The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

ACORN cracks

On Sept. 10, filmmaker James O’Keefe and freelance journalist Hannah Giles, secretly videotaped a meeting they had with an ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) employee at the organization’s office in Baltimore, Maryland. Posing as a pimp and prostitute, they sought advice on how to open an illegal brothel and get government funding for it.
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Instead of the ACORN employee turning them away, or reporting them to the police, she gave them in-depth advice on how to go around filing taxes and how to get government funding for their “business.” The ACORN employee told Giles to declare her occupation as a performing artist so it wouldn’t look suspicious on the paper work and instead, as a prostitute, she could get federal aid.

In addition, the ACORN employee told the “pimp and prostitute” to declare the underage, illegal alien girls who would be working in their brothel as dependents so they would get a federal tax deduction.

This is just one in a series of undercover videos exposing ACORN’s illegal activities. The other videos were recorded at the organization’s offices in a number of cities. Now ACORN’s offices in at least 20 states are being investigated for a number of illegal activities including fraud and voting irregularities. Since these videos have been released, the House voted 345 to 75 to strip ACORN of all federal funding, including stopping the Federal Housing and Urban Development Department from giving it aid. It is very troubling that this story was not followed closely by many news channels. ABC news anchor Charles Gibson, for example, said he didn’t know anything about the recent ACORN scandal.

But the real issue is this: why did it take an amateur filmmaker and journalist to go undercover into the ACORN offices and release their findings to the public for an in-depth government investigation to take place?
ACORN presents itself as an organization that is, according to its Web site, “A non-profit, non-partisan, social justice organization.” They are self-described as an organization that targets medium to lower income families helping out with social issues such as health care, voter registration, and neighborhood safety.

Michelle Malkin, a prominent political commentator, noted on her website that Acorn receives 40 percent of their revenue from tax payer dollars and have been strong supporters of President Obama even before he ran in the 2008 election. Therefore, ACORN is clearly not a non-profit and not non-partisan group. Every organization has its political views and beliefs, but it’s something quite different for the organization to not be clear or honest about its political affiliations.

What is more troubling is why a number of politicians, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and President Obama say that they knew nothing about ACORN getting federal funding or about any of its questionable activities. President Obama said in an ABC interview on Sept. 20 that he didn’t know that ACORN got a lot of federal funding and that it’s not an issue he’s been following closely. Yet, according to David Brown, a reporter for the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, President Obama paid ACORN $800,000 for its voter registration services in the 2008 election and he also worked with Citizens Service INC to help increase voter participation.

CSI says that it is a separate organization from ACORN, yet it is headquartered at the same address as ACORN’s New Orleans’ office.

It is understandable that President Obama is trying to downplay his past affiliation with this organization, and he even said that the actions of its employees on the videos were inappropriate.

As Speaker of the House, Pelosi has access to an unlimited amount of information about committees and the organizations that get tax payer dollars so it is unlikely that she knew nothing about this group. Only now that these videos have been released to the media is she saying that the House Appropriations Committee will investigate ACORN.

There should have been an ongoing investigation into ACORN’s activities a long time ago. It is very disconcerting that many politicians who have had contact with and even done business with this group now deny knowing anything about it.

It is only now, as more states look into the offices in their areas that they are finding more corruption. Voter fraud has been a common problem in a number of states that have ACORN offices. For example, in New Mexico, 1,100 suspicious voter registration cards were found with incorrect birthdates and social security numbers.
Hopefully, this situation will serve as a learning tool for Congress, which needs to be more watchful of what groups get tax payer dollars and what these groups do with that money.

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