By Tom Fitton
If I were Barack Obama, I would be pleased to see that many of the schemes I set up to funnel money to left wing groups are still in place two years into President Trump’s presidency. Our Corruption Chronicles blog illustrates how The Swamp plunders on.
Known as Choice Neighborhoods, the program aims to transform slums into desirable middle-class neighborhoods. The costly experiment was the centerpiece of a broader Obama initiative to convert poverty-stricken neighborhoods into sustainable, mixed-income areas with affordable housing, safe streets and good schools. It was launched as a collaboration between the departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Education, Justice, Treasury and Health and Human Services (HHS) to help attract private investment necessary to transform distressed areas.
During Obama’s tenure, Choice Neighborhoods received a breathtaking $375 million, according to HUD figures. A substantial portion—$120 million—was rewarded as a parting gift in 2016, the HUD numbers reveal and the largest chunk—$122.27 million—was allocated in 2010 when Obama launched the program. Like many of the former president’s initiatives, large sums of cash went to leftist nonprofits and community groups that aligned with his liberal agenda.
Back in 2012 Judicial Watch reported that the administration paid half a million dollars to study the effectiveness of Choice Neighborhoods, including the challenges of bringing healthy food options to poor areas and the characteristics of the neighborhoods being targeted for transformation.
Instead of cutting back on these dubious programs that give huge sums of taxpayer dollars to leftist groups, the Trump administration keeps filling their coffers. This month HUD announced more than $60 million in grants for Choice Neighborhoods and other housing counseling grants. Among the recipients is the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), which recently changed its name to UNIDOS US. The renowned open borders group that specializes in promoting the Mexican La Raza (“the race”) agenda is getting approximately $2.6 million, according to government records.
Other likeminded groups getting cash include the Refugee Family Assistance Program ($32,000) and the Center for New York City Neighborhoods ($16,000), which lists the Mutual Housing Association of New York (an Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now—ACORN—offshoot) as a partner. The center’s board chair, Herbert Sturz, is a senior advisor to the Open Society Foundations (OSF), the deeply politicized groups billionaire George Soros uses to promote his radical leftist agenda worldwide. Read all about it in a Judicial Watch investigative report.
Earlier this year Trump’s HUD gave Choice Neighborhoods a $5 million infusion to promote “a comprehensive approach to transforming neighborhoods struggling to address the interconnected challenges of distressed housing, inadequate schools, poor health, high crime, and lack of capital,” according to a HUD statement. Los Angeles California, Lewiston Maine and Philadelphia Pennsylvania got the biggest portions, $1.3 million each. Chicago Illinois, Huntington West Virginia and Cleveland Ohio each got $350,000 to revitalize poor neighborhoods. The goal is to replace distressed public housing with high-quality, mixed-income housing and improve residents’ employment, income, health and education. Ultimately this is supposed to create the conditions necessary for public and private reinvestment in distressed neighborhoods. Three of the awardees received an additional $950,000 for “action activities” to build momentum and attract additional investment, according to HUD. The extra cash can be used to recycle vacant properties into community gardens or farmers markets or for community arts projects that beautify an area.
Weeks earlier HUD gave dozens of leftist groups that purport to fight housing discrimination $37 million. The biggest allocation—$999,962—went to a nonprofit that attacked Trump for terminating an Obama program that protects hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants living in the U.S. Shortly before getting its money the Washington D.C. group, National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), bashed the president over a contentious policy known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) that shields nearly 800,000 illegal aliens under the age of 31 from deportation and lets them obtain work permits and drivers’ licenses. An administration that continues funding leftist housing programs carried out by groups hostile to the president makes you wonder if Trump knows what’s going on under his nose?
Controversy is nothing new at HUD. The agency has been embroiled in a multitude of serious scandals—under both Democrat and Republican administrations—over the years involving leadership, low-level employees and field directors. Problems go back to the Ronald Reagan administration, when an influence-peddling scandal led to the conviction of 16 people, including top aides to then HUD Secretary Samuel Pierce. Bill Clinton’s housing secretary, Henry Cisneros, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about payments to his former mistress. George W. Bush’s HUD secretary, Alphonso Jackson, was ousted after the feds launched an investigation into his plots to enrich himself and his friends by giving them lucrative government contracts. Obama’s second HUD secretary, Julian Castro, misspent the agency’s federal funds as mayor of San Antonio.