December 8th, 2009
06:26 PM ET
4 years ago

Lawyer's report hits ACORN, criticizes 'pimp' sting

(CNN) - Community organizing group ACORN needs wide-ranging reforms after an embezzlement scandal, but broke no laws when conservative activists posing as a prostitute and a pimp approached members in a videotaped "sting," an attorney's report concludes.

The videos led to the dismissal of four ACORN employees who appeared to offer advice to the couple and to federal legislation barring the group from receiving federal funds. But a review by former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger, who was hired by ACORN to examine the issue, found "no evidence that any action, illegal or otherwise, was taken by ACORN employees on behalf of the videographers."

"While some of the advice and counsel given by ACORN employees and volunteers was clearly inappropriate and unprofessional, we did not find a pattern of intentional, illegal conduct by ACORN staff," Harshbarger's report concludes. "In fact, there is no evidence that action, illegal or otherwise, was taken by any ACORN employee on behalf of the videographers."

ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, was founded in 1970 to help the poor find government benefits and housing, but became the focus of conservative complaints as a result of its voter registration drives. ACORN has been accused of filing fraudulent voter registration forms in 11 states, and Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, warned that the organization could be "destroying the fabric of democracy."

Most of the allegations concern fraudulent forms submitted by temporary ACORN employees hired to register voters in poor and minority areas. None of the allegations relate to fraudulent voting, and ACORN said it initiated a Florida probe that resulted in 11 registration fraud arrests.

In August, conservative activists James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles dressed up as a pimp and prostitute and visited ACORN offices seeking advice on setting up a brothel, among other scenarios. They secretly recorded their visits on video and posted them on the Web site Big Government, leading to a media firestorm. And the group is still reeling from an embezzlement scandal that led to the ouster of its founder, Wade Rathke, in 2008.

Harshbarger's report found the videos to have been heavily edited. In one case, a voice was dubbed over the filmmakers' comments, "which makes it difficult to determine the questions to which ACORN employees are responding."

"A comparison of the publicly available transcripts to the released videos confirms that large portions of the
original video have been omitted from the released versions," the report states. O'Keefe and Giles "either declined or ignored" requests to discuss their recordings, it states.

ACORN has sued O'Keefe, Giles and the Web site that first posted their videos,, accusing them of illegally taping. The Web site called Harshbarger's report a "whitewash" by a longtime Democratic ally.

"Well, ACORN retained a law firm to investigate its operations and, surprise, the law firm found that ACORN hadn't done anything wrong in the undercover videos filmed by James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles," Editor-in-chief Mike Flynn wrote in a post on the site Tuesday.

But while criticizing the "pimp" sting, Harshbarger's report found the scenes depicted in the videos "represent the byproduct of ACORN's long-standing management weaknesses, including a lack of training, a lack of procedures, and a lack of on-site supervision." Leaders who took over after Rathke's removal have been unable to institute reforms "quickly and completely," and the report recommended nine steps ACORN needs to take to fix its internal problems and restore its reputation.

It urged the group, which has branched out into a variety of fields, to return to its "core competency" of community organizing; to replace its affilliate-dominated governing board with one made up mostly of independent members; to beef up its internal controls and accounting staff; and to hire an independent inspector general.

"The road map for reform is clear, but it will not occur overnight and will require perseverance and patience," the report states.

Filed under: ACORN
soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. George Bush - Worst President Ever

    The people at ACORN should have known something was up when the Conservative posing as a pimp said " God spoke to me and said that I should live the pimp life".

    December 8, 2009 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  2. Cordell Ferrell

    Harry Reid is the perfect example of a true Liberal, all Liberals cast aspersions on those that disagree with them. Racism will exist as long as Liberals use it as a weapon. Obama attended church with a racist; Rev.Wright. Democrats will use, say, or do anything to have their way..

    December 8, 2009 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  3. Party Purity will never bring Political Power!

    Seems like a libel suit is forthcoming from ACORN over the two cons and their "doctored" video.

    December 8, 2009 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  4. Steve in PA

    ACORN did nothing Illegal? So I guess Child prostitution is perfectly LEGAL in this Country. Those ACORN employees were perfectly fine with it and were telling the "pimp" how to go about avoiding the LAW.

    ACORN has been proven to be a corrupt organization that has taken Millions of Tax payer money to fund these illegal activities. Those in charge of this organization need to be fined and sent to jail.

    ...BUT, since this is a Democrat sponsored organization, they at most will get a slap on the wrist and the corruption scrubbed from their records.

    December 8, 2009 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  5. john schultz

    Please it was way to clear Acorn promotes deceit . They should not receive tax dollars .if they want to be a non profit organization go out and get donations Lets find out if they have support or not

    December 8, 2009 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  6. C. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Acorn needs to rename and rebrand themselves just like the rest of the political crooks, it's done all the time.

    December 8, 2009 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  7. phoenix86

    ACORN needs to be completely ripped apart and thrown out and the leadership imprisoned.

    December 8, 2009 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  8. CNN afraid of a liberal post

    I am so glad this fizzled out. I would like for someone to sue the Hades out of Fox and everybody keep suing and suing and suing till they go down in smoke.

    They can't report the news correctly when it is right in front of them. Then they can't count in a poll and then they have a poll that is so different from any other poll, it makes you wonder if the ran up and down the aisle in the republican section of the senate and took it...but then that's Fox the biggest "entertainment site" on cable. Don't you think.

    December 8, 2009 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  9. Illinostom

    Who cares what ACORN's lawyer believes? Holder and Obama need to allow a full Federal investigation to go forward into this nefarious organization. The real roadmap to reform for ACORN is to be disbanded.

    December 8, 2009 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  10. diridi

    we need to straighten these lawyers first to the benefit of the nation...these are cantankerous...

    December 8, 2009 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  11. ThinkAgain

    "Harshbarger's report found the videos to have been heavily edited. In one case, a voice was dubbed over the filmmakers' comments, "which makes it difficult to determine the questions to which ACORN employees are responding."

    "A comparison of the publicly available transcripts to the released videos confirms that large portions of the original video have been omitted from the released versions," the report states. O'Keefe and Giles "either declined or ignored" requests to discuss their recordings, it states.

    Sounds like the Faux News approach to "reporting."

    December 8, 2009 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  12. victim of the false prophet OBAMA

    i think i have this figured out now. the corrupt organization ACORN, launches an internal investigation by an ACORN member who tells us there is nothing there but little misstakes. YEAH and the liar-in-chief is now a conservative. Corruption runs deep in Chicago and Washington D.C.

    December 8, 2009 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  13. ThinkAgain

    Don't throw out the baby with the bath water.

    People need to keep in mind all the good ACORN has done in getting folks registered to vote – the cornerstone of a representative democracy such as ours.

    I'd have a problem with ACORN if they hadn't dismissed the four employees involved. This is ACORN's wake-up call; and they will become a better organization for it.

    December 8, 2009 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  14. Nunya

    Release the unedited tapes so we can see the bits that were edited out.

    Also release the tapes of the interviews where the ACORN employees responded in ways like calling the police.

    Anything less is pure and simply deceptive and dishonest on the part of the people who did the taping.

    December 8, 2009 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  15. terry,va

    What? Another cover up by Obummie and his criminal group. Obummie is trying to gear up for the 2010 elections. Acorn is good for 2-4% in each state. Heck, some polling places had more votes cast than registered voters.

    December 8, 2009 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  16. Enough

    ACORN is corrupt and our tax dollars should NOT go to fund this biased liberal organization. The DNC is welcome to donate, as well as the Obama campaign did donate, but TAX payer money should not. If they don't think there is anything wrong with ACORN employees advising people how to avoid paying taxes, then this investigation is as corrupt as ACORN itself. Tax payer dollars going to advise people how to avoid paying taxes...........yeah, that's just fine.

    December 8, 2009 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  17. Truth-Bomb Thrower

    So ACORN (aka the Obama re-election committee) used MY taxpayer dollars to hire one of its allies (who is probably as sleazy and corrupt as it is) to investigate its alleged corruption and give it a clean bill of ethical health. And those ACORN staffers were not really aiding and abetting prostitution. It only seems like they were due to crafty editing by the evil right-wing conspiracy. They were actually only giving directions to Dairy Queen. I feel so much better now.

    (My God, how stupid does our government think we are?)

    December 8, 2009 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  18. Greg, MN

    Typical liberal cover up. Go to You Tube and watch a couple and then decide if a person can explain taxes and laws so calmly and quickly without having give similar advice.Watch the videos they are so out crazy I can't believe anyone would have fallen for it. The advice they gave came out of theit mouths so quick and clear – there is definitely a pattern of this crap.

    December 8, 2009 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  19. Woonsocket

    What a load of bull. The statists do not want to criticize Acorn because it is a creation of the God King Obama.

    December 8, 2009 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  20. tommy_g

    James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles are "heroes" according to foxnews.

    December 8, 2009 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  21. steven harnack

    That finding needs to get the same attention and news coverage that the accusations received. Want to bet that if Faux News reports it at all it will be in a snide, disbelieving manner?

    December 8, 2009 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  22. Corrupted

    No tax dollars should be given to this bunch ever again. Big waste of money.

    December 8, 2009 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  23. Acorn=nut

    This group needs to disband forever.

    December 8, 2009 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  24. GuyInVA

    He's the Attorney General of MASSACHUSETTS. What's next, have him investigate the Kennedys for something? If I'm ever accused of wrong doing, can I pick my own investigator? If so, I choose my mom. She'll be far more impartial than this guy from Massachusetts.

    December 8, 2009 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  25. Bev

    So, let's see.................

    ACORN hires Harshberger-–a former ally of ACORN-–to investigate ACORN.

    Harshberger then determines that ACORN did nothing wrong--surprise surprise!!

    The only people that will believe this--are the loony left. The same people who still blindly support Obama-–even if he is destroying our economy/country.

    December 8, 2009 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
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