Media conservatives return to ACORN funding bogeyman to attack health care reform

Media conservatives, including The Weekly Standard and Andrew Breitbart's Big Government, are attacking the Senate health care reform bill by citing a general provision in the legislation to raise the possibility that ACORN would receive funding under the bill. Conservatives similarly attacked the economic recovery act and the financial rescue legislation by invoking the possibility that ACORN would receive funding through general legislative provisions -- at one point claiming that ACORN would receive more than $4 billion in funding.

Media conservatives raise fears that health care reform would “funnel money” to ACORN

Weekly Standard: “ACORN qualifies for funding in Senate health care bill.” A December 21 Weekly Standard blog post, headlined “ACORN qualifies for funding in Senate health care bill,” asserted, “Senator Roland Burris is claiming credit for a provision in Harry Reid's 'manager's amendment,' unveiled Saturday morning, that could funnel money to ACORN through the health care bill.” The post further stated:

According to page 241 of the amendment:

In carrying out this subsection, the Secretary, acting through the Deputy Assistant Secretary, shall award grants, contracts, enter into memoranda of understanding, cooperative, interagency, intra-agency and other agreements with public and nonprofit private entities, agencies, as well as Departmental and Cabinet agencies and organizations, and with organizations that are indigenous human resource providers in communities of color to assure improved health status of racial and ethnic minorities, and shall develop measures to evaluate the effectiveness of activities aimed at reducing health disparities and supporting the local community. Such measures shall evaluate community outreach activities, language services, workforce cultural competence, and other areas as determined by the Secretary.''

According to a Senate legislative aide, the scandal-plagued Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now could qualify for grants under this provision. ACORN would also qualify for funding on page 150 of the underlying Reid bill, which says that “community and consumer-focused nonprofit groups” may receive grants to “conduct public education activities to raise awareness of the availability of qualified health plans.”

A December 21 post at quoted extensively from and linked to the Weekly Standard post.

Neither Senate bill nor manager's amendment mentions ACORN

Senate bill, manager's amendment contain no language mentioning ACORN. Media Matters for America searched the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and Reid's manager's amendment. Neither bill contains language specific to ACORN.

Conservatives previously cited ACORN to attack legislation that did not contain language mentioning the group

Media claimed Democrats were attempting to direct millions of dollars in government money to ACORN in the financial bailout bill. During debate over the 2008 financial bailout bill, media figures advanced the claim that Democrats sought to direct millions in funding to ACORN. Neither the draft proposal nor the final version of the bill contained any language mentioning ACORN. Those making the false claim were misrepresenting a provision -- later removed -- that would have directed 20 percent of any profits realized on troubled assets purchased under the plan into two previously established funds: the Housing Trust Fund and the Capital Magnet Fund, funds that would have been distributed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the form of block grants to states, which would then award grants to qualified applicants.

Media figures adopted GOP spin that economic recovery act awarded funds to ACORN. During the legislative debate over the 2009 Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act, numerous media figures adopted the GOP spin that the stimulus bill awarded funds to ACORN, despite the fact that no language in the legislation mentioned the group. At one point, conservative radio host Bill Cunningham claimed the legislation gave “up to $4.2 trillion” to ACORN.