Remember the Association of Communities Organized for Reform Now? That was the corrupt, far-left activist group better known as ACORN that over the years received hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grants and contracts despite repeated government and media reports of funding irregularities. The group constantly agitated for mortgage lending policies that were a major factor in causing the housing bubble and the economic disasters that followed. ACORN officially disbanded in 2010 after Congress passed a law barring federal departments and agencies from giving tax dollars to the group and created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to prevent a recurrence of the Great Recession of 2008. Today, ACORN is a just a bad memory, and CFPB chairman Richard Cordray is supposedly hard at work protecting Americans.
Not quite. While it’s true that the national organization known as ACORN formally disbanded, most of its officials and members simply reorganized using different group names and continued agitating for the same policies that to this day push mortgage lenders to give loans to people with lousy credit. For example, Bruce Dorpalen was formerly ACORN’s director of housing and is now executive director of the National Housing Resource Center, an ACORN spin-off.
Documents obtained from CFPB under the Freedom of Information Act by government watchdog group Judicial Watch reveal that Dorpalen has many friends at the bureau:
– In a Dec. 10, 2012, email, CFPB Senior Advisor Brenda Muniz told Dorpalen he would “be the one to introduce Director Cordray” at an NHRC Leaders in Housing Counseling forum to be held at Washington’s Renaissance Hotel two days later.
When Dorpalen invited Muniz and CPFB Associate Director Zixta Martinez to a dinner with representatives from several housing counseling agencies the night before the forum, Muniz apparently had questions about attending the event, writing to Martinez, “I’m going to submit this to ethics unless you think I shouldn’t.” CFPB didn’t give Judicial Watch documents detailing the outcome.
– An attendees list Dorpalen created for Muniz concerning an April meeting indicated that Dorpalen met with CFPB Regional Strategist Keo Chea and with representatives of the Federal Reserve. The meeting was also attended by Dustin Toomey, executive director of Affordable Housing Centers of Pennsylvania, which shares office space with Dorpalen’s organization.
– A subsequent email from Dorpalen describes an April 11 “meeting with Tom Curry from the OCC,” as in Tom Curry, Comptroller of the Currency of the United States.
- According to a March 25 email obtained by Judicial Watch, Dorpalen forwarded a letter signed by 240 housing counseling agencies to CFPB's Martinez and Muniz. The letter advocated an “extension of the HAMP [Home Affordable Modification Program] and Making Home Affordable programs." Shortly thereafter, the departments of Treasury and Housing and Urban Development did exactly that.
These documents, and others obtained by Judicial Watch, make it clear that ACORN may have disbanded, but ACORN people are still helping shape national housing policy. That didn’t work out so well the last time America tried it.