NLPC has asked JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon to end financial support for Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), and its affiliates. According to the 2007 tax return for the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, the most recent available, ACORN Housing, Inc. was the recipient of a million dollar grant in 2007. Another grant of $25,000 was made to the ACORN Institute. In a letter to Dimon, I warned:
Continued identification with ACORN harms the company’s brand name and reputation, and carries special risks for this company, a recipient of taxpayer TARP funds. The New York Times has identified you as President Obama’s “favorite banker.”
Yesterday, the Senate voted 83-7 to bar grants to ACORN from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). If it is inappropriate for HUD to fund ACORN, it is also inappropriate for a public company like JPMorgan Chase to do so.
The Senate action came in the wake of the controversy over the recent undercover videotape taken at an office of ACORN Housing, Inc. in Baltimore. ACORN employees counseled a couple purporting to be a pimp and prostitute on how to qualify for a home loan and falsify tax forms to allow 13 underage girls from El Salvador to work as prostitutes.
Last week, the Census Bureau notified ACORN that it was severing ties with the group, which was serving as a “partner” in raising awareness about the census. In a letter to ACORN President Maude Hurd, Census Director Robert Groves wrote:
…it is clear that ACORN’s affiliation with the 2010 Census promotion has caused sufficient concern in the general public, has indeed become a distraction from our mission, and may even become a discouragement to public cooperation, negatively impacting 2010 Census efforts.
Because JPMorgan Chase & Co. does not disclose its charitable giving (as many other public companies do), we do not know what support the company itself has provided ACORN and/or its affiliates. It is obvious, however, that the relationship is substantial and longstanding, especially when including predecessor banks and loan programs administered through ACORN and its affiliates.
I pointed out in my letter:
JPMorgan Chase’s support for ACORN and/or its affiliates would violate its own policies. According to the JPMorgan Chase website, support is precluded to “programs designed to promote religious or political doctrines.”
ACORN and its affiliates have a very definite political doctrine. It is to undermine democracy and smash capitalism.
Videotapes made at ACORN offices in New York City and Washington, DC suggest that the Baltimore episode was not an isolated event. Even before these incidents, ACORN and its affiliates were accused of voter registration fraud in 14 states. On July 23, Representative Darrell Issa, Ranking Minority Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, released an 88-page report concluding that ACORN “has repeatedly and deliberately engaged in systemic fraud.”
ACORN has also been plagued with an internal financial scandal. Dale Rathke, brother of ACORN founder Wade Rathke, embezzled nearly $1 million. He was removed from the ACORN board only after the matter became public several years later.
With the public outraged at the excess and corruption on Wall Street, ACORN is the last group that JPMorgan Chase should be supporting. It is time for Jamie Dimon to act.
UPDATE 9-25-09: Kevin Mooney of the Washington Examiner reports:
JP Morgan Chase contributed over $5 million in grants to the housing affiliate, over a five-year period. But this program is no longer active, Jennifer Zuccarelli, a spokeswoman said.
“JP Morgan Chase provided a five-year community development grant to fund affordable housing and foreclosure prevention initiatives across the country,” Zuccarelli said. “The commitment ended a year ago in 2008 and no further grants will be considered.”
While we welcome this statement, we do not take it at face value. It is not clear if it applies to the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, and loan programs marketed through ACORN. According to the ACORN Housing Corporation website, JPMorgan Chase loan officer Guilermo Loaiza serves as its Secretary-Treasurer. He is the also president of the Arizona ACORN Housing Corporation, and a member of ACORN.
photo: Jamie Dimon (AP/Wide World)