ACORN, Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office, and the Future of Investigative Reporting

This has got to be the longest titled blog I have posted.  Seriously, since this story broke I have been waiting to see how the media would cover it, well it seems I have my answer now – nothing.  Anyone who has been getting news from New Zealand or on the fringe, ISP news services etc., is aware of this, for those who aren’t well here is the short and dirty facts of the story:

An aspiring film maker, James O’Keefe, and an actor posed as a pimp/prostitute combination and sought help from various urban ACORN chapters (Baltimore, Washington D.C., and New York).  They filmed their escapades with a hidden camera and struck gold in the three branch offices mentioned.  I of course can’t open YouTube so I can’t review the tapes but I have read over 20 articles on them, mostly from center to conservative blogs due to only ABC news giving any air play to this, and it was small and scant.  Heck New Zealand is now scooping the entire national media and the story is now getting major air play in the UK as well.

From the reports, O’Keefe and his ‘working girl’ walked into the ACORN branch offices and requested assistance in how best to apply for and get housing for ill repute.  In all 3 locations they received advice on how to massage IRS information into something more ‘practical’.  The ‘working girl’ was instructed to list her profession as self employed and as an entertainer.  O’Keefe was adamant about her profession and how best to deal with it, each time he received advice from several staffers on best practices for keeping things looking legit.  I have heard the transcript from the Maryland office and O’Keefe made it crystal clear he was bringing up ‘several’ underage girls from Latin America to ‘work’ in the home as child prostitutes.  He wanted advice on how best to handle the paperwork to keep the government from investigating.  He was told to list those under 16 as dependents, up to 4, and because they were all going to be here illegally just to keep the others off the books.  From what I read the same thing happened in the New York office.  The New York workers went a step further, not only offering advice in IRS income hiding, money laundering, and immigration dodging, they offered advice on how best to store and keep the money out of the financial system to increase the chance of getting away with the scam and avoiding any legal penalties, all by burying the money in a box in the back yard, covering it with sod, and living off of that when it was time to retire.  I live by the rule of 3’s.  One time is an isolated incident, two times is a coincidence, three times marks a trend.

When the story first broke ACORN was quick to point out it was an isolated incident and fired the staff identified in the video, then the Washington DC and New York videos came out.  ACORN then threatened to sue Fox News, O’Keefe, and cried political conspiracy and shake down as a way to harm and take down the organization.  Fall out was quick, first the US Census Bureau publically cut ties with ACORN and stated their services would not be utilized for the 2010 Census as it was initially planned and promised by the President.  Even at the time of his DNC nomination he was touting ACORN as being intimately involved in shaping his administration’s policies, so far nothing from the White House on this.  Next, and most likely what sparked the lawsuit talk, was the recent Congressional Senate vote that cut all federal funds to ACORN, the vote was 83-7 (the seven are now known as the sleazy 7 on the blogosphere).  This will cut $4 billion slotted for community assistance and $165 million for foreclosure relief according to Reuters, who wrote a massively sympathetic and slanted piece, only one of a handful available in the main stream press.  So now the darling of the Obama nomination, election, and administration, has become toxic and is sinking fast.

Now for the main story, what you thought the ACORN part was the main story?  Well now that you know ‘the rest of the story’ you need to know the second part.  Under Maryland Law, Annotated Code of Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article 10-402 – “The only information received in reference to this alleged criminal behavior was a YouTube video. Upon review by this office, the video appears to be incomplete. In addition, the audio portion could possibly have been obtained in violation of Maryland Law and requires two party consent.”  According to Maryland State’s Attorney Office, If it is determined that the audio portion now being heard on YouTube was illegally obtained, it is also illegal under Maryland Law to willfully use or willfully disclose the content of said audio. The penalty for the unlawful interception, disclosure or use of it is a felony punishable up to 5 years.  Wow, 5 years for uncovering:

  • massive corruption
  • accessory after the fact to criminal activities
  • conspiracy to commit fraud
  • conspiracy to defraud the government
  • conspiracy to launder illegal income
  • accessory after the fact to human trafficking
  • accessory after the fact to aid in child prostitution

Forgive me for being so naive but isn’t this a good thing that we have turned on the light to this organization’s cockroaches?  How about the whistle blower laws put into place to protect those who are going to expose corporate and government corruption?  And the ace up the sleeve, how about NBC’s Dateline who has made a ratings boom out of Chris Hansen’s ‘To Catch a Predator’, ‘To Catch an Identity Thief’, etc.  Now some of Hansen’s reporting is done with assistance from law enforcement, who are part of the show as they arrest those who are bold enough to go through with their chats.  I looked up Maryland’s whistleblower law and found the following:

SPP 5-301, et seq – Can not take or refuse to take any personnel action as reprisal if applicant or employee discloses abuse of authority, gross mismanagement or waste of money, violation of law or substantial and specific danger to public health or safety and seeks a remedy – as per the Prohibited Employer Activity section.  Protection provided is extended to the public.  Can submit a complaint to the secretary within 6 months of first knowledge of violation; if violation found, secretary can remove detrimental information from complainant’s personnel record, reinstatement, promotion or end of suspension, back pay, leave or seniority and attorney’s and court fees listed under the Remedies section. 

However this will be interpreted by the defense attorney for O’Keefe if Maryland decides to pursue the matter further is up to the lawyers and the judge.  Personally I feel this is within the law as it is no different then a police officer deceiving criminals in a sting, a news team setting up people in investigative reporting to undercover some sort of nefarious activities, private investigators gathering information for their clients, employees reporting illegal activities or cover-ups of potentially illegal activities.  What is the one thing that may not be in O;Keefe’s favor?  He never contacted the State’s Attorney Office, Baltimore DA, or even a lawyer prior to his stunt.  He was aware of this, why do it on a hunch.  He had enough time to get a script, actress, and rehearse enough to have a dynamic plan in place to expand or contract the questions based on feedback.  There was a fair amount of planning, yet he did not seek legal council.  Of course it can be argued that the largest union to contribute to the DNC is the trial lawyers unions, and with so many lawyers being in the bag for liberals, may be sympathetic to Acorn and tip them off to the plan before it could be executed in the state’s executed.  O’Keefe made a surprise attack to see what would happen.  He found out and found it to be much worse then initially expected, spinning his back up plan thicker and thicker each minute and getting more and more assistance.  This shows the culture of corruption and greed of the organization as ethics training seems to have never taken place in at least Maryland, New York, and Washington DC ACORN offices.

Was it an ambush, of course, all investigative reporting and stings are.  Ask DC mayor Marian Barry about ambushes.  Ask Monica Lewinski about ambushes.  There are thousands of politicians, corporate officers, corrupt law officers, criminals etc. who have fallen for and been put out of commission by sting operations.  O’Keefe had some inside information to go out and do what he did.  He wanted to get proof, irrefutable proof, of the mindset and length ACORN workers would go to assist in criminal activities.  What is the down side.  If the ACORN operation was legitimate and its workers ethical they would have taken his name, stated they could offer no assistance and then contact the appropriate authorities to investigate the matter.  If O’Keefe, the actor and over the top pimp, and his ‘working accomplice’ were able to get such great assistance and advice from 3 branch offices in major metropolitan offices of ACORN, what advice and assistance were granted to real criminals and those getting houses for crack smoking, drug selling, brothels, harboring human trafficking victims, chop shops, etc.  The most troubling part is ACORN has seemed to have started the prosecution ball rolling against those it preceives as instigators and accomplices.  Going after O’Keefe and Fox News is not resolving the situation, it is pure blame shifting and distracting from the real issue, their organization’s willingness to assist in criminal activities.  If this is to stand then what is the resulting effect to investigative reporting.  Will O’Keefe be drug through the mud and villified because he is not part of the intellectual elite or leftist leaning ideology of ACORN and those who support it?  Will the main stream media finally pick up the story, and if so will they hold past investigative reports to the same standard they try to apply O’Keffe too?  These are important because if there isn’t fair treatment then it will signal that justice, in the minds of the liberals and their supporters, is not blind or impartial but slanted and in favor of those to whom hold the majority power.  O’Keeft should be seen as doing a service to the community for his exposing criminal activites, just as NBC has and hundreds of professional reporters who have risked more to get their stories and built outstanding careers off of those stories.  Prosecuting or charging him will send the worng message, not that the ends justify the means, but that only those in power matter and anyone opposed to them will bear the full brunt of the system against them.  We need to have ways of justice, which is why liberals pushed for whistleblower laws in the first place.

If ACORN were really for improving communities and helping the poor who have real need they why are their ethics, standards, and practices so lax as to implant illegal activities into communities where the citizens are vulnerable to such activities?  How can minority females be so crass and complicit in the trafficking and turning out of underage girls prostitutes who will be shipped here against their will and held for sexual use without any chance of justice as they are here illegally?  Where is ACORN’s head?  Where is the accountability and professionalism Obama keeps calling for us to live up to in ACORN?  ACORN is trying to sue Fox News and O’Keefe, for what, exposing how sleazy and complicit they are in ruining neighborhoods across America!  A recent House Oversight and Government Reform Committee report stated since 1994 more than $53 million in federal funds have been released to ACORN and under the Obama administration ACORN stands to receive up to $8.5 billion in available stimulus funds, of which they just last week petitioned to get almost $6 million of.  The report also stated: evidence that ACORN has evaded taxes, obstructed justice, engaged in racketeering, and created a conspiracy to defraud the United States.

All this aside I have to return to a previous point.  What exactly is the purpose of ACORN?  Isn’t the organization to assist poor people obtain housing, assist poor people in keeping their homes, and organizing communities to give them a greater voice to politicians who have many voices airing concerns to their specific operations?  Isn’t the point to help build communities of stronger community ties and organization to improve the life quality and socioeconomic condition of the neighborhood and improve the property values and thus the condition of that community?  Apparently not.  ACORN is nothing more or nothing less, then a fully partisan political organization that is dedicated to the advancement of the ideology and philosophies of social Democrats and those they ally themselves with.  From the voter registration drives, fraud convictions, exposures of corruption by past directors and former employees, etc. is all detracting from any good the organization has ever accomplished.  We had a saying in the Navy, ‘one oh-shit erases a thousand atta-boys’ which translates to , what you do lately is more influential then what you did in the past.  ACORN has not accepted any responsibility or humility in any of these cases, they have not vowed to correct the actions and re train to prevent these allegations from surfacing again.  No they have always cried foul and stating it is the fault of their enemies and those opposed to their vision, that is not correcting the problem which we have just witnessed not once, not twice, but three times.  This organization is rotten and exemplifying the problems with such organizations.  I am glad to see ACORN is out of the 2010 Census now, they will not receive further stimulus monies, and their continued lack of morals and judgment is exposed for another round and hopefully now we can now say enough is enough and get rid of this cancer to American communities and neighborhoods.  With the assistance and help they are providing it is no wonder the less fortunate communities continue to be held down in poverty and crime.  Its time for ACORN to go, the handouts to stop, and communities organize themselves instead of outsiders who have slanted views and partisan agendas to force and retain in the communities.

** Update ** Listing of the Senators voting FOR Acorn getting more money, and those not voting, the rest all voted to stop funding and it passed the Senate

ACORN to receive money 7 AYEs

Burris (D-IL) – Obama’s old seat
Durbin (D-IL)
Casey (D-PA)
Gillibrand (D-NY)
Leahy (D-VT)
Sanders (I-VT)
Whitehouse (D-RI)

9 not voting

Burr (R-NC)
Byrd (D-WV) – too old to vote on most things
Coburn (R-OK)
Graham (R-SC) – at a town hall event in S.C.
Gregg (R-NH)
Hutchison (R-TX)
McCain (R-AZ) – at a town hall event in S.C.
Mikulski (D-MD)
Vitter (R-LA)
Full roll call vote here

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