October 2009 - Posts

ACORN Avoids Prosecution in Pennsylvania
Tue, Oct 27 2009 5:03 PM

ACORN is many things, stupid is not one of them. In Allegheny County six former ACORN employees had been charged with violating the state law prohibiting voter registration quotas. Seeing a prosecutor who was willing to combat voter registration fraud and actually bring cases against those who violate these laws and regulations ACORN got scared. Before they could be charged they partnered with the ACLU and filed a lawsuit challenging the statute. ACORN named the Attorney General of Pennsylvania and the Allegheny County District Attorney as parties to the suit.

Today we've learned that Allegheny County District Attorney Zappala has reached an agreement with ACORN. He will be dropped from the lawsuit so long as he does not prosecute ACORN. Ironic that this victory for ACORN comes on the same day they came before the Nevada courts.

Allegheny County drops out of federal ACORN lawsuit over quotas

By Walter F. Roche Jr.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. has agreed not to charge ACORN with violating a state law regarding quotas for registering voters, under an agreement reached in a federal lawsuit today.

The agreement between attorneys for ACORN and Zappala's office drops the district attorney from the lawsuit that challenges a state law barring use of quotas to pay voter registration canvassers.

Under the three-page agreement filed today, Zappala agreed not to charge ACORN, or the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, with violations of the state law it is challenging.

The agreement does not immediately affect pending criminal cases against six former ACORN canvassers.

See the full article here.

by Chris Berg | with no comments
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Will ACORN Get Federal Money This Saturday?
Tue, Oct 27 2009 4:50 PM

The Left says that ACORN has been defunded and we should move on. You and I know better. We know it's not really the case. The only bill to defund ACORN that has passed both the House and the Senate was the Continuing Resolution (CR). You know, the stop-gap Congress passes to continue federal funds until they pass a budget. Guess what, the CR expires on Saturday. We'll be waiting and watching to see what Congress does. Here's a piece from the Washington Examiner to give you a little more information.

Will Congress' defunding of ACORN expire Saturday?

By: Byron York
Chief Political Correspondent
10/27/09 1:09 PM EDT

When both houses of Congress voted to defund ACORN several weeks ago, what they actually did was bar lawmakers and federal agencies from giving any money to the community organizing group for the duration of the temporary budget agreement, or continuing resolution, that was in effect at the time. Continuing resolutions are used to extend federal spending, and keep the government running, when Congress can't agree on appropriations bills for the fiscal year. When the congressional defunding of ACORN went into effect on October 1, there was a continuing resolution in place that would last until October 31 -- this Saturday. The ACORN ban was in that resolution, so it will also expire on Saturday.

There are still no appropriations bills in place, so this week Congress will have to pass another continuing resolution to keep the federal government going. The word on the Hill is that the new resolution will probably be written to last until sometime in December.

The question is: will the ACORN defunding language be in the new resolution? The answer appears to be yes, at least for now. "We will do a CR this week that will basically extend the expiration date of the old CR, so the old language will stay," says one House Republican aide. The aide is "99.9 percent sure" that the ACORN prohibition will be in the new resolution; if Democrats tried to remove it, the aide says, "we would have a big fight this week."

Provided the ACORN ban stays for now, the real issue will be what happens when the new continuing resolution expires and actual appropriations bills are passed in December. Will there be a provision that says no funds from fiscal year 2010 will go to ACORN? Republicans are cautiously confident. "Democrats have a minority in their caucus that believes we should not have cut off ACORN," the aide says. "But I can't believe that there's a majority in their caucus that wants to fund ACORN."

Or at least wants to fight about it. Nevertheless, Republicans say they will be watching the new appropriations bills very closely. The appropriations process is sure to be chaotic, as lawmakers rush to finish spending bills before Christmas and New Year's. All it would take for ACORN funding to resume is the absence of any specific defunding language. If that language is not there, then federal agencies would again have the discretion of sending taxpayer dollars to ACORN. What happens in December could be the key to ACORN's future.

by Chris Berg | with no comments
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ACORN Pleads Not Guilty
Tue, Oct 27 2009 2:38 PM

I'm sure you remember that ACORN had been charged in Nevada for violating the state law prohibiting paying canvassers on a per voter registration. Remember that great scheme called Black Jack, where they paid employees an extra $5 if they complete 21 voter registration applications per shift? It was just an invitation for fraud to occur. Today we've got some breaking news. ACORN has pled not guilty. They're going to trial on April 19th.

In case you think it's only the Republicans who are investigating ACORN bear in mind the Attorney General who filed these charges is a Democrat.

ACORN, former director plead not guilty to alleged fraud

The political advocacy organization ACORN and a former manager pleaded not guilty today to 13 felony charges tied to alleged voter registration fraud.

Amy Busefink, 27, a former regional director for ACORN, entered her not guilty plea today in front of Las Vegas Justice of the Peace William Jansen. ACORN was represented by its attorney, Lisa Rasmussen, who pleaded not guilty on the group's behalf.

A trial date was set for April 19.

See the full article here.

by Chris Berg | with no comments
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US Chamber of Commerce Defends Itself Against Yes Men
Tue, Oct 27 2009 11:37 AM

The Obama Administration has been waging war on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The President has singled out the organization because it does not support the President's healthcare or climate change proposals.

Liberal activists, calling themselves the Yes Men decided to insert themselves in the middle of this battle. They rented a room at the National Press Club, held a press conference claiming to be representatives of the Chamber and endorsed the President's climate change proposal.

The Chamber has filed a lawsuit against these Yes Men to protect its trademark and intellectual property. These Yes Men perpetuated a fraud in order to gain attention and sell DVDs. This is wrong.

But Chris, how is this any different than Hannah and James going undercover?

Simple -- Hannah and James went undercover to expose corruption, fraud, and criminal activity. To the extent they played a role they didn't misappropriate another person or organization's good name. These Yes Men pretended to be representatives of an organization; they used that organization's good name to get themselves attention, and then attributed their political ideology and agenda to the organization. This was merely an attempt to promote the Yes Men and their DVD sales. I commend the Chamber for filing suit against these bad actors.

You can view the complaint here.

by Chris Berg | with no comments
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When is a Cigar not a Cigar? One Lucky Judge Gets to Decide
Tue, Oct 27 2009 9:38 AM

If your state or municipality has a smoking ban you probably haven't noticed a certain aroma missing from dark smoky watering holes – the scent of clove cigarettes. As the night would wear on you'd notice one or two hipsters light up their cloves and the smell would take over the room. On September 22nd a new FDA regulation went into effect banning "cigarettes with flavors characterizing fruit, candy, or clove. The ban, authorized by the new Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, is part of a national effort by the FDA to reduce smoking in America."

The regulation applies to these flavored smokes because "[t]hese flavored cigarettes are a gateway for many children and young adults to become regular smokers." The FDA hopes that "FDA's ban on these cigarettes will break that cycle for the more than 3,600 young people who start smoking daily." I'll agree this is a noble goal, but we've had labels warning of the hazards of smoking since 1965. Children under the age of 18 can't legally buy them, yet they still find a way. I'm not sure this regulation gets us any closer to preventing teenage smoking.

Facing a ban on the sale of clove cigarettes some enterprising distributors began selling "Djarum-brand cigars [which] are the shape and size of cigarettes. They have filters. Their wrappers contain tobacco but could pass for brown paper." The FDA has since re-emphasized that this "ban applies to anything that fits a cigarette's profile, even if it's labeled as a 'cigar'".

So why am I discussing this on the Republican Lawyer Blog? Do I want to smell that clove aroma one more time? Thank you, I'll pass. Do I want to launch into a rant about liberty, personal freedom and responsibility? I do, but I'll save that for another day. I'm discussing this because one Djarum distributer has filed a lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment that a cigar is a cigar. A judge is going to have to decide where the line between cigars and cigarettes is to be drawn.

"If a product is a cigar, it is not a cigarette and vice versa," says its complaint. "Kretek contends that Djarum cigars are cigars."

The company has asked the U.S. District Court in Washington for a declaratory cigar-is-a-cigar judgment. The FDA declines comment and has yet to file a response. Without legal guidance, meanwhile, America's clove-conscious now have to judge for themselves whether Djarum's new cigars, deep down, are concealing an alter ego.

See the full article here.

by Chris Berg | with no comments
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Chief Justice Roberts: All Around Nice Guy
Tue, Oct 27 2009 7:51 AM

The following is of little intellectual value, but something I found amusing and somewhat heartwarming. Guy Talese wrote about it in the New York Times blog City Room. I came across it at Bench Memos at National Review:

My writer friend Sidney Offit and I were dining at Lumi's on 70th Street and Lexington Avenue on Saturday night with our mutual friend, the enduringly beautiful 78-year-old model Carmen Dell'Orefice; and seated next to our table, quietly engaged in conversation with his wife, Jane, while sipping red wine, was the chief justice of the United States, John G. Roberts Jr.

Although it was raining heavily outside — so much so that the Yankees' playoff game at the stadium was called off — Lumi's restaurant had few cancellations, and every table was occupied when the chief justice and Mrs. Roberts arrived to receive, as is standard in New York, barely a nod of recognition from the onlookers and not a trace of effusion from the waiters, most particularly those who lent service to the justice. It is one of those clichés in Manhattan to remark upon the restaurant population's indifference to celebrities of any kind, ever.

We at our table, true to form, paid the Roberts couple no mind, although after two hours of pretending not to notice them, we were certainly respectful (and grateful) when, as they stood to leave, the chief justice himself said: "Excuse me, but we cannot possibly finish this wonderful bottle of wine, and I wonder if you'd like to try it."

"Oh, thank you, Mr. Chief Justice,'' I replied, and then added my own admonishment (how brazen of me!) "… but only if you'll sign the label.''  

Unhesitatingly, Chief Justice Roberts removed from his jacket pocket a ballpoint pen, and scribbled on the label his name: "John Roberts.''

He always did seem like a nice guy.

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The List – The People AG Holder Is Listening To
Mon, Oct 26 2009 1:21 PM

Justice has announced the new appointments to the Attorney General's Advisory Committee. Here are the names and biographies as listed on the Department of Justice website:

Preet Bharara was presidentially appointed U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York on Aug. 13, 2009. Bharara previously served as Chief Counsel to U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (2005-2009); Adjunct Professor at Fordham University School of Law (2003-2005); Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (2000-2005); litigation associate with Shereff, Friedman, Hoffman & Goodman LLP (1996-2000); and litigation associate with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP (1993-1996).

Dennis Burke was presidentially appointed U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona on Sept. 16, 2009. Prior to his appointment, Burke served as Senior Advisor to the Secretary for Homeland Security (2009) and as a member of the Obama/Biden Transition Team (2008-2009). Burke served as Chief of Staff for the Governor of Arizona (2003-2008); Chief Deputy/Special Assistant for the Arizona State Attorney General (1999-2003); Acting Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legislative Affairs, Department of Justice (1999); Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona (1997-1999); Senior Policy Analyst, Domestic Policy Council, The White House (1995-1997); Special Counsel, Office of Legislative Affairs, Department of Justice (1994-1995); and Majority Counsel for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Patents, Copyrights and Trademarks (1989-1994).

Jenny Durkan was presidentially appointed U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington on Oct. 1, 2009. Durkan previously served as solo practitioner for the law offices of Jenny Durkan (1997-2009); Executive Counsel for the Office of the Governor, Washington State (1994 -1995); associate attorney (1991-1994) and shareholder (1996-1997), Schroeter, Goldmark and Bender; associate attorney, Williams and Connolly (1987-1991); and associate attorney, Foster, Pepper & Riviera (1985-1987).

Paul J. Fishman was presidentially appointed U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey on Oct. 14, 2009. Prior to his appointment he served as partner with Friedman, Kaplan, Seiler & Adelman LLP (1997-2009). Fishman served in the Office of the Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice, as Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General (1997), Associate Deputy Attorney General (1995-1997) and Counsel (1994). Fishman also served as Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey (1983-1994).

Patrick J. Fitzgerald was presidentially appointed U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois in October 2001, and was Attorney General appointed in August-October 2001. Fitzgerald was a member of the AGAC in 2001-2004 and 2008-2009, serving as interim chair in 2009. Prior to his appointment as U.S. Attorney, Fitzgerald served in the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York as Chief of the Organized Crime-Terrorism Unit (1995-2001), Chief of the Narcotics Unit (1994), and Assistant U.S. Attorney (1988-1994). Prior to joining the U.S. Attorney's Office, Fitzgerald was a litigation associate with Christy & Viener, New York, N.Y. (1985-1988).

Neil H. MacBride was presidentially appointed U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia on Sept. 18, 2009. McBride previously served as Associate Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice (2009); General Counsel and Vice President, Anti-Piracy for Business Software Alliance (2005-2009); Chief Counsel and Staff Director for Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr., U.S. Senate, Committee on the Judiciary (2001-2005); Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia (1997-2001); and associate with Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson & Hand, Chartered (1993-1997).

Peter F. Neronha was presidentially appointed U.S. Attorney for the District of Rhode Island on September 16, 2009. He previously served as Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Rhode Island (2002-2009); Assistant Attorney General (2001-2002) and Special Assistant Attorney General (1996-2001) for the Department of the Attorney General, state of Rhode Island; and Associate with Goodwin Proctor LLP (1989-1995).

Joyce White Vance was presidentially appointed U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama on Aug. 27, 2009, and was Attorney General appointed in June 2009-August 2009. Vance served as Assistant U.S. Attorney and Appellate Division Chief for the Northern District of Ala. (1991-2009); associate with Bradley, Arant, Rose & White, Birmingham, Ala. (1988-1991); summer associate with McDermott, Will & Emery, Washington, DC (1988); and associate with Arant, ox Kitner, Plotkin & Kahn, Washington, DC (1984-1988).

Channing D. Phillips was appointed Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia on May 30, 2009. Phillips previously served in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia as Principal Assistant U.S. Attorney (2004-2009), Chief of Staff (2001-2004), Special Counsel (1997-2001) and Assistant U.S. Attorney (1994-1997). Phillips was a trial attorney with the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section, Department of Justice (1990-1994).

by Chris Berg | with no comments
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New Appointments to the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee, Are You on the List?
Mon, Oct 26 2009 8:59 AM

The Attorney General's Advisory Committee is a pretty elite group. It was founded in 1973 to give federal prosecutors a voice in policy development and to provide advice to the Attorney General.

Current Committee members include high profile prosecutors including Patrick Fitzgerald and John S. Davis. Davis is the chief of the criminal division of Alexandria Virginia U.S. Attorney's office. It will be very telling to see which federal prosecutors Attorney General Holder selects for this advisory committee. Who does he wish to draw his advice from?

The panel will be chaired by B. Todd Jones, U.S. Attorney for Minnesota. In addition to serving as Minnesota's "top prosecutor in the Clinton administration" he seems to have a great grasp of pop culture:

In an interview last week, as several U.S. attorneys arrived in the District for orientation sessions for their new jobs, Jones said that he and his colleagues are moving on from the firing scandal during the Bush years. "To quote [musician] Will.i.am, it's a new day," Jones said. "We're looking ahead. We have too much work to do for this to be a drag on us."

by Chris Berg | with no comments
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Will Abdullah Boycott the Afghanistan Runoff?
Mon, Oct 26 2009 8:38 AM

Last week I brought you an update on the election in Afghanistan -- The rampant fraud, the lack of confidence in the system, the need for effective safeguards and election observers. The Afghan people had gone to the polls on August 20th and today they still have yet to bring that election to a close. There is a runoff scheduled for November 7th.

The challenger, Abdullah Abdullah has made public calls for the removal of Afghanistan's election chief:

"One of our conditions is the immediate removal of (commission chief Azizullah) Ludin because he has no credibility before the people," Abdullah Abdullah told reporters.

"We will wait for the commission's reply until October 31 and until then we suspend all of our relations with the commission," he told reporters. He refused to say what he would do if this condition were not met.

Now there's even talk that he may boycott the election completely. Keep an eye on this one folks, this election will have a very serious impact on the region and the world.

KABUL -- The challenger to President Hamid Karzai is considering boycotting the upcoming runoff if his demands are not met to remove the leaders of Afghanistan's election commission who he believes are biased against him, campaign officials said Sunday.

Despite his public promises that he will participate in the Nov. 7 runoff, Abdullah Abdullah has been discussing the possibility of pulling out, an outcome that could create a new political crisis and throw the legitimacy of any new government into question. His aides argue that it would be dangerous to enter an election that might reproduce the massive fraud that discredited the vote in August.

Abdullah's main running mate, Homayoun Shah Assefy, said that it was clear that the United States and the international community would resist such a boycott but that it might be necessary if the Independent Election Commission is not purged of its prominent Karzai supporters.

"Lots of our international friends won't be happy. We will have them on our backs," Assefy said in an interview. "But for the interest of our country, is a rigged and controversial election better than boycotting the election? I think the second."

See the full Washington Post article here.

by Chris Berg | with no comments
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The Corruption Continues – Fired Employees to Form a New ACORN?
Sun, Oct 25 2009 4:40 PM

ACORN has been under a lot of pressure lately. The RNLA has been calling for investigations. Hannah Giles and James O'Keefe have been exposing corruption. Members of Congress have been attempting to defund ACORN.

ACORN leader Bertha Lewis tried to get in front of this, she tried to fire some token employees to bolster her case that ACORN is reforming. They fired the employees caught providing criminal advice in the www.biggovernment.com videos. They stripped Wade Rathke of his duties and left him in charge of ACORN International. They also fired Wade Rathke's wife, Beth Butler, who headed ACORN operations in Louisiana.

Some ACORN loyalists have protested the firing of Beth Butler:

Vanessa Gueringer, who sits on the Louisiana and national board of ACORN, told the Times-Picayune, that Stephen Bradberry, the employee installed as Butler's replacement, is an "illegitimate interloper."

"We view this action as an aggressive move to steal our resources because the national organization is going broke," she told the newspaper.

The Rathkes and the Butlers apparently took this very personally. Beth Butler apparently plans to launch her own ACORN. Are you as disturbed by this as I am?

Critics of ACORN Vow to Form New Group Under Same Name in Louisiana

Both sides are gearing up for an eventual court fight, the Times-Picayune reports.

A new battle is brewing at the controversial community group ACORN, as ousted and disgruntled leaders in Louisiana reportedly plan to form their own group with the same name.

Beth Butler, who was fired from her position of state executive director of ACORN, was scheduled to speak Saturday about the plan in New Orleans, along with other people affiliated with the organization, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.

Both sides are gearing up for an eventual court fight, the newspaper reports.

See the full Fox News story here.

by Chris Berg | with no comments
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Doug Giles Tells Palin to Stand Up for ACORN
Sat, Oct 24 2009 4:30 PM

I've been following the great work of Hannah Giles and James O'Keefe from day one. Who would have guessed that two young conservatives with $1300, a video camera, and an eclectic wardrobe could have brought so much attention to the fight against ACORN. These intrepid filmmakers have been clever and courageous in this battle. They haven't let the mainstream media or litigation silence them. They've released new videos to counter the viscous smear campaign of lies that ACORN has waged against them.

Hannah's father is talk show host, author, and minister Doug Giles. And though the videos weren't his idea, he did raise one brave and clever daughter. Today Doug Giles weighs in with his own quirky strategy to rally the mainstream media to the fight against ACORN. Giles suggests that Sarah Palin come out in support of the group:

The only way the fringe "news" outlets would ever report on ACORN in an antagonistic manner would be if Sarah Palin somehow supported this creepy cabal.

Sarah, if you're reading this column, maybe you should throw your name behind ACORN for a month or two just to get the White House/ACORN's lap dogs to finally join with FOX and bark down the despicable ACORN clowns until they're properly vilified, permanently defunded, and eternally ensconced in American history as nothing more than a bad, bad memory—a veritable proverb for corruption.

See Doug's full article here.


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Big Money Friday – Eli Lilly to Pay South Carolina $45 Million
Fri, Oct 23 2009 3:08 PM

South Carolina has reached a settlement with drug maker Eli Lilly totaling $45 million. This is a record-breaking settlement. No other state has reached an agreement with the pharmaceutical giant for such a high amount. It's also the second highest settlement in SC history.

"This is a victory for South Carolina's taxpayers who were forced to bear the financial costs of Eli Lilly's unlawful conduct," McMaster said. "Our case was sound. The evidence we presented was overwhelming. And I am pleased to say justice has been served."

Company officials couldn't be reached for comment.

According to attorneys for the state, South Carolina sued Eli Lilly over fraudulent prescription marketing and sought to recover the tens of millions of dollars Medicaid and the State Health Plan paid for the drug and spent treating side effects from illegal, unapproved, off-label use of Zyprexa, involving 63,740 South Carolina patients from 1996-2007.

Mind you, this is dwarfed by the $1.4 billion the Federal Government won from the company, but $45 million is still one pretty large settlement.

by Chris Berg | with no comments
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Obama Thinks Deeds is Going to Lose
Fri, Oct 23 2009 12:45 PM

I know this time of year a lot of focus is on the two states with gubernatorial elections. For those of you who aren't in Virginia or the Washington DC area, you may not be getting the most up to date information or polling data.

Many are looking to this cycle for a repeat of the 1993 cycle which helped fuel the 1994 Republican Revolution. In 1993 we had wins in New Jersey and Virginia that served as a catalyst for the Republican victories the following year.

We're just a little over a week away from the election and the President, his staff, and the DNC have all but declared McDonnell's victory.

Deeds ignored advice, White House says
Top Democrats seek to shield Obama in case of election loss

By Rosalind S. Helderman and Anne E. Kornblut
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 23, 2009

Sensing that victory in the race for Virginia governor is slipping away, Democrats at the national level are laying the groundwork to blame a loss in a key swing state on a weak candidate who ran a poor campaign that failed to fully embrace President Obama until days before the election.

Senior administration officials have expressed frustration with how Democrat R. Creigh Deeds has handled his campaign for governor, refusing early offers of strategic advice and failing to reach out to several key constituencies that helped Obama win Virginia in 2008, they say.

Democratic strategists said that over the summer, Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) offered Deeds advice on winning a statewide election. Among other things, Kaine, who is also chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told Deeds that he should lay out more of his own vision and stop attacking Republican Robert F. McDonnell so ferociously. But Deeds did not embrace the advice, according to a national Democratic strategist.

A senior administration official said Deeds badly erred on several fronts, including not doing a better job of coordinating with the White House. "I understood in the beginning why there was some reluctance to run all around the state with Barack Obama," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly about the race. "You don't do that in Virginia. But when you consider the African American turnout that they need, and then when you consider as well they've got a huge problem with surge voters, younger voters, we were just a natural for them."

A second administration official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said: "Obama, Kaine and others had drawn a road map to victory in Virginia. Deeds chose another path."

See the full article here.

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USA Today Reports HUD funds to ACORN, others triple
Fri, Oct 23 2009 11:43 AM

I'm not going to spoil this one with my comments. I'm going to let it speak for itself…

HUD funds to ACORN, others triple despite criticism

By Matt Kelley, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — Federal funding for a housing counseling program carried out by local non-profit groups such as ACORN has more than tripled since 2002, even though it has been criticized by government auditors for failing to show results.

President Obama's budget calls for a 54% increase next year — $100 million in all — for the program, which helps people buy or refinance a home, prevent a foreclosure or find rental housing. The Senate agreed, while the House of Representatives suggested $70 million; final negotiations over the bill are pending.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has been unable to provide much proof the program works, according to government reports, despite an increase in funding from $20 million in 2002 to $65 million last year.

The reports found:

• "At present there is limited evidence of the benefits of counseling in making homeownership more sustainable," according to a HUD-commissioned study in 2008 by consulting firm Abt Associates. Abt found that 23% of those completing foreclosure-prevention counseling in 2007 managed to stay in their homes.

• HUD's inspector general warned in 2006 that the department inadequately supervised counseling agencies and failed to sufficiently measure results. "Despite not meeting its expectations, HUD continued to propose increases in funding," the report said. HUD has improved training and performance reviews for the program and soon will release a new housing counseling handbook, department spokeswoman Andrea Mead said in an e-mail.

• Earlier this year, non-partisan congressional investigators at the Government Accountability Office reviewed consumer protections for elderly homeowners seeking reverse mortgages. The undercover probe found that none of 15 HUD-funded counselors provided all of the required information. HUD Assistant Secretary David Stevens responded in a letter that the department was making improvements including hiring "mystery shoppers" to test reverse mortgage counseling and report back to counselors' supervisors.

In an interview, Mead said the department continually reviews its grants to make sure recipients "are achieving the program's goals and serving the public interest. If organizations don't meet those program guidelines, they won't get funding."

None of the government reports singled out any groups that received federal funding for criticism. However, one of them — the ACORN Housing Corp. — drew national attention last month after conservative activists released undercover videos taken at several offices of ACORN affiliates, including in New York and Washington, where housing counselors gave advice on buying a house for a brothel. The employees worked for a program that gets HUD funding but were not paid with government funds, ACORN Housing spokeswoman Alyson Chadwick.

Mead said in an e-mail that HUD has no way of knowing whether the workers caught on the videos were involved in government-funded programs.

ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), the third-largest recipient of federal housing counseling money, has received $10.5 million from HUD for housing counseling in the past decade. Since the videos became public, the House and Senate have voted to prohibit future federal funding of ACORN.

"The issue with ACORN underscores a much larger problem within our existing bureaucracy: All too often we don't know how taxpayer dollars are being spent and if they are being spent in the right way," said Kurt Bardella, a spokesman for one of ACORN's critics, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.

NeighborWorks America, a non-profit created by Congress to boost home ownership, is the largest recipient of HUD counseling funds. It has received $17.4 million in the past decade.

Officials from NeighborWorks and ACORN say they're confident the program is effective.

"We know it makes a difference. We know a well-informed consumer makes better choices," says Marietta Rodriguez of NeighborWorks. It's difficult to get complete information about results, she added, because "we're not always able to track everyone we touch."

Bruce Dorpalen, ACORN's housing counseling director, says that of more than 40,000 ACORN clients seeking help preventing a foreclosure in the past year, about 8,000 got favorable mortgage changes. He said 18,000 more are in the loan-modification process. "This is a success story that not enough people know about," he said.

The foreclosure crisis means HUD should provide more funding to help people at risk of losing their homes, says Alan Mallach, a housing expert at the Brookings Institution, a think tank that often takes liberal positions. "I don't think there's any substitute for getting more and better counseling out there," Mallach says.

Andrew Carswell of the University of Georgia, who studies housing counseling, published an academic study last month that found mixed results five years after counseling clients in Philadelphia bought a home. He says the program is well-intentioned but said some counselors "could use a little bit more oversight."

by Chris Berg | with no comments
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Democrats Take Their Ball and Go Home
Fri, Oct 23 2009 11:28 AM

I'd like to think we're all adults here. But for the second time in recent months a body of Democrats has acted like spoiled little children. They didn't get their way, so they lock the doors, they turn off the lights and they won't let the Republicans in.

We saw it first in New York, where the Democrats in the State Senate locked the doors and wouldn't provide Republicans access.

Now we've seen it in the United States House of Representatives. The Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee changed the locks to the Committee room after Republicans publically embarrassed them. It turns out the Democrats decided to cancel a committee meeting to have a conference in secret, outside of the prying eyes of Republicans, and even worse, the American people.

Representative Issa's staff caught them having this stealth conference and released the following video:

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