WASHINGTON (CNN) – A leading liberal Democrat in the House blasted the embattled community organizing group ACORN Wednesday and said he is urging the White House to withhold any federal funding for the group.
"I am very disappointed in the actions that were taken by members of ACORN," Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said in a statement Wednesday, "and I do not believe that ACORN's response has been adequate for an organization that has received public funding."
Frank also said in the statement that he is urging the Obama administration to withhold any additional funding for ACORN "at least until there is very firm evidence that the abuses of which ACORN members have been guilty have not only ceased, but that procedures are in place to prevent them from happening again."
In a written statement issued Wednesday, ACORN took issue with Frank's criticism.
"While we greatly respect Rep. Barney Frank and have enjoyed the work we have shared over the years," the statement said, "ACORN disagrees with his position on the recent Congressional action to single out our organization and bar us from competing for federal grants."
Asked about Frank's comments during a conference call with reporters, the CEO of ACORN said Wednesday that the organization is moving quickly to address the conduct of some of its employees displayed in videos produced by conservative activists and recently released on the Internet. The videos show some ACORN workers advising the activists, who were posing as a pimp and a prostitute, how to set up a prostitution business involving underage, foreign girls.
"There is no bigger critic of ACORN than its members and its board," the group's CEO Bertha Lewis said, "We were just as shocked and horrified as the American public was [to see the videos]."
"I will not tolerate such behavior," Lewis added.
Lewis's comments were part of an increasing crisis management effort on the part of ACORN. The group recently announced that it has retained Scott Harshbarger, the former Attorney General of Massachusetts, and Harshbarger's law firm to conduct an independent inquiry into ACORN's delivery of social services as well as a general review of ACORN's management.
"We are going to conduct a no-holds-barred review," Harshbarger told reporters Wednesday.
Harshbarger also said ACORN's leadership has requested that that report and findings be made public "at the appropriate time."
Also on Wednesday, ACORN revealed that it has suspended it has suspended its tax preparation services carried out as part of an IRS program. ACORN's suspension of its tax prep program coincided with the revelation that the IRA has independently acted to terminate its relationship with the community organizing group.
Since the videos became public, the Census Bureau has also terminated ACORN's involvement in its public outreach program and both chambers of Congress have voted to deny federal funding to the organization. Republicans in Congress have also called on President Obama to take action to deny federal funding to the embattled group, and are planning to send additional requests for investigations of the group's activities to agency heads and inspectors general.
The Inspector General of the Justice Department recently announced that he is beginning an investigation into whether the group received any grant money from the department. An FBI investigation of ACORN is also possible.
On the state level, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, both Republicans, have also moved to halt state funding to ACORN.
Lewis said Wednesday that the federal funding ACORN receives amounts to less than 10 percent of the organization's entire budget, and that the organization would continue its advocacy on behalf of its membership.
ACORN's general counsel also told reporters that it has not received any subpoenas from law enforcement officials, but that it is voluntarily cooperating with the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office and the FBI in investigations both agencies have opened into the conduct captured on the videos.
ACORN also announced Wednesday that it has filed suit against the makers of the videos that sparked the most recent controversy for violating Maryland's wiretapping law which requires the consent of all parties involved in a recorded conversation.