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."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - ACORN filed suit Wednesday in Baltimore, Maryland, against two filmmakers who secretly recorded videos embarrassing to the agency, claiming the pair violated state law by recording their conversations without permission of the employees involved.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction preventing the further distribution of the videos.
The recordings represented "clear violations of Maryland law that were intended to inflict maximum damage to the reputation of ACORN," the community organizer's attorney, Arthur Schwartz, said. " ... Unfortunately, they succeeded."
Defendants James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles, conservative activists posing as a pimp and a prostitute seeking advice on setting up a brothel with underage girls from El Salvador, recorded the videos in Baltimore and three other cities.
Breitbart.com, registered to Washington Times conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart, is a co-defendant in the lawsuit. Contacted by CNN, Breitbart had no comment on the suit. O'Keefe and Giles did not respond to requests for comment.
The tapes show ACORN employees suggesting or condoning a series of illicit actions. The two Baltimore employees - Shera Williams and Tonja Thompson, who were fired - are co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
"Although we do not condone what our former employees did, no matter how entrapped they were, we are also committed to our 500,000 members that we will hold the defendants civilly and criminally responsible for their violations of Maryland laws and for the damages inflicted upon ACORN's reputation," said
Bertha Lewis, the organization's chief organizer.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – In the first monthly briefing in the run-up to the start of the 2010 Census, the director of the Census Bureau was frank Wednesday about the constant political pressures his agency is under but the Census Director Robert Groves insisted that the upcoming national count will be conducted in a nonpartisan way.
"There are tugs on us daily to get into the political fray," Groves said in a press conference at the National Press Club Wednesday. "It's my firm belief that the basis of credibility of the Census rests on the belief of the American public that we are nonpartisan and we're apolitical and we're a professional statistical bureau. And I need to fight that battle daily."
Groves called use of census data in reapportionment, the process of determining how many seats there will be in the House of Representatives, an "inherently, explicitly political" use of his agency's information that "is proper, that's constitutional, the founders thought about it. It's a great idea."
"What we have to do," Groves added, "is to acknowledge that the product of what we do has political uses but the process can never be politicized."
Concerns voiced mostly by conservatives and congressional Republicans about the Census Bureau's relationship with embattled community organizing group ACORN recently led the agency to put an end to the group's involvement in outreach for the upcoming national count.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The activist community-organizing group ACORN will be the subject of a limited investigation by the Justice Department's inspector general, the internal watchdog office announced Monday.
Inspector General Glenn Fine said he is opening the review in response to a request from the top Republican on a key House Committee.
In a brief letter to Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, Fine said he will investigate whether ACORN applied for or received any Justice Department grant funds, and if so, whether the Justice Department had conducted any audits or reviews of ACORN's use of such funds.
Smith, who also wants the FBI to open a full criminal investigation, is the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama says ACORN misdeeds captured on secretly taped videos should be investigated, but that the controversy over the community service group was not occupying much of his time.
In an interview broadcast Sunday on the ABC program "This Week," Obama was asked if he supported cutting off all federal funding for ACORN - an acronym for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now - due to the incriminating videotapes.
"What I saw on that video was certainly inappropriate and deserves to be investigated," Obama said.
The videos were secretly taped by two individuals posing as a prostitute and a pimp. They show ACORN employees in four of the agency's offices suggesting or condoning a series of illicit actions as the couple seek advice on setting up a brothel with underage women from El Salvador.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The House of Representatives on Thursday approved an amendment that calls for halting government funding to the community organizing group ACORN.
The measure, added to a larger bill on reforming student loans that won House approval, follows a provision passed earlier in the week by the Senate that would halt Housing and Urban Development grants to ACORN.
Both measures would have to have their differences reconciled in Congress to take effect. In addition, ACORN's chief executive officer says the group gets most of its money from members and other supporters, and its operations would continue even if it is cut off from government grants.
However, approval of the House and Senate measures demonstrated the political fallout against ACORN following recent reports of videos that appeared to show the agency's employees condoning illegal actions.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The community organizing group ACORN Wednesday announced a hiring freeze, new training programs and an independent review of its programs following the recent release of a series of videotapes embarrassing to the agency.
The videos - secretly taped by two individuals posing as a pimp and prostitute –showed ACORN employees in four of the agency's offices suggesting or condoning a series of illicit actions as the couple sought advice on setting up a brothel with underage women from El Salvador.
"We have all been deeply disturbed by what we've seen in some of these videos," said ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis. "I must say on behalf of ACORN's Board and our Advisory Council that we will go to whatever lengths necessary to reestablish the public trust."
The steps announced include an immediate halt in hiring for all ACORN offices, an immediate training program for all frontline staff, and selection of an independent auditor by the end of this week.
MIAMI, Florida (CNN) – Arrest warrants were issued Wednesday for 11 Florida voter registration workers who are suspected of submitting false information on hundreds of voter registration cards, according to court documents.
The FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement were serving the warrants in Miami. Six people are already in custody, officials said.
The workers were employed by ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, to canvass neighborhoods in Florida and assist people in registering to vote ahead of the 2008 election. The problems were concentrated in the region around Homestead, Florida, south of Miami, according to an affidavit filed in the case.
Authorities allege the workers submitted false information on the cards, which were to be submitted to the Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A trio of Republican congressmen are calling on a GOP colleague to completely fill out her 2010 Census form, following her vow to provide only basic information about her family.
In a statement released Wednesday, Republican Reps. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia, and John Mica of Florida said that "boycotting the constitutionally-mandated census is illogical, illegal and not in the best interest of our country."
Bachmann expressed concerns last week about the level of detail demanded in the census form and questioned the federal government's ability to protect her family's personal data.
(CNN) – New Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele is ripping a page from the GOP's 2008 playbook.
In a fundraising e-mail sent to supporters Thursday, Steele looks to link community organizing group ACORN with the 2010 census which the new administration will conduct.
"It seems the Obama Administration has plans to rig the Census results," Steele says in the message.
"President Obama's old friends from ACORN . . . has [sic] been chosen by the Administration as a 'partner' with the Census Bureau to determine population counts in cities around the country."
"ACORN's community organizers are eager to once again take action to aid their old friend in the White House," says Steele. "You can be sure they'll be manipulating population numbers."
In a statement to CNN, Bertha Lewis, ACORN's chief organizer, denies Steele's assertions.
"I am disappointed in Mr. Steele's repetition of lies and distortions about our work for crass fundraising purposes," Lewis says. "ACORN is not getting billions from the federal government. We are not in charge of the Census. Just like the accusations of 'voter fraud,' – charges that were debunked repeatedly – these are imaginary and false. The truth is that ACORN is deeply engaged in ending the foreclosure crisis."
During the 2008 White House race, the GOP repeatedly suggested that ACORN and its employees were involved in voter registration fraud that might benefit Barack Obama, then the Democrat nominee for president. The accusation was subsequently leveled at ACORN by the McCain-Palin campaign, which also suggested ties between Obama, his campaign, and the community organizing group.
Both ACORN and the Obama campaign denied engaging in voter registration fraud.