The ACORN scandal, then and now

This week the Brooklyn D.A.’s office concluded a four-month investigation into the controversial ACORN sting videos produced last fall and found no criminality carried out by the organization. On the contrary, it found that the people behind the tapes, James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles, edited them heavily to “meet their agenda.” This comes after similar findings announced by the Congressional Research Service in December, where ACORN’s actions were determined to be less legally objectionable than the actions of O’Keefe and Giles, who likely violated laws in two states banning surreptitious face to face recording. Yet, based on the sting operation videos, Congress voted to strip ACORN, the low-income community organizing group, of millions in federal funds and to award a special commendation to the authors of the tapes.

It’s worth setting the news stories on the O’Keefe and Giles tapes this week against the commendation conservative lawmakers like Colorado’s Doug Lamborn bestowed upon O’Keefe and Giles in the fall.

New York Post:

okeefe and giles

The video that unleashed a firestorm of criticism on the activist group ACORN was a “heavily edited” splice job that only made it appear as though the organization’s workers were advising a pimp and prostitute on how to get a mortgage, sources said yesterday.

The findings by the Brooklyn DA, following a 5½-month probe into the video, secretly recorded by conservative provocateurs James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles, means that no charges will be filed.

Many of the seemingly crime-encouraging answers were taken out of context so as to appear more sinister, sources said.

New York Daily News:

While the video by James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles seemed to show three ACORN workers advising a prostitute how to hide ill-gotten gains, the unedited version was not as clear, according to a law enforcement source.

“They edited the tape to meet their agenda,” said the source.

O’Keefe and Giles – who visited ACORN offices in several cities, including its Brooklyn headquarters – stirred controversy when they posted the videos on their Web site.

They were hailed as heroes by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and their footage led several government agencies to temporarily cut funding for ACORN as the prosecutors opened an investigation.

“On Sept. 15, 2009, my office began an investigation into possible criminality on the part of three ACORN employees,” Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said in a one-paragraph statement issued Monday afternoon.

“That investigation is now concluded and no criminality has been found.”

Reaction at ACORN, which is in the process of reorganizing and is struggling to re-establish its financing, was subdued.

This from The Hill in December, typical of the time after the O’Keefe videos appeared.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) on Monday claimed that allegations of wrongdoing surrounding the community group ACORN are bigger than the Watergate scandal that brought down the President Richard Nixon…

“It’s thousands of times bigger than Watergate because Watergate was only a little break-in by a couple of guys,” said King. “By the time we pull ACORN out by its roots America’s going to understand just how big this is.”

The House Judiciary Committee member described the ACORN saga as “the largest corruption crisis in the history of America.”

King and other conservatives have pushed for congressional investigations of ACORN [Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now] after several of its employees were caught on camera giving financial advice to two individuals posing as a pimp and prostitute.

Congress subsequently voted to temporarily strip the group of its federal funding…

In the interview King says that the group has direct ties to the White House and other powerful Democratic constituencies such as the labor movement.

And the Congressional Commendation for the “investigatory videos” produced by O’Keefe and Giles who “displayed exemplary actions as government watchdogs and young journalists uncovering wasteful government spending.”

RESOLUTION

Honoring the fact-finding reporting done by Hannah Giles and James O’Keefe III in their investigation in the fraudulent and illegal practices and misuse of taxpayer dollars by the Association of Community Organization for Reform Now (ACORN).

Whereas Hannah Giles and James O’Keefe III filmed investigatory videos uncovering the fraudulent and illegal practices of the Association of Community Organization for Reform Now (ACORN);

Whereas the House of Representatives voted to completely defund ACORN on September 17, 2009;

Whereas these videos resulted in the potential annual savings of millions of taxpayer dollars to organizations that contract with ACORN;

Whereas Hannah Giles and James O’Keefe III have displayed exemplary actions as government watchdogs and young journalists uncovering wasteful government spending; and

Whereas Hannah Giles and James O’Keefe III are owed a debt of gratitude by the people of the United States: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives–

(1) honors Hannah Giles and James O’Keefe III for their work as investigative journalists;

(2) commends Hannah Giles and James O’Keefe III for bringing to light the fraudulent behavior of the Association of Community Organization for Reform Now (ACORN) and helping save millions of taxpayer dollars that otherwise would have funded ACORN; and

(3) respectfully requests the Clerk of the House to transmit an enrolled copy of this resolution to Hannah Giles and James O’Keefe III.

O’Keefe, of course, is now prepping to defend himself on federal felony charges stemming from his break-in at Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office in January.

The words “ACORN scandal” have at least three meanings and counting.

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