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The community organizing group ACORN is once again at the center of controversy, this time with the release of a videotape showing two employees helping a man posing as a pimp and a woman pretending to be prostitute set up a brothel and deceive the IRS by claiming underage girls from South America as dependents.
The tape, along with a transcript, was released by a new political blog launched today by Andrew Breitbart, BigGovernment.com.
Maryland ACORN board member Margaret Williams declared in a statement later today after release of the video that the two employees were fired, because they “did not meet ACORN’s standards of professionalism,” the Associated Press reported.
Williams’ statement also called the video an attempt to smear ACORN, noting undercover teams attempted similar efforts at three other ACORN offices.
The undercover operation in Baltimore, the work of independent filmmaker James O’Keefe, can be seen here in two parts:
A staffer at the Baltimore ACORN office this morning refused to comment when confronted at the door by a Fox News reporter, referring her to the group’s national office. ACORN spokesman Scott Levenson responded to Fox News.
“The portrayal is false and defamatory and an attempt at gotcha journalism,” he said. “This film crew tried to pull this sham at other offices and failed. ACORN wants to see the full video before commenting further.”
ACORN, which stands for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, has been accused of widespread voter fraud.
President Obama headed an ACORN vote registration project in the 1990s and represented the group in a legal case in which ACORN pressed Citibank to loan more money to marginally qualified applicants.
In the latest ACORN fraud case, authorities yesterday in Miami began arresting 11 workers suspected of falsifying hundreds of voter applications during a registration drive last year, the Associated Press reported.
Obama meeting with ACORN leaders as an Illinois Senate candidate
As WND reported in July, Republicans on a House committee released an 88-page report calling for a criminal investigation of ACORN to probe whether the group is intentionally structured as a criminal enterprise.
The videotape, made July 24, shows the filmmaker O’Keefe posing as a pimp with a 20-year-old “prostitute” named “Kenya.”
“Kenya” tells an ACORN staff worker she earns about $8,000 a month, but the staffer suggests she could submit a tax return to the IRS indicating she made $9,600 for 2008, instead of $96,000.
ACORN, the staff says, would charge her just $50 for preparing her taxes instead of the usual $150.
The ACORN staffer also advises the prostitute that she declare on the tax form her occupation is freelance “performing artist.”
The “pimp,” O’Keefe, replies, “It’s not dancing, trust me.”
“But dancing is considered an art,” the ACORN staffer says. “[Exotic dancers] usually go under performing artists, or yeah, they usually go under performing arts, which will be what you are — a performing artist.”
The “pimp” tells the ACORN staffer he plans to bring into the U.S. 13 “very young” girls from El Salvador to work as prostitutes.
The ACORN staffer acknowledges the plan is illegal, but she suggests the girls can be claimed on tax forms as “dependents.”
The pimp asks, “What if they are going to be making money because they are performing tricks too?”
“If they making money and they are underage, then you shouldn’t be letting anybody know anyway,” the ACORN staffer says, laughing. “It’s illegal. So I am not hearing this, I am not hearing this. You talk too much. Don’t give up no information you’re not asked.”
The House Republicans’ July report, commissioned by Rep. Darrell Issa of California, the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, charges ACORN “hides behind a paper wall of nonprofit corporate protections to conceal a criminal conspiracy on the part of its directors, to launder federal money in order to pursue a partisan political agenda and to manipulate the American electorate.”
The report expresses concern that ACORN would channel $8.5 billion in economic stimulus funds through a criminal corporate structure designed to mask the distribution of public money to partisan activities, including voter fraud to advance the campaigns of radical Democratic politicians.
Since 1994, ACORN has received more than $53 million in federal funds, according to the report.
Specifically, the report made the following criminal allegations:
- ACORN has evaded taxes, obstructed justice, engaged in self-dealing, and aided and abetted a cover-up of embezzlement by Dale Rathke, the brother of ACORN founder Wade Rathke.
- ACORN has committed investment fraud, deprived the public of its right to honest services, and engaged in racketeering affecting interstate commerce.
- ACORN has committed a conspiracy to defraud the United States by using taxpayer funds for partisan political activities.
- ACORN has submitted false filings to the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Labor, in addition to violating the Fair Labor Standards Act.
- ACORN falsified and concealed facts concerning an illegal transaction between related parties in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.
ACORN’s radical socialist origins
WND previously reported ACORN owes its origin to a revolutionary strategy developed in the 1960s by Columbia University professor of social work Richard A. Cloward and his research associate, Frances Fox Piven.
In what became known as the Cloward-Piven strategy, the two sociologists argued for a revolutionary approach to mobilizing the poor. They advocated a form of class warfare against capitalist forces perceived as exploiters of labor and oppressors of the poor.
David Horowitz, a long-time student of leftist political movements in the United States, characterized the Cloward-Piven strategy as seeking “to hasten the fall of capitalism by overloading the government bureaucracy with a flood of impossible demands, thus pushing society into crisis and economic collapse.”
Cloward and Piven argued a “guaranteed annual income” should be established as an entitlement for the poor.
Arguing for massive registration of the poor in existing social welfare programs, Cloward and Piven sought to create a crisis that could be exploited to obtain a fundamental redistribution of power in favor of the “have nots.”
Advancing their socialist revolutionary aims, Cloward and Piven explained the crisis they sought “can occur spontaneously (e.g., riots) or as the intended result of tactics of demonstration and protest which either generate institutional disruption or bring unrecognized disruption to public attention.”
The Cloward-Piven strategy sought to apply the tactics of the revolutionary civil rights movement, including urban riots, to the poor as a whole, transcending interest-group politics defined by race to involve interest group politics defined by class.
Radical black activist George Wiley created the National Welfare Reform Organization, or NWRO, to implement the Cloward-Piven strategy.
Sol Stern, writing in the City Journal, noted that foot soldiers hired by the NWRO were successful in expanding welfare rolls from 4.3 million to 10.8 million by the mid-1970s. The result was that in New York City, where the strategy had been particularly successful, there was one person on the welfare rolls for every two working in the private economy.
James Simpson, a former White House staff economist and budget analyst, writing in American Thinker argued the “vast expansion of welfare in New York City that came of the NWRO’s Cloward-Piven tactics sent the city into bankruptcy in 1975.”
Obama’s close ties to ACORN
WND also has reported that Obama, as a community organizer in 1992 in Chicago, headed the Chicago operations of Project Vote!, an ACORN effort to register voters nationally. In Chicago, Obama had his biggest impact registering African-American voters on the city’s South Side.
ACORN also played an instrumental role in urging lenders to extend home mortgages to subprime lenders. In the 1980s, the group pushed charges that the home lending practices of banks amounted to “red-lining” in violation of the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act, according to a report by Stan Liebowitz in the New York Post.
In 1994, Obama, a graduate of Harvard Law School then fresh from his Project Vote! experience, represented ACORN in the Buycks-Roberson vs. Citibank Federal Savings Bank case in which ACORN pressed for Citibank to make more loans to marginally qualified African-American applicants “in a race neutral way.”
After obtaining a settlement in the Citibank litigation, ACORN used its subsidiary organization ACORN Housing, an organization with offices in more than 30 U.S. cities, to push the group’s radical agenda to acquire mortgages for subprime home buyers under the most favorable terms possible.
The meltdown in subprime home mortgages has been widely seen as a major cause of the economic recession that officially began in December.
During 2008, the Obama presidential campaign attempted to distance the candidate from ACORN voter fraud by arguing that the U.S. Department of Justice was on the same side of the Citibank case as was lawyer Obama, reflecting the Clinton administration’s determination to expand homeownership among the poor.
“Barack Obama strongly condemns voter registration fraud or any other breach of election law by any party or group,” Ben LaBolt, an Obama campaign spokesman, said at the time in a statement reported by the New York Times.
Conyers backs off probing ACORN
In June, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr., D-Mich., backed off his plan to launch a congressional investigation of ACORN, telling reporters “powers that be put the kibosh on the idea,” the Washington Times reported.
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele responded to Conyers, asserting the congressman “has a responsibility to explain who is blocking the investigation and why.”
“Is it Speaker Pelosi?” Steele asked, according to the Washington Post. “Others in the Democratic leadership? Who in Congress is covering up ACORN’s corruption?”