ACORN probe clears ACORN of sys­tem­atic law­break­ing

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY S.A. MILLER

An in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion com­mis­sioned by ACORN cleared the em­bat­tled or­ga­ni­za­tion of sys­tem­atic law­break­ing on Dec. 7, but rec­om­mended that it stop some of its po­lit­i­cal work and re­vealed se­ri­ous man­age­ment short­com­ings.

For­mer Mas­sachusetts At­tor­ney Gen­eral L. Scott Harsh­barger said his 11-week in­ves­ti­ga­tion did not find a pat­tern of il­le­gal con­duct by ACORN em­ploy­ees who were se­cretly video­taped ad­vis­ing con­ser­va­tive ac­tivists pos­ing as a pros­ti­tute and her pimp on crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing tax eva­sion and hu­man traf­fick­ing.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tor’s re­port re­leased Mon­day noted that the ACORN work­ers in the video were low-level em­ploy­ees or vol­un­teers, not su­per­vi­sors, and that the video footage made pub­lic had been edited. It did rec­om­mend that ACORN, or the As­so­ci­a­tion of Com­mu­nity Or­ga­ni­za­tions for Re­form Now, hire an ethics of­fi­cer.

“While some of the ad­vice and coun­sel given by ACORN em­ploy­ees and vol­un­teers was clearly in­ap­pro­pri­ate and un­pro­fes­sional, we did not find a pat­tern of in­ten­tional, il­le­gal con­duct by ACORN staff,” the re­port said.

ACORN’s crit­ics dis­missed the re­port as a white­wash of events that prompted Congress to cut off fed­eral fund­ing to the group.

“An in­ter­nal au­dit of ACORN con­ducted by the for­mer at­tor­ney gen­eral of Mas­sachusetts — a lib­eral Demo­cratic par­ti­san — has no cred­i­bil­ity,” said Rep. La­mar Smith of Texas, rank­ing Repub­li­can on the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee. “Only an in­de­pen­dent crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion tion’s largest com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tion of low-and moderate-in­come fam­i­lies, cam­paign­ing since 1970 on is­sues such as what it calls “liv­ing wages,” bet­ter pub­lic schools and ex­pand­ing home­own­er­ship.

“The re­port is part vin­di­ca­tion, part constructive crit­i­cism and 100 per­cent road map to the fu­ture,” ACORN Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Bertha Lewis said,

She said ACORN’s leaders

“An in­ter­nal au­dit of ACORN con­ducted by the for­mer at­tor­ney gen­eral of Mas­sachusetts — a lib­eral Demo­cratic par­ti­san — has no cred­i­bil­ity,” said Rep. La­mar Smith of Texas, rank­ing Repub­li­can on the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee.

con­ducted by the FBI can be trusted to get to the bot­tom of the na­tion­wide al­le­ga­tions against ACORN.”

Rep. Dar­rell Issa of Cal­i­for­nia, rank­ing Repub­li­can on the House Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Re­form Com­mit­tee, said the re­port did not change what he called the re­al­ity that “ACORN has mas­quer­aded as a char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tion in or­der to fund and ad­vance a par­ti­san po­lit­i­cal agenda.”

ACORN touts it­self as the na- would re­view the re­port’s nine rec­om­men­da­tions, which in­cluded re­turn­ing the group’s fo­cus to its orig­i­nal mis­sion of com­mu­nity or­ga­niz­ing and aban­don­ing its po­lit­i­cal work, such as the voter-regis­tra­tion drives that re­sulted in scores of voter-fraud charges dur­ing the 2008 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

The Harsh­barger re­port said the mis­man­age­ment of ACORN stemmed from prac­tices in­sti­tuted by ACORN founder Wade Rathke, who stepped down in June 2008 af­ter the dis­clo­sure that for eight years, he con­cealed a nearly $1 mil­lion em­bez­zle­ment by his brother, Dale Rathke, then chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the ACORN-re­lated fi­nan­cial and ac­count­ing firm Ci­ti­zen Con­sult­ing Inc.

Wade Rathke moved to a job as chief or­ga­nizer of Com­mu­nity Or­ga­ni­za­tions In­ter­na­tional, for­merly ACORN In­ter­na­tional.

“The se­ri­ous man­age­ment chal­lenges detailed in our re- port are the fault of ACORN’s founder and a cadre of leaders who, in their drive for growth, failed to com­mit the or­ga­ni­za­tion to the ba­sic, ap­pro­pri­ate stan­dards of gov­er­nance and ac­count­abil­ity. As a re­sult, ACORN not only fell short of liv­ing its prin­ci­ples, but also left it­self vul­ner­a­ble to pub­lic em­bar­rass­ment,” the re­port said.

It called the hid­den-cam­era con­tro­versy “an apt ex­am­ple” of pit­falls posed by poor man­age­ment at ACORN, in­clud­ing a lack of train­ing, a lack of pro­ce­dures and a lack of on-site su­per­vi­sion.

ACORN has long weath­ered crit­i­cism from con­ser­va­tives, who say the group skirts cam­paign-fi­nance and elec­tion laws while pro­mot­ing lib­eral causes and Demo­cratic candidates, but the hid­den-cam­era videos that first ap­peared on In­ter­net sites in Septem­ber badly bruised the group’s rep­u­ta­tion.

De­spite Pres­i­dent Obama’s close ties to ACORN, the ad­min­is­tra­tion can­celed plans for the group to work on the 2010 cen­sus and the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice fired the group as a pre­ferred tax-prepa­ra­tion ser­vice for low-in­come work­ers.

The videos were shot by con­ser­va­tive ac­tivist James O’Keefe, who ap­peared in the footage pos­ing as a pimp, and was ac­com­pa­nied by a fe­male col­league, Han­nah Giles, pos­ing as a pros­ti­tute. The pair re­ceived coun­sel­ing at ACORN offices in Bal­ti­more, Wash­ing­ton, New York and San Bernardino, Calif., to ob­tain a home loan for prop­erty where they could con­duct a pros­ti­tu­tion busi­ness, which they said also would em­ploy “young girls” from El Sal­vador.

At the Bal­ti­more ACORN of­fice, for in­stance, a fe­male worker ad­vised them to con­ceal their il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties when ap­ply­ing for a loan or fil­ing taxes.

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