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Conyers Urges ACORN Probe

House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers, an outspoken liberal, is calling for a congressional probe of the radical direct-action group ACORN. Conyers’s proposal came on the same day as Judiciary’s subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties received testimony from lawyer Heather Heidelbaugh about the extent of ACORN’s corrupt activities, the Washington Times reports:

In an startling partisan shift, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. on Thursday proposed holding hearings on claims the liberal activist group ACORN engaged in a pattern of crimes ranging from voter fraud to a mob-style “protection” racket.

Mr. Conyers, Michigan Democrat and fierce partisan, suggested a congressional probe after scathing testimony about the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) during a hearing on various voting issues related to the 2008 presidential election.

Mr. Conyers called the accusations “a pretty serious matter.”

“I think that it would be something that would be worth our time,” he said during Thursday’s hearing. “We’ve never had one person representing ACORN before the committee. … I think in all fairness we ought to really examine it.” [...]

The operative word here is startling. It is startling that someone like Conyers, who is very sympathetic to ACORN’s policy goals and who has defended the group in the past, is considering examining the many wrongdoings of ACORN.   

Rep. Melvin Watt (D-North Carolina) and subcommittee chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-New York) are resisting Conyers’s proposal so far.

Meanwhile, in recent months demands for ACORN to be investigated under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) for repeated incidents of electoral fraud have been growing.

But voting-related fraud is just the tip of the iceberg.

ACORN runs a mob-style “protection” racket known within the radical direct-action group as the “muscle for the money” program, Heidelbaugh testified.

Heidelbaugh says that ACORN, which I profiled in the November issue of Capital Research Center’s Foundation Watch, has provided protest-for-hire services and extracted donations from the targets of demonstrations by shaking down those targets mafia-style. (Heidelbaugh’s written congressional testimony is available here.)

The taxpayer-subsidized ACORN network, which owes millions of dollars in back taxes, also played a major role in the subprime mortgage mess that has undermined Americans’ support for free market problem-solving and set off a worldwide chain of financial troubles.

And then there’s ACORN’s eight-year-long coverup of the million-dollar embezzlement by founder Wade Rathke’s brother. When ACORN board members Marcel Reid and Karen Inman demanded to see the financial documents, they were expelled from the group. Reid and Inman have since become whistleblowers and formed a new group, ACORN 8, which is aimed at reforming ACORN.

A probe of ACORN is long overdue.