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ACORN scandal: How much federal funding does it get?

The House and Senate moved this week to cut off federal money to the community organizing group now mired in controversy.

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Moreover, if ACORN's image doesn't recover, foundations and individuals that donate to the group could also decide to cut their funding.

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"The gig is up for ACORN," a Republican lawmaker in Florida told the Miami Herald.

A vast and complex network

ACORN has 1,200 chapters in 75 cities across the country. While much of its work focuses on voter registration and social justice issues, some affiliates help poor families with foreclosure prevention and tax preparation.

The group's dual local and national focus is considered unique in the world of community organizing, says Robert Fisher, professor of community organization at the University of Connecticut in Hartford and editor of a book on ACORN.

But its work with voter registration drew conservatives' ire in 2008 when some ACORN workers were found to have filed bogus registration forms. Several of those employees have been convicted.

By law, ACORN is not allowed to use federal dollars to conduct voter registration. But "the problem is that ACORN transfers vast sums of money around in its network all the time. We don't know whether the money would be spent on voter registration or other activities," ACORN critic Matthew Vadum, a senior analyst and editor with Capital Research Center, told Politifact.

On its website, ACORN says that it does not directly receive federal grants, but has had contracts with other nonprofits that received federal grant support.

The political angle

Many conservative groups and Republican lawmakers have also charged the group of using federal dollars to advance a Democratic agenda.

"ACORN gave significant support to Democrats, and Americans must remain vigilant to avoid backtracking or efforts to water down prohibitions denying federal funds to this corrupt organization," said Rep. Darrell Issa (R) of California, who introduced the "Defund ACORN Act" and has long been a fierce critic of ACORN, in a statement.

Professor Fisher says the scorn directed at ACORN "comes with the turf" because the group has become a significant player in US politics.

But, he adds, in the current debate about ACORN, "it seems that only one side is being heard."

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