When two college students pretending to be a prostitute and her pimp sought help from ACORN employees, staffers couldn’t do enough for them as the two claimed to be importing underage girls to work as ladies of the evening. The Association for Community Organizers for Reform Now responded with a lawsuit.
Documentarian Andrew Breitbart, who helped distribute the videos, disputes the claims made by ACORN. “ACORN claims this is a $100 million Fox News investigation,” Breitbart said at a press conference at the National Press Club here in Washington, D. C. on the morning of October 21, 2009. “Actually, it was a $1,300 investigation.”
“Then why didn’t they sue Fox News rather than James and Hannah?” Breitbart asked. James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles—the former in his mid-20s, the latter barely in her third decade—who on the basis of their investment undertook the ACORN investigation, were also at the Press Club event but would not take questions due to pending litigation.
Their visit to the Philadelphia ACORN office, as it is the center of legal action, had to accordingly be amended. The edits caused a perceptive Huffington Post contributor at the event to note that the Philly footage Breitbart showed was “heavily edited.”
Actually, the other ACORN videos have circulated widely on the internet and led to a vote to cut off federal funds in a Congress dominated by a political party that has arguably been the chief beneficiary of the non-profit’s activities. Their reaction is the more remarkable because, as Breitbart noted at the Press Club, outside of Fox News and the internet, the O’Keefe-Giles videos have received little attention in the media.
Nevertheless, as U. S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, noted when keynoting the Press Club event, ACORN’s troubles precede the revelations. Rep. King has been observing ACORN’s acts for four to five years and offered a 2007 amendment to cut off government subsidies to the outfit.
Indeed, ACORN may have contributed, perhaps in a small way, to the current financial crisis. Rep. King said ACORN activists would “shake down lenders,” “push their desks against the wall,” “surround loan officers” and “shout at them.”
So far, 19 states have begun investigations of ACORN that have resulted in 70 convictions and 11 warrants recently issued to “persons of interest” for “fraudulent forms in elections. U. S. Representative Darrell Issa, R-Calif., released a report on ACORN in January.
Rep. Issa found that:
- ACORN has evaded taxes, obstructed justice, engaged in self dealing, and aided and abetted a cover-up of the $948.607.50 embezzlement by Dale Rathke, the brother of ACORN founder Wade Rathke.
- ACORN has committed investment fraud, deprived the public of its right to honest services, and engaged in a racketeering enterprise affecting interstate commerce.
- ACORN has committed a conspiracy to defraud the United States by using taxpayer funds for partisan political activities.
- ACORN has submitted false filings to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Department of Labor, in addition to violating the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
- ACORN falsified and concealed facts concerning an illegal transaction between related parties in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).
After the release of Rep. Issa’s report, U. S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, called for hearings on ACORN. Thus far, none have been scheduled and his website turns up 0 records when the term ACORN is entered into its search engine.
Meanwhile, the president who made ACORN a household name by his decades-long association with the group, professes in interviews not to know of its current difficulties.
Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.