Tuesday, September 15, 2009

House Set To Cut Funding To ACORN

A day after the Senate voted 83-7 to cut funding to ACORN, the House is set to do the same today. Why the sudden turnabout and fortune change?

It has everything to do with James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles, who posed as a pimp and prostitute and got at least three ACORN offices to provide all kinds of advice on how to carry out prostitution, political activities, tax evasion, and other criminal acts while seeking to obtain a home through the organization. They've released a series of videos showing Baltimore, Washington, DC, and Brooklyn offices providing very similar advice to the couple.

ACORN had tried to claim that the Baltimore office was an isolated incident. That's when the second video was released. When ACORN again tried to claim it was an isolated incident and that they fired the two Baltimore workers, the second set of videos were released showing the DC office. When ACORN attempted yet again to claim it was a setup and that the New York offices didn't respond to O'Keefe and Giles, the third video was released showing the Brooklyn office providing the same kind of information as the other two.

There is also word that there are more videos to come.

Biggovernment.com, which released the videos (and is part of Breitbart.com), hopes that RICO charges be filed against ACORN.
The reality is, there are at least a half-dozen state and federal laws that could have been broken here. Even though the undercover girl is not a prostitute and there are no El Salvadoran girls either, this could still meet the legal standard for conspiracy to commit these various crimes. At a bare minimum, depending on the state, it likely fulfills the elements for the crime of attempted conspiracy, which usually carries the exact same penalty as the underlying crimes themselves (prostitution, tax fraud, etc.).

What’s important about prostitution and human trafficking is that they are specific triggers for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, better known as RICO. The RICO law is designed to enable the Justice Department to go after criminal enterprises. It defines “racketeering activity” as including importing illegal aliens for immoral purposes, falsifying identification documents and immigration papers, mail and wire fraud, and the sexual exploitation of children, among others.

These are all implicated on the video tapes. The ACORN workers rattle off their how-to instructions on carrying out these crimes without needing to do more than skim a couple books that they have on hand. The clear implication is that these workers are seasoned pros on how to carry out these crimes, subsidized by federal taxpayer money.
The Brooklyn District Attorney's office is looking into the ACORN office there.

As to the Senate vote yesterday, Sen. Gillibrand voted against the provision to cut funding, whereas even Sen. Chuck Schumer voted to cut funding.
Gillibrand's office said she found the actions of certain ACORN employees "reprehensible" but added, "The truth remains that thousands of New York families who are facing foreclosure depend on charitable organizations like ACORN for assistance."
Those families have no one to blame but the actions of ACORN and the failure to properly oversee and train offices to act in a legal fashion. Providing information that can be used to hide illegal activities is not an activity that can or should be carried out at any of the ACORN offices, and yet it was all too easy to get virtually identical advice from at least three offices. That's the kind of mess that starts at the top and rots its way down to the core of the group.

There are other more worthy community groups that can provide the kind of assistance to families without the criminality or the appearance of criminality. That includes all manner of church groups, which serve many of the areas in which ACORN operates. Housing advice could be farmed out to Nehemiah and its partners, affiliates, or similar organizations.

That the group's shutdown may adversely affect families going forward should not prevent the group from being stripped of funding if it is breaking the law as is the case on those three videos. Moreover, stripping the funding will not necessarily shut down the group altogether as it takes in private donations as well. It would continue to serve but at a much reduced level.

The only thing left to consider is just how far law enforcement wants to take matters and whether they'll pursue the RICO charges or other criminal charges against not only those in the videos but their superiors. That remains to be seen.

Instapundit links. Thanks! Now, there is a possibility that the House will not vote the cutoff since the Democrats still control the House, but that they're allowing the GOP to make this move shows just how far the ACORN has fallen. ACORN's credibility is shot, and the possibility of more videos being released will only further savage ACORN's last remaining bit of credibility and support in Congress.

Via Instapundit, Biggovernment.com has found that ACORN was not licensed to do business in Maryland since November 2006 (ACORN Housing, a separate entity, was operating illegally since November 2008). So, while the Maryland Attorney General is making headlines for threatening to prosecute O'Keefe and Giles, he should have been focusing on ACORN's right to do business in the state - a far more egregious and damaging issue.

According to Maryland law, the following penalties are imposed on business entities that operate without a license: (1) Officers and agents are guilty of a misdemeanor and may be fined up to $1,000; and (2) the corporation subject to $200 fine.

What isn't clear is why the ACORN entities forfeited their right to do business in the state. It is possible that they failed to make a required annual filing.

Via Hot Air, not only are Senate Republicans demanding an investigation, but there's going to be another video released this afternoon (4pm) :
Or, make that four. Big Government plans to release another video this afternoon at 4 pm ET, apparently taken at an ACORN office in Southern California. According to Twitter chatter, this one has some politicians named, as well as a surprising admission from the ACORN staffer on tape.
San Bernardino, here we come:

Is anyone at the San Bernardino District Attorney's office following along with all this? It looks like the woman in the video, Tresa Kaelke, admits to at laundry list of crimes, including prostitution, failure to report income, and those are the tame issues. I'm sure the IRS would love to hear more about this too.

The ACORN website notes that it trains its employees on how to "to recruit members, build an organizing committee, turn people out to meetings and events, develop campaign strategy, work with leaders, do grassroots fundraising, write press releases, and much more." Apparently, engaging in child prostitution, tax evasion, and other sundry activities falls into the "much more" category.

To quote a favorite movie of my wife, ACORN seems to employ people with a certain moral flexibility. Is it not so unreasonable to believe that their hiring practices across the country attract the same kind of people, and if presented with facts (the child prostitution ring and political aspirations and the need to hide such information on the down low), that they'll revert to type?

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