The activist group ACORN, which has long worked with criminals as it preys on the weak and the troubled, is on the verge of yet another public relations catastrophe.
That's because a cross-dressing Ohio male escort whom ACORN registered multiple times to vote was convicted of full-fledged vote fraud in addition to the lesser crime of voter registration fraud. A spokesman for Cleveland prosecutor Bill Mason confirmed yesterday that a local investigation of ACORN remains wide open.
The conviction of Darnell Nash, apparently known by several aliases including Serina "Sexy Slay" Gibbs, is hugely significant for several reasons, not least of which is the fact that ACORN has long maintained that vote fraud, as opposed to the lesser crime of voter registration fraud, essentially never happens.
ACORN's Project Vote affiliate has tried to get rid of the problem of vote fraud by defining it out of existence. Lorraine C. Minnite, a political science professor at Columbia University's Barnard College, argues in an ACORN/Project Vote report called "The Politics of Voter Fraud" that "[t]he claim that voter fraud threatens the integrity of American elections is itself a fraud." Minnite is also a senior fellow at the liberal think tank Demos.
While ACORN has not yet been charged in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, the fact that an individual voter registered by ACORN has been convicted of actually casting a fraudulent ballot appears to be a historic first for the embattled radical advocacy group.
But in the Nash case, the question arises: Who conned whom? Or were both Nash and ACORN to blame?
Nash, the self-proclaimed "Queen of Cleveland Gender Benders," claimed to make $150 an hour turning tricks, according to the New York Post. Describing Nash, who flashed a TV reporter on camera while dressed as a woman, as a "flamboyant con artist," the newspaper reported last October that Nash was also "busted for scamming local college students in a fake loan-program scheme that gave him access to the kids' checking accounts." It is unclear if the loan fraud allegations were acted on further by authorities.
Mason spokesman Ryan Miday said in an interview last night that ACORN remains on the prosecutorial radar screen. "We investigated the activities involving ACORN and at this point we have found no criminal conduct by ACORN." [Emphasis added.]
I pressed Miday, whose boss is an elected Democrat, to elaborate and he offered what sounded like a clarion call to whistle blowers.
"Our file remains open, meaning that we're not closing the case," he said. "If we receive more information or evidence pertaining to ACORN's involvement we will pursue it."
Miday explained that Nash was registered nine times to vote with the assistance of what the spokesman called "ACORN outreach workers." Nash repeatedly used different names and different addresses to register to vote. He was indicted by a grand jury earlier this year.
Nash cast a fraudulent ballot at the local board of elections office, Miday said.
Nash entered a guilty plea to one count of casting a fraudulent ballot and to several counts of false registration on August 5. On August 19 he was sentenced to six months imprisonment by Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Nancy Margaret Russo.
Miday said that Nash, who is in custody in a facility for male prisoners, filed for a petition for early "judicial release" on Oct. 1. Mason entered his opposition to the petition yesterday, the spokesman said.
The conviction of Nash in August was missed by the national media and by this now red-faced reporter.
Miday said he has been fielding a lot of calls from the media recently since undercover sting videos surfaced last month on BigGovernment.com. The videos, which led to a massive revival of public interest in ACORN, showed ACORN employees advising a couple pretending to be a pimp and prostitute on how to evade various laws.
ACORN's Ohio chapter had bad luck with prostitutes last year.
An Ohio woman named Shari Bell who was allegedly a crack cocaine user, prostitute, and ACORN worker, was arrested on drug and prostitution charges in October. Bell was arrested by Cincinnati police after she allegedly offered an undercover cop sex for money. Police found a crack pipe in the pocket of her coat.
Meanwhile, the noose continues to tighten around ACORN's tax-subsidized neck.
As I write, I just learned of a draft legislative amendment from the office of Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), one of ACORN's few remaining steadfast friends in the U.S. Senate. This amendment number 2647 to H.R. 2847, the fiscal 2010 spending bill for the Commerce Department, directs the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to "conduct a review and audit of Federal funds awarded to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now…or any subsidiary or affiliate of ACORN."
According to the amendment, the GAO would determine "whether any Federal funds were misused and, if so, the total amount of Federal funds involved and how such funds were misused; what steps, if any, have been taken to recover any Federal funds that were misused; what steps should be taken to prevent the misuse of any Federal funds; and whether all necessary steps have been taken to prevent the misuse of any Federal funds."
Acting U.S. Comptroller General Gene L. Dodaro, who runs GAO, would have 180 days from the time the legislation is enacted to report the results of the audit to Congress. As Senate majority whip, Durbin wouldn't have taken this dramatic step without the approval of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
Presumably Durbin was acting under orders from the vast right-wing conspiracy that ACORN chief organizer Bertha Lewis has claimed is persecuting her group.
In a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Lewis claimed the Republican National Committee "every single day, because we've been inflated as the bogeyman, raises almost $2 million dollars a day every day."
She claimed "this form of modern day ACORN McCarthyism has got to stop. Last week, members of Congress were asked, 'Are you now or have you ever been a member of ACORN?'"
It sounds like a fair question to me.