Too far from the tree

There’s delicious irony in the downfall of the taxpayer parasite known as ACORN. After years of intimidating politicians and businesses and nurturing widespread voter registration fraud, the “community organizers” were not done in by a law enforcement action or accounting scandal. They were blown up by an amateur hidden-camera sting that was so over the top their Democratic sugar daddies in Washington couldn’t ignore the corruption anymore.

Young conservatives James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles posed as pimp and prostitute in ACORN offices around the country. Dressed in outrageous costumes to fit their roles, they asked ACORN staffers for housing assistance so they might be able to open a brothel staffed by underage immigrant girls. With a video camera rolling, ACORN employees supplied advice on how to lie on paperwork, commit tax fraud and bring the disgusting operation online, with one offering guidance on how to smuggle the girls into the country. The videos are posted at BigGovernment.com.

The Senate responded by voting Monday to block ACORN from receiving additional Housing and Urban Development grants. On Thursday, the House voted to block ACORN from handling student aid. The Census Bureau already had scrapped plans to have ACORN help with next year’s national head count. And political pressure is mounting to revoke other grants awarded to the group and launch Justice Department and IRS investigations.

These are all worthwhile steps. But it’s worth noting here that although ACORN is a big fish in the world of taxpayer subsidized nonprofits, it swims in a very large pond.

The federal government hands out billions of dollars in grants, often using local governments as middle men, to organizations that purport to carry out a variety of “community” services. The grants are never free from political favoritism and juice — they often lavish connected administrators with six-figure salaries — and once these groups have cashed the checks, they operate with very little oversight and next to no accountability. Which leads to the kind of arrogance Mr. O’Keefe and Ms. Giles captured in their videos.

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