Four separate investigations by various state and city Attorneys General and the GAO released in 2009/2010 cleared ACORN of any illegal activities. Law enforcement officials found its employees had not engaged in criminal activities and that the organization had managed its federal funding appropriately. Videos purporting to show illegal activities were found to have been deceptively and selectively edited to present the workers in the worst possible light.
So it’s with some small satisfaction that former members of that group were in a celebratory mood yesterday after court documents were released revealing that James O’Keefe, the conservative activist whose hidden-camera stings were at the center of the controversy, agreed to pay $100,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a former employee of ACORN.
Juan Carlos Vera, a former employee of ACORN, sued O’Keefe in 2010, alleging O’Keefe had illegally taped their conversation at an office in California as part of his fraudulent ‘exposé’ of the community activist group. Vera was portrayed in O’Keefe’s videos as offering assistance in setting up a nonexistent child prostitution ring.
Subsequent to his meeting with O’Keefe, Vera contacted police to report the meeting, unaware that he had been duped. A video purporting to shown ACORN employees acquiescing to illegal activities was posted on a conservative website, provoking a hailstorm of denunciations. Vera claims that deceptive posting cost him his job.
While the supposed ACORN prostitution videos were exposed as a hoax, O’Keefe and his Project Veritas group also released heavily edited undercover sting videos attempting to document voter fraud, most of which collapsed under scrutiny, sometimes spectacularly so. The San Diego incident, which was taped in the ACORN National City offices on August 18, 2009, was edited to include O’Keefe and an associate dressed as a pimp and prostitute.
According to today’s Los Angeles Times:
O’Keefe’s actions in the National City incident, and in similar videos elsewhere, were celebrated by some commentators for allegedly showing the hypocrisy of ACORN and the left-leaning political bias at National Public Radio, where O’Keefe masqueraded as a Muslim political operative seeking agreement that “tea party” supporters are racist and xenophobic.
But some journalists blasted O’Keefe for underhanded tactics and acting as an agent provocateur rather than as a reporter.
A report in 2010 by the office of the California attorney general said that O’Keefe and Giles were given immunity from prosecution when they agreed to provide complete and unedited copies of videos made in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and National City.
ACORN employees “may be able to bring a private suit against O’Keefe and Giles for recording a confidential conversation,” according to the report, completed while now-Gov. Jerry Brown was attorney general. Brown had been asked to investigate by then-Gov. ArnoldSchwarzenegger.
Vera’s lawsuit got around the immunity deal by asserting that O’Keefe broke a California law prohibiting the surreptitious recording of someone’s voice and image.
ACORN Lives on as a Boogieman
A Public Policy Polling survey conducted shortly after the most recent elections revealed that:
49% of GOP voters nationally say they think that ACORN stole the (2012) election for President Obama. We found that 52% of Republicans thought that ACORN stole the 2008 election for Obama, so this is a modest decline, but perhaps smaller than might have been expected given that ACORN doesn’t exist anymore
From the Associated Press, as reported by Fox News, March 22, 2010:
The once mighty community activist group ACORN announced Monday it is folding amid falling revenues — six months after video footage emerged showing some of its workers giving tax tips to conservative activists posing as a pimp and prostitute.
None-the-less, Fox News keeps telling right-wingers that ACORN still exists, only now it’s mutated and renamed itself. A quick Google search brings up a half dozen reports on that network purporting to blame ACORN for being behind the Occupy protests, organizing homeowners to protest foreclosures and initiating worker rebellions at New York fast food restaurants.
From Steve, over at the No More Mister Nice Blog:
Fox considers any organization staffed by anyone who ever worked for ACORN to be an ACORN successor, if not ACORN itself in undead form, so ACORN exists in much the same way that the existence of Wings meant the Beatles didn’t break up.
As it turns out, every person who ever worked for ACORN hasn’t been summarily executed or sent to a gulag for life — because, presumably, the vast majority of them haven’t done anything illegal or immoral. Thus, Fox and the rest of the wingnut press are determined to expose every single ex-ACORNer and make the case that massive subversion of the American way of life is still taking place, and it’s still ACORN’s fault.
By keeping the Boogieman alive the GOP has an excuse for its poor performance. And a hook to hang its ‘fear’ ethos on. That’s why even though ACORN has been shut down for some time, House Republicans are still trying to defund it.
A provision in a short-term budget bill by the House Appropriations Committee last week would prevent funding for the group. (ACORN was stripped of all federal funding in 2009.)
A more complete story refuting all the myths about ACORN can be found at FactCheck.org.
This was an excerpt of Doug Porter’s daily column, The Starting Line, over at San Diego Free Press.