The newly released “independent” review of the ACORN undercover prostitution video saga gives dirty meaning to the notion of whitewash.
The newly released “independent” review of the ACORN undercover prostitution video saga is a breathtakingly audacious work of fiction.
There is hardly a word of truth to be found anywhere in the document’s 47 pages. The report unveiled yesterday by former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger is an all-you-can-eat buffet of lies and distortions that faults ACORN only for poor management practices.
No wonder those who organized the news teleconference yesterday kept the event so brief. The call lasted just 36 minutes, an amazingly brief period considering the level of public interest in ACORN’s ongoing scandals and the complexity of the issues involved. Within that, the question-and-answer session was barely 23 minutes long.
Only five reporters were called upon and four of them lobbed softballs. One of the so-called reporters was actually politics professor Peter Dreier of Occidental College, a consultant to ACORN who wrote a report blaming the media for the group’s woes. In “First They Came for ACORN,” one of Dreier’s over-the-top Huffington Post op-eds, the radical academic likened ACORN critics to Nazis.
Although I joined the electronic queue to ask a question, the teleconference was abruptly cut off after John Fund of the Wall Street Journal asked a series of tough questions.
Nonetheless the conference call was revealing.
It examined Harshbarger’s report, which lays the blame for ACORN’s myriad institutional shortcomings almost entirely on former chief organizer Wade Rathke. The document focuses on the hidden-camera videos in which James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles posed as pimp and prostitute. In those videos, ACORN employees across the nation offered the couple detailed advice on how to break the law and not get caught.
Harshbarger, a former president of the liberal group Common Cause selected by ACORN to aid in damage control, shrugged off the employees’ behavior.
“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,” he wrote.
In a conference call ACORN chief organizer Bertha Lewis gloated about how the report exonerated her group. Coming on the heels of her Oscar-worthy National Press Club speech in October in which she not only depicted ACORN as an innocent victim but also as a whistleblower that tried to nip the subprime mortgage crisis in the bud, Lewis told some brand new whoppers.
She said, “ACORN’s leadership is pleased that this evaluation shows that even the low level employees did not engage in any illegal activity or seek to encourage it.”
Reporters participated in listen-only mode in the teleconference Monday so the sounds of robust laughter did not disrupt the press event.
Anyone who watched the videos knows that ACORN employees bent over backwards to advise O’Keefe and Giles on how to defraud the U.S. government, obtain government money under false pretenses, engage in money laundering, smuggle illegal aliens into the country, and facilitate child prostitution.
The only reason the employees didn’t participate in the schemes they devised was that O’Keefe and Giles never followed through. We’ll never know with perfect certainty, but does anyone seriously believe that most of the ACORN employees shown in the videos didn’t want to follow through?
One helpful staffer offered to help the couple claim the child tax credit for underage prostitutes from El Salvador. One worker offered the couple a discount on tax preparation fees for the prostitution business. One told them how to hide undeclared income by burying it in a tin can.
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