encourage anybody that is watching this, any witnesses -- if you have got something to say and you have worked for acorn and you are interested in doing the right thing, perhaps he became disenchanted -- we as a law enforcement agencies stand in the middle and all we want to do is find out what the truth is, whatever that may be. if that impulse the illegal use of taxpayer money or private donor funds -- private donor funds, we're going to do the right things. we think each of you for being part of this process.
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g a part of this process. i wanted to note that in louisiana, after allegations of voter fraud, we actually have a statewide registration system so that of someone registers in one parish in north louisiana, you cannot go double dip with the same name down in new orleans are bad -- or wherever. -- or baton rouge or wherever. >> thank you, mr. cali. your invitation to come for leases to our next weapon -- mr. caldwell. your invitation to come forward leads to our next witness, thank you. [inaudible] .
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we put together this all across the board. i came for because i have noticed some things that happen with them acorn, such as dealing with project vote. it violated its 501 status something i testified to end pennsylvania. i also testified that they were operating as the same
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organization. money was being funneled between the organizations through cc i. they promoted a culture of dishonesty that was motivated by getting a number of voter registration cards, whether or not they were correct. there were let -- willing to let bad one slip through, at the time they were looking at 1.1 million because they were paid per card. -- they didn't get 20 cards per day whether or not they'd be correct or not to sign contracts saying that acorn would prosecute them. in most cases they did not understand what they were filing, and therefore acorn was able to throw them under the bus. i have the complete testimony here and i'll be glad to submit this and to answer any questions. >> thank you, ms. monkrief.
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the gentleman from california, say, is recognized for his question. >> thank you, ranking member smith. ms. monkrief, i want to thank you for coming forth to take a moment to sort of define perhaps a bit further your past. you've worked with other nonprofits, microloans, other organizations to help the poor. isn't that true? >> yes. >> and your goal in going to acorn is in fact furthering community outreach and community support to help aid the poor, isn't that true? >> that's correct. i turned down a higher-paying job to go to acorn because i felt like i was ideologically in line with them. >> and i think that's something i hope we all learn today and leave this forum knowing better is that there are people like you who care about people in need who go to organizations, other organizations and find that they're doing a good job or
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not. but in this case you went to acorn, the largest organization of its type, and found that they had other agendas. isn't that true? >> yes. >> well, let's go through a little bit of that agenda if i could. and i'm going to be fairly narrow because my time is short and there are many people who have questions who maybe haven't been through the answers with you as often. first of all, i've made the accusation this is a criminal enterprise. i'll set that aside for a moment and just talk a little bit about the partisan nature. all of us on the dais except perhaps one knew albert winn, local congressman here, well-liked on both sides of the i'm. you watched agosh's involvement in his -- acorn's involvement in his primary, democrat to democrat primary. can you tells about that? >> yes. during 200067 acorn was working with the 527 organization called communities voting together. communities voting together was actually another affiliate of
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acorn run by jeff robinson. jeff robinson also was head of c.s.i. and he was part of the acorn political operations. he came to me and he wanted to do a powerpoint to present to funds and other progressive organizations. the name of that powerpoint was campaign for a new congress. when i saw it, albert winn was pictured standing next to george bush. and they tried to paint him in a light to make him seem that because he was friend with bush, he was seen laughing with bush, and they said that he supported his invasion of iraq. they were trying to get rid of albert winn in favor of donna edwards. donna edwards happens to sit on the board of one of the foundations that had provided acorn money for the 2006 voter registration drives. so i put together that powerpoint using the door knockers that acorn had flooded into the communities. and i scan them in. and that presentation was used to get more money in order to beat winn in maryland. >> well, let's kind of go back
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to that. you're working for a nonprofit, a 501-c-3 at the time that is prohibited from being involved in political activities, right? >> correct. >> and a political arm comes to you with an overtly federal election, primary in this case, and has made a decision that al winn is not their kind of democrat and they want your help on behalf of one of your nonprofit donors that has helped you register voters in that very district, and they want you to in fact help a presentation that led to his defeat in the primary. >> that is correct. >> mr. smith, i'm going to ask a couple more questions. but i think for here today, the distortion even in the democratic primary of "you're not the right kind of democrat" speaks legions about why for the sake of both parties this should be investigated further. and i appreciate your coming forward with that. because obviously we would like the attorney general in maryland
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to do something about that in a timely fashion. plus the u.s. attorney. but let me go through a couple of others. you're very familiar with the corporate shell. you yourself were operating out of at least three corporations. did they carefully pay you allocated based on your time between the various corporations? >> no. i was a sal rid employee through project vote. i was paid straight through the project vote payroll, though i functioned more on the first year and a half for acorn political operations than i ever did for project vote. >> so in a nutshell, right there, the very way they hired you using charitable tax-free, tax-deductible contributions from private individuals and corporations who cared about the poor and who cared about voter registration in those communities, you were used for overtly political events. >> correct.
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>> it sort of -- even after all the year i've had of living with this, it still surprises me when we go through that. maybe my last question, if you were to summarize the most important thing that you said to try to change acorn and what the reaction was. because you were once a very important employee. and virtually overnight, as i understand it, on what i would consider to be pretty trumped-up charges of some expenses that should have been reimbursed and not reimbursed, suddenly found yourself out. what happened to go from being such a trusted employee, so active in it, to where quite frankly even though most of the charges have been dismissed, they went after you with a vengeance, firing you and suing you? >> well, because i had access to
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not only the donor database but like i said the accounting system -- >> say, i'm one of ms. moncrief's attorneys. >> i understand acorn continues to pursue her. >> this is an area we would rather not get into now although we'll be happy to share with with you when the issues in the ongoing case are resolved. >> ok. last question, then. the various corporations, the affiliates around the country, what you saw in the way of nonprofit money being used for political activities, did you see those in other affiliates from your position? >> yes, i did. i saw them in acorn institute, aisj, american institute for social justice, as entities like working families party. they were all considered to be
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under the acorn umbrella. all of the money went into c.c.i. and was dispersed out for the political purposes. most of the money was not to help people, it was to run a political campaign. and it was an ongoing political campaign, even during a nonelection years acorn was still ramping up for the next voter registration drive or the next big push until 2008 which they considered to be the big one, the once in a generation opportunity as they called it. >> thank you. mr. smith, thank you for your indulgence on a little extra time. >> you're welcome. thank you, mr. issa. ms. moncrief, let me ask you one quick question, that is given what you saw, the politicalization of acorn and project vote, and which you knew to be a misuse of funds and you knew that project vote was used for election reasons that were wrong, what made you decide to
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come forward? you could have resigned, you could have not said anything, you could have kept quiet. what made you want to go public? >> well, i tried to do this twice. in 2007 i contacted the employment policies institute. i spoke to a man named brett jacobsen. and we talked about some of the acorn's antics in relation to throwing people under the bus as i call it. too many people during election cycles were being sent to jail for things that acorn was encouraging. and a lot of times they were targeting people that didn't have the best education, that didn't have a lot of resources. and these were the people that they were offering up like sack figures lambs. at the time he told me that i needed to find other employment because i had just had a baby. so i didn't do it in 2007. in 2008 i realized that i only had one opportunity to come out there and tell this real story because i knew what their plan was. i was at the planning meeting about what was going to happen with president obama.
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i had received a co nor list. i had received calls from the obama administration. so i knew what was going to happen if he was elected, that acorn would be like they are now, they're basically untouchable. things are kind of hitting them but they're sliding off. so i tried to tell this story before the election and the "new york times" killed it. after the election i've still been trying to tell it because it's important. they're making money off the poor. poverty is big business for acorn. and it's time to let the poor people stand up instead of them standing on their backs. >> thank you for being willing to tell the truth. we appreciate it. mr. von spakovsky, given what you know and what you've heard, could any easterly tax or election laws have been -- any election laws have been violated? >> i'm not an expert on tax law, but i think it's pretty clear that they violated their tax-exempt status.
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and at the very least, they should lose that tax-exempt status and pay whatever fines are associated with having received partisan political contributions and money to engage in political activity. i think there's all kinds of potential, federal election campaign violations. mismoncrief herself has testified under oath in court in pennsylvania about the fact that when she was working for acorn, they received a list of maxed out donors from the obama campaign and the instructions were to have acorn and project vote go to those people to raise more money so that they could use it to get out the vote for the obama campaign. i mean, there are so many potential violations of the federal election campaign act there that i can't list them all. >> ok. thank you, though. mr. roquita, a question for you.
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from what you've seen and firsthand, do you think the fraud was just limited to lower-level employeesr@@@t@@ @ was the top down? >> from what we have seen, it was a mix. they were saying that it was just individual employees. but common sense refutes that. certainly the people out on the streets collecting water registration had to be trained somewhere. they were trained in how to quickly get numbers. >> and my last question, mr. caldwell. you've had some experience with a lack of adequate auditing and accounting and so forth.
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in your opinion, could acorn beacon -- be considered a criminal enterprise? and if so, why? potentially have with the prosecution of a corporation. you can't put a corporation in jail. so if you try and convict a corporation you're talking about levying fines against them for whatever criminal activity the statute provides. what we foe on are people. -- focus on are people. the problem i see down the road is if you have someone and you do something to a particular corporation, nonprofit or otherwise and you've still got the same people then they just go and file under a different name. and so that to me is the real heart of the activity. in terms of an organization being a criminal enterprise, that can happen. now, you have different -- you have under civil law, you have civil -- a civil reco action and
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those -- ricoh action and those things that are filed. and civil i think is a matter of the degree of the burden. the problem that you have in these corporate cases is that the corporation a lot of times will put it on individual actors and say, well, look, we as a corporation as the brain center did not authorize this. it was this particular person. and they may throw that particular person under the bus. so that's -- i don't know if that directly answers your question, but i think in terms of the actual people that's more what we look at, especially in a case like this. >> ok. that's sufficient. thank you, mr. caldwell. let me recognize the gentleman from north carolina, mr. kobul for his questions. >> thank you, mr. smith and thank you all for being with us. mr. von spakovsky, the attorney general recently told the "new york times" it is legal -- approved prior to laws that were
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enacted that prohibit acorn from receiving money. do you believe this is an accurate reading of the law? >> no. i've read the opinion released by the office of legal policy. i think it's quite a stretch to come up with that opinion. and it ignores, for example, the federal acquisition rules which specifically say that all government contracts have to have a provision in them that specifically say that all payments are "conditioned upon availability of funds." and congress has said there is no availability of funds. so i think they are misinterpreting the law. >> i concur with that. mr. caldwell, in north carolina's early days there was a popular presbyterian minister who answered to the name of david caldwell. any relation? >> no relation. >> well, he would have been a good ancestor for you. >> then i might be related to him. >> on second thought a cousin,
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right? >> i'll have to investigate. >> mr. caldwell, one of you mentioned about the california acorn office dumping material into a dump that could have been related to a state investigation. is there evidence that this was done in louisiana? and if so, would you prosecute the offense? >> if we find through the course of this investigation that individuals have intentionally obstructed justice, that's a very, very serious offense and we take that very, very seriously. what goes on in california i'm not quite as familiar. i know that there were some documents that were found in a dumpster. the argument is that based upon the scope of our subpoena, which was very broad, whatever the question would be then were those documents relevant to what we had or was it just something they were dumping out or clean house? i think it's something that certainly raises eyebrows. but the bottom line for us is that when we hear something like
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that, regardless of what the answer is, we want to know the truth, to find out to get to the bottom line. because we need to narrow it down and get to that part of it. >> i thank you for that. mr. rokita, assuming allegations that acorn has submitted fraudulent voter registration forms, does this constitute criminal activity, a, and b, should it be prosecuted? >> absolutely to both parts of your question. in my written testimony i have nearly two-pages of what we believe to be our federal statutes and indiana statutes, criminal statutes that have been violated including federal and state ricoh statutes as well as -- let me quickly look. the national voter rental administration act violations, its indiana comparison and the conspiracy against the exercise at voting rights found at u.s.c. 241 and its indiana comparison. >> thank you, sir.
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ms. moncrief i was going to get into the iowa winn controversy but i think you fairly well covered that. let me ask you this question. in an internal acorn memo describes several instances where grants and donations intended for nonprofit use was in fact mixed or co-mingled with money used for partisan political purposes. now, to what extent do these actions violate election and tax laws? >> well, i think there are definitely federal law violations. i mean, for example several years ago the department of justice set up a -- they called it a national procurement fraud task force, which is as broad task force with people from the criminal division, various attorneys offices. and they list the various things they're on the lookout for to prosecute.
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and one of them is grant fraud. and in fact, if they were receiving government grants, not using it for the purposes for which they applied and transferring it to other entities, particularly political entities, then i believe they engaged in grant fraud which is something the justice department should be investigating and prosecuting. >> i again concur. mr. smith, i want you to notice, say, i'm yielding back prior to the red light illuminating. >> i thank the gentleman. with that we yield to the gentleman from texas, mr. gohmert, who can use that remaining time and five beyond it. >> i've often advocated that we ought to be given a number of words rather than time. otherwise it's -- >> would that help people with a southern drawl and the slow talk? >> it would be a tremendous help. >> ok. >> but mr. rokita, let me ask you in your report it mentioned
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that acorn had violated f.e.c. law. did the f.e.c. ever contact you regarding your complaint? >> no. you make allegations that were pretty brazen about violating the law in the federal election commission did not bother to get back with you? >> i don't know of any communication from the federal election commission. and again, we focused a lot on the criminal statutes and put that to the u.s. attorney. and the lake county prosecutor as well. >> what u.s. attorney's offices responded to your request. >> the u.s. attorney's office for the northern district of indiana. and i've had numerous followup in-person meetings where i would travel to lake county in person to meet with him in his office and then now written correspondence. and they do assure that they are
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looking into the matter. >> how many from the u.s. attorney's office in maryland got with you? >> in maryland? >> right. >> none. >> ok. just indiana. >> just indiana. >> all right. mr. caldwell, did acorn actually share accounts with tax-exempt groups like acorn institute and project vote to your knowledge? >> we're in the process of determining that. we issued subpoenas for bank account records early on, before all of the prostitution scandal broke. and we're in the process of obtaining that documentation. it's my investigator just handed me. this we have acorn-related bank accounts. we've got 89 pages, 700 plus accounts to analyze. and so part of the task that we
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have and any agency investigating this to determine what agencies are affiliated and to follow the money. so that's what we're in the process of doing now. but i will say that we had an issue with some certain agencies now saying they're not affiliated with acorn. that very thing came up when we issued a subpoena to the accounting firm for acorn and c.c.i. we got a letter which is filed in the public record back from our project vote saying they're not affiliated with acorn in any way, and therefore should not be part of that subpoena. and that concerned us because you have a lot of organizations that are under the umbrella. and so if we have to fight every single one of those in court we'd be five or six -- i mean, we won't get anything done. so that was another impetus behind the search warrant. because now we have i believe the documentation and media that we need so we can do it on our timeline and other folks'.
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>> have you so far found evidence that those representations of no association were inaccurate? >> we do have account records. well, it depends on how you define "association." i think that's part of what the wiggle room that people are attempting. >> if it were defined as "receiving money from or giving money to" do you have evidence that they were associated in that manner? giving money to or taking money from? >> which organization did you ask? >> well, either acorn institute or project vote. >> i believe we're on that track. i blown mean, i will tell you this. we're going to file a response in the public record to project votes objection. and it is our position that they are in fact affiliated with acorn such that we are allowed to review their documentation. if it takes too long we're just going to issue another subpoena specifically directed to them. i mean, for us it's about the
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fastest means to obtain what the truth is. so we're not really going to do a whole lot of legal wrangling with them. but to answer your question, yes, i do believe they're associated. >> what was the role of citizens consulting inc.? >> they as we understand it are the financial arm of acorn. so for example they process all the payroll for acorn nationwide. any of those organizations and entities. so that's where all the money flowed through, or most all of it to our knowledge. >> thank you. mr. von spakovsky, how does robert bauers' appointment as white house general counsel jeopardize in your opinion a proper investigation into acorn? >> well, i mean, i have to say, i know bob boronia personal level. he's a very nice guy -- bob bauer. but he is a fierce opponent.
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and he was the acting general counsel for the d.n.c. and he's willing to do just about anything to win. and i mean, his letter last year in which he tried to get the justice department do a criminal investigation of anybody who really who talked about voter fraud -- i mean, his claim was if you talk about voter fraud you're trying to intimidate voters. and you know, with him now being the white house counsel, that gives me a lot of worries. i mean, i guess i should be looking in the mail for a grand jury subpoena because i write about voter fraud, you know, quite a bit. but that concerns me greatly so far there's been absolutely no movement, no information whatsoever that the justice department or the f.b.i. are doing any kind of investigation. and look, you and i, we all know in this room that if for example a national real estate company, realtor, if there were five
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undercover videos of a realtor in five of their different offices around the country telling people how to engage in mortgage fraud by covering up what you actually do in the applications you're sending in, there would be a federal investigation going on and it would have been announced with great fanfare at the justice department. >> well, you say. that but it could depend on whether that group had made loans to people in a particular party in congress perhaps. and maybe they wouldn't have announced it with fanfare. if i could just ask ms. moncrief with your indulgence. you. you mentioned previously about the communication that was more important to get


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