The ACORN scandal

(I’m late in reporting this story, because I didn’t have the time to give it the treatment it deserves. And my how the story has grown in the meantime.)

ACORN, the community-organizing and voter-fraud organization, has long been savaged for its various criminal activities. On September 9, they hoped they had gotten in front of their bad reputation when they turned in eleven of their workers for forging voter registrations. This, they argued, was proof that ACORN could police itself:

“Over the last five years thousands of dedicated people have worked or volunteered with Florida ACORN. . . Fortunately, our quality control managers and the systems we developed ensured their ability to spot the isolated wrongdoing by these 11 workers who tried to pass off phony forms instead of doing their work.”

The very next day, James O’Keefe went public with the results of his hidden camera investigation. (Transcript here.) O’Keefe went to an ACORN office in Baltimore posing as a pimp. He brought along Hannah Giles who posed as a prostitute. They spun a tail of various criminal activities, including fraud, child prostitution, and human trafficking. ACORN was all too happy to help. For example, the ACORN consultant suggested that Hannah list her occupation as “performance artist”, she recommended that they understate their income to the IRS, and she gave them advice on how to conceal their underage prostitutes (imported from El Salvador) from the authorities.

ACORN denied everything:

A spokesman for ACORN, Scott Levenson, when asked to comment on the videotape, said: “The portrayal is false and defamatory and an attempt at gotcha journalism. This film crew tried to pull this sham at other offices and failed. ACORN wants to see the full video before commenting further.”

ACORN’s denial proved premature. First, it rang hollow when ACORN quickly fired the staffers. Then, O’Keefe released his second hidden camera investigation, in which he and Giles told the same story at an ACORN office in DC. (Transcript here.) Again, the staffers were happy to help. ACORN quickly fired those staffers as well.

Desperate to get in front of the scandal, ACORN issued a statement accusing Fox News of racism. (ACORN erroneously gave Fox credit/blame for O’Keefe’s work, presumably because Fox News is unpopular among its base of support.) That’s right, ACORN abets trafficking in underage prostitutes, and Fox News is somehow racist for reporting the scandal. The small consolation for ACORN is that most of the media was not so “racist”, and ignored the whole affair. At first.

ACORN still had its supporters. The state attorney in Baltimore issued an amazing statement indicating that it had no plans to prosecute ACORN, but it would investigate criminal wrongdoing by O’Keefe! (It seems that hidden microphones are illegal under Maryland law, but the state attorney had not previously prosecuted journalists for hidden camera investigations.) It’s not surprising to learn that Patricia Jessamy, the state attorney in question, is a Democrat who served on a steering committee for the Obama campaign.

But the Census Bureau, which had a controversial deal with ACORN to assist in the census, had heard enough. Citing “worsening negative perceptions” (I’d say so!), it cancelled its deal with ACORN.

ACORN continued to try to defend itself. It issued a statement threatening legal action against Fox News. That is almost certainly a bluff (and a clumsy one), because — aside from having no case — the last thing ACORN wants is for someone to have the opportunity for discovery. The statement also said:

“This recent scam, which was attempted in San Diego, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia to name a few places, had failed for months before the results we’ve all recently seen.”

This turned out to be a lie, at the very least in regards to New York, as we learned when O’Keefe released his third video. In the third video, O’Keefe and Giles told the same story (fraud, underage prostitution, human trafficking) at an ACORN office in New York, and again received their assistance.

That was finally too much for Congress. The Senate voted 83-7 to cut off funding for ACORN and the House is due to consider similar action shortly. (Among the seven who voted with ACORN was Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey. His father must be rolling in his grave. Roland Burris (D-IL), who is only in the Senate because Democratic leaders quashed proposals for a special election, is another.) Meanwhile, the Brooklyn DA’s office says they will be taking a look, and ACORN may be vulnerable under RICO as well. (It’s hard to imagine Eric Holder approving an investigation of ACORN though.)

The question now is, what happens next?

UPDATE: What happens next is a fourth video.

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