OMB directs executive branch to cut ties to ACORN

While Congress wrestles with various ways to strip ACORN of any remaining federal funding, the White House has somewhat quietly begun to disconnect itself from the community-organizing group.  OMB director Peter Orszag yesterday sent the following compliance memo to “all Executive Branch agencies” to meet the requirements of the continuing resolutions that Congress have already passed to keep the government funded in the absence of a budget.  Orszag basically says to cut ACORN off immediately:


FROM: Peter R. Orszag Director
SUBJECT: Guidance on section 163 of the Continuing Resolution regarding the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN)

This memorandum provides guidance to Executive Branch agencies regarding the implementation of section 163 of the Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2010, Division B of Pub. L. No. 111-68 (CR), which states:

SEC. 163. None of the funds made available by this joint resolution or any prior Act may be provided to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, or allied organizations.

Your agency must immediately commence all necessary and appropriate steps to comply with section 163. This includes the following:

  • No future obligations of funds. No agency or department should obligate or award any Federal funds to ACORN or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries or allied organizations (collectively “affiliates”) during the period of the CR. To the extent your agency already has determined that funds should be obligated or awarded to ACORN or its affiliates but has not yet entered into any agreement to provide such funds to ACORN or any of its affiliates, your agency should not provide such funds, or enter into any such agreements to do so. As section 163 makes clear, its prohibition applies not only to the funding that is made available by the CR, but also to the funding that was made available by previously enacted statutes. In addition, the text of section 163 is sufficiently broad to cover funding that was made available for fiscal year (FY) 2009 and prior fiscal years, as well as funding that is or will be made available for FY10.
  • Suspension of grant and contractual payments. If your agency has an existing contract or grant agreement with ACORN or its affiliates, the agency should: (i) where permissible, immediately suspend performance of any obligations under the contract or agreement, including payment of Federal funds; and (ii) consult promptly with the agency’s general counsel and, if necessary, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Department of Justice concerning the legal considerations that bear on the performance of such obligations under the existing contract or agreement.
  • No funding of ACORN and its affiliates through Federal grantees or contractors. Your agency should take steps so that no Federal funds are awarded or obligated by your grantees or contractors to ACORN or its affiliates as subgrantees, subcontractors, or other subrecipients. Because section 163 states that “[n]one of the funds . . . may be provided,” this prohibition applies not only to a direct recipient of Federal funds but also to a subrecipient (e.g., a subcontractor, subgrantee, or contractor of a grantee). We recommend that your agency:
    • notify all Federal grant and contract recipients of the prohibition contained in section 163, and provide them with a copy of this guidance document; and
    • advise all Federal grant and contract recipients (a) not to provide Federal funds to ACORN or its affiliates as subgrantees, subcontractors or other subrecipients, consistent with this guidance, and (b) to notify your agency of any existing subgrants, subcontracts or other subrecipient agreements with ACORN or its affiliates and of how the grantee or contractor is planning to comply with the prohibition with respect to those subgrants, subcontracts or subrecipient agreements.


It seems as though the Obama administration has decided that ACORN isn’t worth defending as an ally any longer.  Of course, they have little choice but to comply with the law, which Congress passed, but some had speculated that the White House might try to either parse the language of Section 163 closely enough to keep some funds flowing to Obama’s old community-organizing partner, or challenge it more directly.  Jerrold Nadler argued in the House that the amendment amounted to a bill of attainder.

However, the White House has apparently seen this with more clarity than Nadler and other ACORN advocates.   First, Nadler’s simply incorrect about what a bill of attainder actually is, but more importantly, no national politician will benefit by defending ACORN while it offers advice on tax evasion and especially on running child prostitution rings, complete with video.  This is one thump under the bus that will surprise no one and makes both good sense and good policy.

Update: Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) tells local station KTLK that the cut-off only runs through October, and that ACORN funding could be restored when Congress actually passes the FY2010 budget.

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David Strom 8:41 PM on January 30, 2023