Thursday, September 17, 2009

ACORN's Ethical and Moral Flexibility On Display Again

ACORN announced yesterday that they would shut down their homeowner assistance programs pending an independent review of the situation. That's a good start. The problem is that ACORN's problems run much deeper than that which has been depicted on the videos so far.

The latest video, coming from San Diego, shows one of ACORN's employees soliciting Hannah Giles for sex in exchange for providing assistance on smuggling girls into the US to engage in child prostitution.

ACORN has tried to cast these videos as random and isolated incidents, but the fact that it was so easy to get this kind of response from workers at multiple offices shows that ACORN's problems run much deeper than that.

They hire people with a certain moral and ethical flexibility, who show a depressing absence of understanding right from wrong. If they were so quick to provide assistance on how to break the law on any number of issues (child prostitution, tax evasion, etc.) what other kinds of questionable advice are they providing to the communities they claim to assist.

After all, ACORN claims that they want to help the lower classes advance and yet we see that their definition of advancement includes turning a blind eye to child prostitution and tax evasion.

So, while ACORN has fired several people in connection with the videos, the ACORN leadership has thus far escaped serious civil and criminal repercussions.

I expect that to change with the release of these videos and subsequent investigations opened in places like New York City and New York State. It would be a gross dereliction of duty on the part of state attorney generals around the nation not to take a closer look at whether ACORN's activities there are legal - including whether they are operating without licenses as in the case in Maryland.

Until ACORN can show that it has cleaned up its act, it should get no government assistance and any money earmarked to housing assistance should be reappropriated to other groups that have legitimate programs, such as Nehemiah Housing.

ACORN makes a big deal about providing homeowner assistance to underprivileged communities, and yet one has to question the kind of advice and assistance provided based on these videos. People coming in for assistance need to know the proper and legal methods of handling the real estate transactions they're interested in, and evading the law perpetuates problems within the community. Excusing such behavior as the ACORN leadership has done by claiming that this is a problem limited to a small group of its employees doesn't wash. It throws into question all of their operations nationwide, and ACORN has repeatedly had egg on its face by claiming that this was first an isolated incident, and then by claiming that its other offices weren't taken in by O'Keefe and Giles. They lost credibility - rightfully so.

Roger Stone at Big Government notes that NY Attorney General Andrew Cuomo may have to investigate the Workers Families Party (WFP), which I've previously highlighted as having been cofounded by ACORN and which has had problems keeping track of monies.

Cuomo has to investigate these groups, and promising that he will insure that monies for ACORN goes solely to the homeowner assistance programs is insufficient. Member items (also known as earmarks and as pork) in New York are doled out to groups all across the state, and ACORN gets its share of member items. They don't specify that the money goes to homeowner assistance, but rather to the group generally.

For example, the 2009-2010 budget bill includes the following language from page 183 and 185:
45 ACORN/NYACA ... 5,000 ................................... (re. $5,000)
28 NY ACORN ... 10,000 .................................... (re. $10,000)
29 NY Acorn ... 2,500 ...................................... (re. $2,500)
That's a reappropriation of those monies. It doesn't specify what program the money goes to. It is the same for all the other programs listed in the budget bills.

Legislators know, or should know, that the money goes to a variety of operations within the groups it funds. For ACORN, they know it covers overhead, the homeowner assistance programs, and the political organizing, even though such organizing would conflict with its tax exempt status.

The best way for the Attorney General to get to the bottom of matters in New York is to conduct a full audit of ACORN operations to see where all the money has gone. Simply promising to ensure that the money goes to homeowner assistance doesn't address systemic problems within ACORN. Moreover, it doesn't address the questionable advice provided by ACORN to those seeking assistance.

The House voted by a wide margin to defund ACORN. 345-75, with 2 present and 11 no votes. However, missing among the counts is none other than Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who earlier claimed she had no idea what the Senate had done. Totally clueless. Fitting.

It was bipartisan, but some of the usual suspects wanted to protect ACORN's funding, including Democrat Charles Rangel (D-Tax Cheat, NY). All 75 voting to protect ACORN's funding were Democrats. Birds of a feather.

ACORN is finally trying to strike back at O'Keefe and Giles, claiming that their Philadelphia office called the cops on O'Keefe. They have a copy of a police report claiming that O'Keefe caused a disturbance at the office on 7/24/2009. However, the precise nature of what happened in the office on that day isn't clear, and someone ought to ask O'Keefe about it.

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