News & Politics

Congressional Research Service Says ACORN Didn’t Break the Law, But James O’Keefe May Have


A report from the Congressional Research Service, released by House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, states that the beleaguered community service group ACORN has at no point “violated the terms of federal funding in the last five years.” An internal investigator hired by ACORN cleared the group of illegal activity earlier this month.

The Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now has been under attack for months, most noticeably with charges of voter registration fraud last spring, and in a now-famous series of undercover videos last summer in which conservative filmmaker James O’Keefe posed as a ‘pimp’ with ‘prostitute’ Hannah Giles.

The CRS report claims that for all the charges and media hype, their “NEXIS search of the ALL NEWS file did not identify any reported instances of individuals who were improperly registered by ACORN attempting to vote at the polls.”

The report isn’t so propitious, however, for James O’Keefe …

O’Keefe has repeatedly claimed to be “absolutely independent” but, as the Voice was the first to report, he received money from conservative Facebook investor Peter Thiel, and also received training from the Leadership Institute, the same outfit that churned out Karl Rove, Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist. Other outlets have reported that O’Keefe’s films, as well as previous projects, have allegedly been doctored to show his subjects in the most unflattering light. (Andrew Breitbart, whose web site aired O’Keefe’s videos, addressed this topic in a Voice interview.)

In the heady days after O’Keefe’s videos came out, the Senate voted 93-7 to strip ACORN of all of its funding. (Kirsten Gillibrand was one of the seven voting against.) Congressman Jerry Nadler called the bill “a classic Bill of Attainder.”

He was prophetic, as the report from the CRS also notes that there is “sufficient basis” to believe the legislation “violates the prohibition against bills of attainder.” Certainly Federal Judge Nina Gershon seems to feel similarly, as she has issued an injunction to nullify the resolution. It was appealed by the Justice Department, and their motion was denied yesterday.

CRS also finds that, while ACORN does not appear to have been in violation of the law, O’Keefe may have been. The report analyzes the legality of the sting videos O’Keefe made across the country. “As a general matter federal law permits private individuals to record face to face conversations,” CRS notes. However, though New York law is even more forgiving, and D.C. just requires one party to consent to being recorded, “the laws of Maryland and California appear to ban private recording of face to face conversations, absent the consent of all of the participants.” Since O’Keefe didn’t get permission from the people he was punking in San Diego and Baltimore, he’s kind of screwed.

The report does still contain some foreboding news for ACORN: “As of October 2009, there have been 46 reported federal, state, and local investigations concerning ACORN, of which 11 are still pending.”



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