Posts tagged ‘ACORN’

"Housing Advocate" Celibrates Eviction

Why does supposed housing advocate Bertha Lewis celebrate a man's eviction so his land can be given to a wealthy private developer?

Bertha Lewis, a housing advocate who supported the project, bid Mr. Goldstein "good riddance."

"Low- and moderate-income people had to wait years for housing while he obstructed the Atlantic Yards project," she said.

Maybe because her organization cut a deal to provide the developer a patina of public service in exchange for big bucks for her organization.

Of course, Lewis is much more than just a "housing advocate who supported the project," she was the CEO of ACORN, a group that signed a contract with Bruce Ratner "to publicly support the [Atlantic Yards] Project by, among other things, appearing with the Developer before the Public Parties, community organizations and the media as part of a coordinated effort to realize and advance the Project." In return, Ratner pledged to include a certain amount of "affordable housing" in the project, units that ACORN stood to make a fortune from marketing and managing. As the New York Post reported, "Anita MonCrief, a former ACORN official-turned-whistleblower, estimates the anticipated deal could bring the group $5 million to $10 million annually over multiple years."

And the money didn't stop there. In 2008 Ratner bailed ACORN out to the tune of $1.5 million dollars after the news broke that Dale Rathke, brother of ACORN founder Wade Rathke, had embezzled nearly $1 million from the group back in 2000 and the national leadership had covered the crime up for eight years. The financial fallout from that scandal threatened to ruin ACORN until Ratner stepped in with a $1 million load and a $500,000 grant. This desperately-needed cash kept ACORN alive and allowed it to keep providing cover for Ratner's corporate welfare and eminent domain abuse.

Lewis's role reminds me a lot of money laundering.  Call it progressive laundering.  The Brooklyn Yards project is simply a total money grab by a powerful developer who got the state to seize land and hand it over to him for development.  To hide the naked cronyism here, the developer cleverly cut a deal with ACORN such that about 0.1% of the development was dedicated to low-income housing and ACORN was paid off to advocate for the project as a low-income housing project, when in fact it is 99% an upscale development to benefit a politically-connected developer.

More here.

Update: Wow, you have to check out this email from Bertha Lewis.  Just remember, when reading it, that she is talking about a man who just wanted to stay in his own home that he owned, and didn't want to be evicted just so the New Jersey Nets could have a new stadium in Brooklyn at taxpayer expense.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Bertha Lewis <[EMAIL REDACTED>
Date: Wed, Apr 21, 2010 at 8:04 PM
Subject: Daniel Goldstein and the 7 year itch
To: [RECIPIENTS REDACTED]

Finally, the itch that was Daniel Goldstein has been scratched and scratched out.   After almost seven years of flawed strategies, smear campaigns, stupid tactics, disingenuous rhetoric and total disregard for people who have lived in the downtown Brooklyn community for years before he even thought about coming here; finally he got what he really wanted.  A Deal.  Not for the community he claimed to love so much, but for the only beneficiary of his community of one, himself, Double Dealing Danny Goldstein.  How utterly despicable for him to be in the newspaper  today whining that he did not have enough time to move, and had nowhere to go because he was being stiffed by the State and Forest City Ratner, when low and behold, all the time, he was negotiating, not for the community , but for himself.  Well good riddance and don't let the door hit ya'.  Low and moderate income people have had to wait years for housing while he obstructed the Atlantic Yards Project that could have been well over half done by now.  He never had to worry about housing so he did'nt care how long other people had to wait.  Behold, the Gentrifier.  He has slandered and denigrated not only me but my organization and my members relentlessly.  What benefit has he delivered to the community?  None except for his own pocket.   Well, the housing at Atlantic Yards will be built, and the day after he moves out, which I hope will be sooner rather than later, the building that he squatted in these past years should be razed to ground immediately, and salt poured into the soil, so that never again can the likes of one of the biggest shakedown artists in Brooklyn return.  We will still be here, we will still be fighting for the all the people that Danny spurned and used for his own enrichment.  We hope that now everyone in Brooklyn and New York can see him for what he really is and can see what his actions cost Brooklyn.  I hope whatever he settled for was worth the pain and misery he caused to so many people who just wanted a decent place to live in Brooklyn and who just wanted a decent job and a place for their family.  Now that the flim flam man is gone, they can finally see it on the horizon.

--

Bertha Lewis

ACORN Relief Act

This was sent to me by a reader, something called the "Environmental Justice Small Grants Program."  Over the last 20 years, socialists who realized their message wasn't selling anymore remarketed themselves under the green "global warming" banner.  Coincidentally, all the exact same things socialists wanted 20 years ago are what we need to do to fight global warming.

It appears that ACORN may be getting a second life using this same strategy.  I can't bear to read all this leftish public policy psychobabble in the document, but did note this early on:

The primary purposes of proposed projects should be to develop an understanding of environmental and public health issues and to identify ways to address these issues at the local level, and educate and empower the community. The long-term goals of the EJSG Program are to help build the capacity of the communities with environmental justice concerns and create self-sustaining, community-based partnerships that will continue to improve local environments in the future.

There is a well-established scientific consensus that climate change will cause disproportionate impacts upon vulnerable populations. [1] Thus, the program is adding emphasis this year on addressing the disproportionate impacts of climate change in communities with environmental justice concerns. The goal is to recognize the critical role of grassroots efforts in helping shape climate change strategies to avoid, lessen, or delay the risks and impacts associated with climate change. An overarching goal of including this emphasis is to help increase the number of underrepresented communities and ensure equitable green economic development in ways that build healthy sustainable communities.

This translates to "we have found a way to hand out government money to leftish groups like ACORN to do things that are impossible to measure and thus bear little accountability by calling it all "Green."

By the way, the little footnote to prove the statement above is this:

[1]  As stated in the Technical Support Document for the Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act (April 2009), "Within settlements experiencing climate change, certain parts of the population may be especially vulnerable; these include the poor, the elderly, those already in poor health, the disabled, those living alone, those with limited rights and power (such as recent immigrants with limited English skills), and/or indigenous populations dependent on one or a few resources. Thus, the potential impacts of climate change raise environmental justice issues."

Given that cap-and-trade is almost certainly going to impose a very large regressive tax disproportionately on the poor, I wonder why no one ever discusses environmental-solution justice issues?  Maybe it really has nothing to do with the poor, but just with power.

Fox, Meet Henhouse

Via Maggies Farm and a commenter on TigerHawk:

During consideration of H.R. 3126, legislation to establish a Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA), Democrats on the House Financial Services Committee voted to pass an amendment offered by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) that will make ACORN eligible to play a role in setting regulations for financial institutions.The Waters amendment adds to the CFPA Oversight Board 5 representatives from the fields of "consumer protection, fair lending and civil rights, representatives of depository institutions that primarily serve underserved communities, or representatives of communities that have been significantly impacted by higher-priced mortgages" to join Federal banking regulators in advising the Director on the consistency of proposed regulations, and strategies and policies that the Director should undertake to enforce its rules.

By making representatives of ACORN and other consumer activist organizations eligible to serve on the Oversight Board, the amendment creates a potentially enormous government sanctioned conflict of interest. ACORN-type organizations will have an advisory role on regulating the very financial institutions from which they receive millions of dollars annually in direct corporate contributions and benefit from other financial partnerships and arrangements. These are the same organizations that pressured banks to make subprime mortgage loans and thus bear a major responsibility for the collapse of the housing market.

In light of recent evidence linking ACORN to possible criminal activity, Democrats took an unprecedented step today to give ACORN a potential role alongside bank regulators in overseeing financial institutions. This is contrary to recent actions taken by the Senate and House to block federal funds to ACORN.

ACORN was an important actor in the housing bubble, responsible for numerous lawsuits and other political pressure to force banks to lend to borrowers who by objective standards did not have the income or credit history to sustain mortgage payments.  It would be interesting to see how many mortgages ACORN was involved with have gone belly up.  But now, as part of the "solution" to the financial crisis, we will put ACORN in charge.

The CRA and the Mortgage Meltdown

There always have been good, logical reasons to discuss the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) as one contributor to the mortgage meltdown last year.  After all, the act is effectively a prod to banks to lend to people who would not normally meet their lending criteria, and to do so on terms (e.g. no money down) they might not usually offer.

The usual response from supporters is that the numbers are too small to matter.  I tended to agree with this -- until I saw this graph, from Peter Schweizer via Carpe Diem.

chart_398x249

Unfortunately he does not have a source or methodology, so I have to retain some skepticism, but if true these numbers are far from trivial.  He writes:

According to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, in the first 20 years of the act, up to 1997, commitments totaled approximately $200 billion. But from 1997 to 2007, commitments exploded to more than $4.2 trillion. (Keep in mind this is more than four times the size of the current health bill being debated in Congress.) The burdens on individual banks can be enormous. Washington Mutual, for example, pledged $1 trillion in mortgages to those with credit histories that "fall outside typical credit, income or debt constraints," and was awarded the 2003 CRA Community Impact Award for its Community Access program. Four years later it was taken over by the Office of Thrift Supervision.

This effort was backed by a parallel effort at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to buy up these loans:

Beginning in 1992, Congress pushed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to increase their purchases of mortgages going to low and moderate income borrowers. For 1996, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) gave Fannie and Freddie an explicit target "” 42% of their mortgage financing had to go to borrowers with income below the median in their area. The target increased to 50% in 2000 and 52% in 2005.

For 1996, HUD required that 12% of all mortgage purchases by Fannie and Freddie be "special affordable" loans, typically to borrowers with income less than 60% of their area's median income. That number was increased to 20% in 2000 and 22% in 2005. The 2008 goal was to be 28%. Between 2000 and 2005, Fannie and Freddie met those goals every year, funding hundreds of  billions of dollars worth of loans, many of them subprime and adjustable-rate loans, and made to borrowers who bought houses with less than 10% down.

Fannie and Freddie also purchased hundreds of billions of subprime securities for their own portfolios to make money and to help satisfy HUD affordable housing goals. Fannie and Freddie were important contributors to the demand for subprime
securities.

Obama has a personal history with this effort, actually suing banks who would not provide the sub-prime lending that he later, as President, blamed them for undertaking

Obama's battle against banks has a long history. In 1994, freshly out of Harvard Law School, he joined two other attorneys in filing a lawsuit against Citibank, the giant mortgage lender. In Selma S. Buycks-Roberson v. Citibank, the plaintiffs claimed that although they had ostensibly been denied home loans "because of delinquent credit obligations and adverse credit," the real culprit was institutional racism. The suit alleged that Citibank had violated the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Fair Housing Act and, for good measure, the 13th Constitutional Amendment, which abolished slavery. The bank denied the charge, but after four years of legal wrangling and mounting legal bills, elected to settle. According to court documents, the three plaintiffs received a total of $60,000. Their lawyers received $950,000.

Now, Congress and Obama want to strengthen the CRA -- talk about not learning from mistakes.

Now comes Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, and 50 other co-sponsors (all Democrats) of H.R. 1479 the "Community Reinvestment Modernization Act of 2009," who want to expand the CRA to include not just banks but also credit unions, insurance companies and mortgage lenders. Congressman Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, has supported the idea in the past. The SEIU and ACORN, along with a host of other activist groups, are also behind the effort.

President Obama has been a staunch supporter of the CRA throughout his public life. And his recently announced financial reforms would make the law even more onerous and guarantee an explosion in irresponsible lending. Obama wants to take enforcement of the CRA away from the Federal Reserve, the FDIC and other financial regulators who at least try to weigh bank safety and soundness when enforcing the law, and turn it over to a newly created Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA). This agency's core concerns would not be safety and soundness but, in the words of the Obama administration, "promoting access to financial services," which is really code for forcing banks to lend to those who would not ordinarily qualify. Compliance would no longer be done by bank examiners but by what the administration calls "a group of examiners specially trained and certified in community development" (otherwise called community activists). The administration says, in its literature about the reforms, that "rigorous application of the Community Reinvestment should be a core function of the CFPA."

Looks like there may be jobs available after all for all those folks who got fired from ACORN.

Can This Be Real?

I haven't really written about the various ACORN videos James O'Keefe has been collecting.  As someone with 500 employees, I have substantial understanding for folks who get bitten in the butt by nutty front line employees.  But the volume is starting to look a lot more like a culture of corruption that a few crazy employees.  Did this ACORN employee really just explain how she got away with murdering her husband?  I mean, if she tells this story to people who just walked in off the street, she must have told it to everyone at ACORN she works with.  I have hired a few doozies by accident, but I can guarantee you that people only 10% as nutty as this lady would be out our company's door in minutes after telling such a story.

The only thing I really can say is that O'Keefe missed his chance at a fortune, because this stuff is far more outrageous than anything on reality TV.

Minimum Wage Hypocrisy

I thought this was amazing, from an article by John Fund on the activist group ACORN.  Most of the article is about allegations of election fraud, but this caught my eye:

Founded by union organizer Wade
Rathke in 1970, Acorn boasts an annual budget of some $40 million and
operates everything from "social justice" radio stations to an
affordable-housing arm. Still run after 36 years by Mr. Rathke as
"chief organizer," it is best known for its campaigns against Wal-Mart,
and for leading initiatives in six states to raise the minimum wage....

Acorn is vulnerable to charges
it doesn't practice what it preaches. Its manual for minimum-wage
campaigns says it intends "to push for as high a wage as possible." But
it doesn't pay those wages. In 2004 Acorn won a $9.50 an hour minimum
wage in Santa Fe, N.M., for example, but pays its organizers $25,000 a
year for a required 54-hour week--$8.90 an hour. This year Acorn had
workers in Missouri sign contracts saying they would be "working up to
80 hours over seven days of work." Mr. Rathke says "We pay as much as
we can. If people can get more elsewhere, we wish them well."

In 1995 Acorn unsuccessfully sued
California to be exempt from the minimum wage, claiming that "the more
that Acorn must pay each individual outreach worker . . . the fewer
outreach workers it will be able to hire." Mr. Rathke acknowledges
higher wages can cost some jobs but that the raises for other workers
are worth it.

I am not sure this hypocrisy even requires further comment.  It is particularly hilarious that he argues that economic arguments against the minimum wage (e.g. that they reduce jobs) apply to a non-profit but not to for-profit companies.

This is also hilarious, for a group that is at the forefront of trying to unionize Wal-Mart:

One of them, Sashanti Bryant of
Detroit, Mich., was a community organizer for Acorn....Ms. Barton
alleges that when she and her co-workers asked about forming a union
they were slapped down: "We were told if you get a union, you won't
have a job." There is some history here: In 2003, the National Labor
Relations Board ordered Acorn to rehire and pay restitution to three
employees it had illegally fired for trying to organize a union.