December 8th, 2009
06:26 PM ET
6 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. Independant Vet

    More an more covers are coming into lite . From bed rolls , to where our judicial system is going for some of the action for pay offs. ( COVER UP )
    This Obama nomic's . Lining up for 2012. Wright.

    December 8, 2009 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  2. Bren

    When the Republicans take over power/control again through the 2010 and 2012 elections--the VERY first thing that they need to do is make sure that ACORN is destroyed, and that this organization--or any others like it (as ACORN is now trying to change their name)-–NEVER receives another dime of tax payers' money!!!!!

    December 8, 2009 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  3. Get Real

    I have no respect for this joke of an organization.

    December 8, 2009 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  4. jmz

    Hey Obama why dont you say something clever??? oh yeah thats right no teleprompter and you would never dare disobey your socialist masters would you. Your only good at betraying soldiers and the american people. come 2012 the sad experiment known as barak hussien obama us pres will be OVER!!! and REAL americans cant wait!

    December 8, 2009 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  5. Mike, formerly from Syracuse

    Let's see, a lawyer hired by ACORN found that ACORN violated no laws. Wow, what a surprise.

    December 8, 2009 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  6. Marion/Alabama

    ACORN hired their own investigators to say they were above the law? Like Charlie Rangel who contributes to the people on the Ethics committee for their re-election,and expects nothing in return. Like Chris Dodd who the Ethics committee said did no wrong by country wide mortgage,but someone bought him a house in Ireland,which he did not give favortism to. Sure???

    December 8, 2009 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  7. JP

    Its groups like ACORN that helped cause our current financial crisis. Do an internet search on the following- ACORN NINJA loans fraud. You will see that your tax dollars suppor a criminal enterprise.

    December 8, 2009 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  8. New Age Independent

    Simply amazing... ACORN has been proven to be dirty and corrupt, yet because they are a pawn of the Democrat Party, they are still defended. Yet another prime example of the failure of the Democrats.

    December 8, 2009 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  9. Big-K(DC)

    The Lawyer is only saying what the majority of citizens other than the Repubs, Birthers,Tea what you ma call um and Obama haters already knew. This was all smoke and mirrors as a result of a few misguided employees and the routine song and dance by the just say No group.

    December 8, 2009 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  10. Tina

    I'm sick of ACORN. Why hasn't this scam of a group been shut down already? Oh yeah, because their supporters of Obama. Maybe we can get rid of this group is 2013 when Obama is out of office.

    December 8, 2009 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  11. No more ACORN, SEIU (or Obama)

    ACORN has been in the news for voter registration fraud, intimidation (along side SEIU thugs), corruption, embezzlement and the whole 'pimp-gate' thing.

    They DO NOT NEED TAXPAYER MONEY. If they clean up their act and prove that they can be honest and useful to the masses, then maybe–in the future. Otherwise, they will continue to be known as a corrupt arm of the democratic party.

    The lawyer appears to be spinning story. That's his job–dishonest, but his job all the same.

    December 8, 2009 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
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