Brooklyn DA to take lead on ACORN investigation

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ALBANY - State officials are letting Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes take the lead on investigating ACORN, though state money going to the group has been frozen.

Hynes began a criminal probe Monday after ACORN employees in Brooklyn were caught advising conservative activists posing as a prostitute and her pimp to lie about the woman's occupation to get housing aid.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is "closely monitoring that investigation to preserve the integrity of state funds," said aide Richard Bamberger. Cuomo has no plans at this time to conduct a separate probe. He will block approval of future state contracts to ACORN until the conclusion of Hynes' examination.

ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) and the affiliated New York Agency for Community Affairs received $415,500 in the 2009-10 budget, primarily to aid homeowners facing foreclosure. None of the money has been distributed.

The agency also has won 10 contracts since 2006, totaling $323,500, to help the poor access health care, prepare income-tax returns and secure housing. Most of the money has been spent.

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Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has ordered additional scrutiny of payments to ACORN and its affiliates, but none have been made recently, said his spokesman Dennis Tompkins.

Responding to the furor, ACORN stopped taking new clients and announced an outside probe. NY-ACORN spokesman Jonathan Rosen said, "We are confident that the funding freeze will be temporary as any review will find that every dollar we've received from the state went directly to combating New York's foreclosure crisis and helping tens of thousands of low-income New Yorkers receive their Earned Income Tax Credit."

The Assembly has traditionally steered more money to ACORN than the State Senate.

Dan Weiller, an aide to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), said he was watching the Brooklyn DA's probe and "we are not releasing any member-item money to ACORN and its affiliates at this time."

Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos of Rockville Centre said an amendment was filed to bar ACORN from participating in a $112-million state program to make homes and businesses more energy efficient. He called Tuesday for the funding freeze.

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