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ACORN under fire
September 16, 2009 10:05 AM   Subscribe

ACORN already drew fire last year during the election, accused of voter fraud, although ACORN points out there was no real fraud going on [pdf]. Now, they are facing controversy over a recent video showing ACORN officials offering advice to amateur actors posing as a pimp and prostitute on what to say when seeking a mortgage for a brothel. A second video captured an ACORN worker claiming to have murdered her husband (she later said she was simply messing with the filmmakers). As a result of these recent controversies, the Senate voted 83-7 to prohibiting the use of funds to fund ACORN.

It's likely that a big motivation to block this funding came from issues surrounding Acorn and the Census. The Census Bureau had already decided to sever ties with ACORN, partially because of fears that ACORN would play an active role in the Census, although this was not at all true -- they were simply one of 30,000 Census Partners.

The vote to block funding will mean that ACORN will no longer receive HUD grants, which it uses to offer free housing counseling to lower-income individuals.
posted by Deathalicious (159 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
On the one hand: this seems skeevy to go to such a length to dig up dirt on ACORN.

On the other hand -- um....that's some dirt I am really somewhat glad got dug up.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:17 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hmm, so an organization having a few bad apples is a fair reason to stop funding it? This is great news! I look forward to a United States without a military.
posted by mullingitover at 10:18 AM on September 16, 2009 [29 favorites]


To me ACORN is a very good example of a group that has such terrible governance and such a complete lack of a culture of accountability that they deserve to have their public funding stripped. This is what happens to every group (on the left, or the right) whose directors and managers put political influence and local power games above their self-described mandate of service.
posted by chimaera at 10:21 AM on September 16, 2009 [8 favorites]


Put another one in Glenn Beck's win column.

No, I didn't RTFA. I probably should. Maybe later. Meanwhile, snarky comment!
posted by diogenes at 10:24 AM on September 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


Haven't they posted four videos so far showing ACORN workers in different cities giving advice on running a brothel? A brothel that would supposedly employ underage girls from El Salvador?

Once is a bad apple, twice is a coincidence, but four times starts to look like systemic corruption.
posted by timeo danaos at 10:26 AM on September 16, 2009 [6 favorites]


The sad truth is that when you're fighting Glenn Beck and the combined forces of US wingnut paranoia, you have to pick your battles to win the war, and ACORN has repeatedly gone out of its way to make itself incredibly difficult to defend.

I very much doubt it's an evil, crime-riddled organization. But it is a desperately ramshackle organization, probably as a result of too much ideological commitment to remaining very grassroots and organized by and staffed by the communities it serves. Unfortunately this development may prove to be for the best.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 10:33 AM on September 16, 2009 [10 favorites]



It kinda sounds like James O'Keefe is trying to be the republican Michael Moore, being less than honest in the way he presents his work. For example, they shopped this act around at ACORN offices for a long time before they got bites:
In a statement over the weekend, Bertha Lewis, the chief organizer for Acorn, said the bogus prostitute and pimp had spent months visiting numerous Acorn offices, including those in San Diego, Los Angeles, Miami and Philadelphia, before getting the responses they were looking for.
In fact according to NPR yesterday, a couple offices had called the police on them. Of course O'Keefe isn't going to present this part (he's also the guy who pulled a similar stunt with Planned Parenthood last year, recording conversations with PP staff where he promised to donate lots of money to help abort black babies).

...the facts didn't stop him from presenting it as if ACORN had never hesitated to help set up whorehouses
“Instead of railing against their radicalism, it is best to bring out this type of radicalism,” he wrote. They decided upon “posing the most ridiculous criminal scenario we could think of and seeing if they would comply — which they did without hesitation.”
posted by mullingitover at 10:33 AM on September 16, 2009 [20 favorites]


Can somebody tell my why I should defend ACORN? Are they otherwise necessary or virtuous or do they have a delicious nougat center covered with creamy milk chocolate? Because I never heard of them until the right started slagging all over them, and I'm over a year into the world's longest shrug.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:34 AM on September 16, 2009 [8 favorites]


This is just so stupid. ACORN is wrong here, the right wing is wrong, nothing is defensible, and this is our country in its decline. This is a total distraction from the real issues, and it's just another tool the right can use to demonize Obama, the left, the poor, and anyone who wants to help the poor.

Thanks, ACORN. Thanks a fucking lot.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:35 AM on September 16, 2009 [29 favorites]


As a result of these recent controversies, the Senate voted 83-7 to prohibiting the use of funds to fund ACORN.

When I first heard this I was all set to call up my senators and give them a proper chewing out with the full allotment of piss and vinegar for caving to this preposterous stunt straight out of the red-baiting handbook and for being a bunch of uselessly craven and gutless losers generally and lacking the backbone God gave an amoeba, but it turns out that both Senators Burris and Durbin were among the seven opposed and there went my fun. Some days I envy you guys in the Blue Dog states.
posted by enn at 10:35 AM on September 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


As usual, Ta-Nehisi Coates has the best summary.
In one of the recent open threads, someone was noting the difficulty of getting good help for community activism, in defense of ACORN. I think if we can't request that our allies not employ people who would aid and abet a prostitution scheme, if that's too onerous, than we are in trouble. I think it's very hard to defend, not simply the criminality of the ACORN workers in Baltimore (le sigh) and Washington, but their rank stupidity.

Conservative activists have been after ACORN for over a year now. Bertha Lewis notes that activists tried the same stunt several times before they got a bite. In some people's eyes this is exonerating. In my eyes it's more damning. Lewis admits ACORN was aware of the setup, and yet her people still got caught. Twice.

I am willing to be wrong on this one, but it's very hard to see how that sort of sloppiness aids poor people or progressives. It's equally hard for me to be mad at James O'Keefe. Dude is doing his job. We must do ours. Pointing out the dastardly tactics employed by our adversaries doesn't alter that reality.
posted by verb at 10:35 AM on September 16, 2009 [12 favorites]


Some of the video under discussion is pretty damning, but in an NPR interview the other day, it was pointed out that it's picked from a larger number of encounters, in many of which the ACORN employees behaved pretty well, including calling the cops on the couple. There's also some discussion about how the video was edited and speculation that it may have been manipulated.

Not that organization doesn't have its problems. It's clear at this point that it does. I wonder if particularly any organization that draws its employees from the ranks of the poor and oppressed isn't going to have problems with people feeling like they're justified gaming the system (not that other economic classes don't have their share of people who feel entitled to do this even with their greater prosperity). I'd also bet on chimaera's statement about poor governance and a lack of a culture of accountability. And I've long thought ACORNs politics really were more than a little lefty, going back to 2002 when I was looking at jobs listed idealist.org. I remember reading some of their health platform and if I recall correctly, it included the idea that doctors and administrators shouldn't be allowed to serve on hospital boards, which should instead be composed of average citizens from the community. A bit too proletarian for me, personally.

Still, I believe in the idea behind community organization and activism that ACORN is supposed to represent. I kindof hope the organization takes this attention as an opportunity to reflect on how they can do better at addressing their issues.

I wish that the populist right wing foment clearly was likely about that, though. Seems to me it's really about another point in creating a narrative about how political left is plotting to subvert America and usher in the dawn of socialism (not TM, given that the way the term is used these days has less to do with any actual agreeable meaning than as a general epithet for "government by people I don't like").
posted by weston at 10:36 AM on September 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also: In a statement over the weekend, Bertha Lewis, the chief organizer for Acorn, said the bogus prostitute and pimp had spent months visiting numerous Acorn offices, including those in San Diego, Los Angeles, Miami and Philadelphia, before getting the responses they were looking for.

What sort of lack of communication do you need to have in an organization not to be aware of this, suspect a setup, and advise your people? Jesus Christ.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:37 AM on September 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


I heard about this today and can't believe I had not heard of this sooner somewhere, but I find this fascinating as an example of gorilla journalism. I don't really care about the ACORN issue or the prostitution stuff. But the way this was done was genius.

An issue that was unaddressed by the press was investigated by two young aspiring journalists. They acquired the story. They then started a website with one video that was embarrassing to a MASSIVE organization. They recieved the predictable response about how it was one rogue employee. They then released a second video and got a similar predictable response. That led to a third video with the story picking up steam. Then a fourth. Each time showing systemic problems and destroying the predictable responses.

The slow release of the story undermines the responses and attempts to keep the story relevant across multiple news cycles with gathering steam. Releasing it all at once would been just one big story and then forgotten.

Additionally, by not letting the cat out of the bag, you have people talking about wondering what else will come out, which generates interest in people due to the serial nature of "what's next?"

This is utterly brilliant gorilla journalism. And the effects are amazing. These two nobodies have compelled the federal government to sever all ties to one of the largest interest group organizations in this country and have caused investigations into it. These two aspiring journalists are taking down ACORN through effective use of reporting. It's truly remarkable.

For me, that is the interesting part of the story. I really have no interest in the predictable shadiness of ACORN, the salacious narrative, or who is taking it on the chin or the rest of the stuff political mud-slinging.

But the way this was done? Beautiful.
posted by dios at 10:39 AM on September 16, 2009 [28 favorites]


utterly brilliant gorilla journalism

One of these words is unexpected.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:40 AM on September 16, 2009 [40 favorites]


Sigh.

To me, this is a sign that currently accepted middle and lower management practices, the ones with incentive bonuses and job ratings based solely on performance metrics, are flawed and need to be addressed more than anything else. One of the original ACORN "scandals" was the fraudulent voter registration in 2008. The one where volunteers and the bottom rung line-level employees were paid based upon how many new voter registrations were received. Gee, without proper oversight and strict checking, you think someone might try and game the system? This got blown up by some people as a "major problem" that was really an isolated issue, with no real advancement of real voter fraud. But it put ACORN in the spotlight, and they didn't dance very well.

As for the video, this seems so strange to me, because basically these "independent filmmakers" (I put that in quotes because they certainly don't seem to be very independant. They seem quite partisan) are using Michael Moore tactics against a "Liberal" organization. Anyone remember Michael Moore's whole schtick against Manpower, a rather crappy temp agency? He'd go into their offices and try and get them to admit to all sorts of rather bad behavior. Eventually their management even filed restraining orders to keep him away from their business offices. It was all for his show "The Awful Truth", which I sometimes actually enjoyed, just because he'd highlight a lot of the stupid in business management.

What I find most disturbing is how much the elected officials in Washington are toe tapping to what seems like almost daily opinion polls, instead of, you know, leading the country through thoughtful consideration of laws and policy. You know, what they were supposedly elected to do.

I'm also saddened to see how uncritical of these tactics anyone in the media seems to be. I'd hate to think that when the Daily Show comes back from it's break that it's going to just sit there apoplectic at how much the 4th Estate has become transparently a mouthpiece of it's advertising buyers. It's seriously painful.
posted by daq at 10:40 AM on September 16, 2009


ACORN has done great work in Voter Registration, especially in increasing voter registration in low income areas. ACORN has worked throughout the country to promote the idea of a 'living wage'. ACORN provides advocacy assistance on housing, labor issues, discrimination claims for low income folks. ACORN has been so successful as a partner in the progressive movement that the Right Wing has decided to target it.
posted by hworth at 10:40 AM on September 16, 2009 [8 favorites]


Look, I'm as much a supporter of the idea behind ACORN as any of you, but to my mind, trying to defend them by saying "aw, c'mon, it took them a whole year to find the four places that tried to support a brothel" is kind of like saying, "aw, c'mon, The Grinch had a pet dog, he's CLEARLY a nice guy."

It's possible to support the principles behind ACORN while taking our lumps on this. Really. And we look disingenuous if we try to defend it. Yeah, it took a year to find those places, and the journalists had to keep trying and trying until they did -- but they were still there to be found. Trying to excuse that is a bad move.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:48 AM on September 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm also saddened to see how uncritical of these tactics anyone in the media seems to be. I'd hate to think that when the Daily Show comes back from it's break that it's going to just sit there apoplectic at how much the 4th Estate has become transparently a mouthpiece of it's advertising buyers.

Actually, Jon Stewart used the filmmakers' footage to poke fun at ACORN on the show last night.
posted by blucevalo at 10:50 AM on September 16, 2009


you know, I hope republicans remember this moment the next time one of THEIR institutions comes under fire for corruption. when it was one of our guys, we gutted them in a landslide senate vote.

and of course, they will remember this. they'll think "ha, those stupid democrats just roll over any time we've got something on 'em. so long as we keep fighting tooth and nail to protect our own criminals and liars we'll always be in the lead!"
posted by shmegegge at 10:51 AM on September 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


you know, I hope republicans remember this moment the next time one of THEIR institutions comes under fire for corruption. when it was one of our guys, we gutted them in a landslide senate vote.

Oh, you mean all those "crisis pregnancy centers" and abstinence-only programs that receive insane amounts of federal funding and then turn around a provide factually incorrect statements, berate women, lie about legal matters, and so on? Yeah, this has been documented ever since they started receiving funding and it hasn't changed shit.
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:53 AM on September 16, 2009 [11 favorites]


I do believe that was my point, yes.
posted by shmegegge at 10:54 AM on September 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


In the housing bubble sideshow, ACORN entered my acquaintance with their somewhat skeevy demonstrations at bank branches.

FWIW, at its heart ACORN is a "community organizer" -- just look at its acronym -- and that's something on BHO's resume that freaks out our friends on the right.

But at any rate, good riddance to this dopey organization.
posted by Palamedes at 10:54 AM on September 16, 2009


blucevalo - oh, they're back. Nifty. Have to catch it on Hulu (I'm too poor to pay for cable. Actually, that's not true. I'd only watch like 4 shows, which isn't really worth the expenditure when I can catch them for free on the internet a day or so after airing).

I'm glad other people are seeing the similarities between these tactics and old Michael Moore bits for his show back in the day.

Someone needs to go into ACORN and just tell them "post a fucking memo that says 'if anyone asks you about doing something that is obviously illegal, simply tell them that ACORN does not deal with illegal activities, and inform them that you will be referring their description to the police" like many of the offices actually did. Though, with organizations that are grant funded and volunteer based, I'm pretty sure the cost of printing that memo and getting it out might actually be prohibitive, with as large of an organization as ACORN has been reported to be.
posted by daq at 10:57 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


We had one of those next to our office. First time I've seen them in the flesh, so to speak. They turned up, with police and media showing up pretty much immediately, made a lot of noise for cameras then fucked off immediately once they were done. It was kind of annoying while it was happening and kind of head scratching as top it's effectiveness afterward.
posted by Artw at 10:59 AM on September 16, 2009


While ACORN is in the wrong and should be disciplined or cut loose, this is hardly the biggest news story of the last week, as Fox News and their ilk would want us to believe.

I'm sorry, but no scandalous subterfuge from Glenn Beck, PETA, or Michael Moore should dominate the headlines for more than an hour.
I keep hearing them tout how "HUGE" this is, and it all just comes across as manufactured furor.
posted by Theta States at 10:59 AM on September 16, 2009


I just saw that ACORN is threatening to sue these two. What a moronic idea. Because as soon as a lawsuit is filed, massive discovery requests for internal documents hit ACORN's hands, and they cannot allow that. These journalists know this and have apparently encouraged ACORN to file the lawsuit.

So ACORN cannot sue. That leaves them only with the ability to respond with statements. But their statements have been continuously undermined with the release of new tape. Whether Lewis is telling the truth or not about them being turned away at some places becomes an increasingly weak defense each time a tape is released. Same with the "lone nut" defense. Even if these excuses are true, they become irrelevant due to how this is being played by these two.

It really is brilliant.
posted by dios at 11:00 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


hmm, there's nothing particularly dopey about this ACORN white paper on interest rate and bad industry practices, so ACORN wasn't apparently an entirely bad actor. The industry did prey heavily on minority borrowers during the final blow-off 2004-2006, until subprime itself imploded in early 2007.
posted by Palamedes at 11:00 AM on September 16, 2009


What sort of lack of communication do you need to have in an organization not to be aware of this, suspect a setup, and advise your people? Jesus Christ.

I'm not sure how this is different than any other organization that falls prey to social hacking. In hindsight, well duh, but to the individual getting hacked, it's just a normal part of the day.
posted by bpm140 at 11:02 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it took a year to find those places, and the journalists had to keep trying and trying until they did -- but they were still there to be found.

Of course they were there to be found! Find me one organization that is in the business of offering tax advice on a national scale — from Wall Street on down — no employee of which has ever made a verbal suggestion to someone as to how to conceal the source of income from the Feds. Come on now. If Fox wants to take the credit for getting a few people fired, good on them, but this faux naivete and the idea that, now that a few employees have been discovered lying, the organization is tainted and reputable people may no longer associate with it is complete manufactured bullshit.
posted by enn at 11:03 AM on September 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


I'm curious why the video shot in San Bernardino was published at all. It appears to be shot with a hidden camera, and unless both parties consented to the recording it's a violation of California Penal Code Section 632, no?
posted by mullingitover at 11:03 AM on September 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


These two aspiring journalists are taking down ACORN through effective use of reporting.

Reporting? Really? When the police do the same kind of thing, it's called "entrapment." I thought reporting was about discovering what is happening, not creating things to happen to cover.
posted by hippybear at 11:03 AM on September 16, 2009 [13 favorites]


I'm totally doing this with Goldman Sachs.
posted by ryoshu at 11:04 AM on September 16, 2009 [11 favorites]


Reporting? Really? When the police do the same kind of thing, it's called "entrapment." I thought reporting was about discovering what is happening, not creating things to happen to cover.
posted by hippybear at 1:03 PM on September 16


Uh.... there is a massive distinction between the police doing something and a journalist doing something.

This is called investigative journalism. Investigating is actually supposed to be a part of journalism. To try to undermine the idea of investigative journalism by referring to rules regarding "entrapment" is asinine.
posted by dios at 11:07 AM on September 16, 2009 [6 favorites]


Find me one organization that is in the business of offering tax advice on a national scale — from Wall Street on down — no employee of which has ever made a verbal suggestion to someone as to how to conceal the source of income from the Feds. Come on now.
posted by enn at 1:03 PM on September 16


So it is your contention that I could walk into my local H&R Block office and receive advice on how to run an illegal prostitution ring, conceal underage foreign sex slaves, how to launder the sex money for a political campaign, how to avoid police and federal suspicion and how to be safe from pimps?

If true, sounds like a project for your investigate and report back to us!
posted by dios at 11:11 AM on September 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


The debate on these matters is far from settled. When the local paper decided to do some "investigation" of the mayor, resulting in his outster from office and probably his early death, the voices were far from unanimous in declaring what they did as being ethical.
posted by hippybear at 11:12 AM on September 16, 2009


the organization is tainted and reputable people may no longer associate with it is complete manufactured bullshit

it's also how the world works; but usually the FBI or CIA has to inject an agent provocateur. Just look at our friend's poorly-restrained glee at this above.

We are a nation of idiots, a dumbocracy. Reading about the election of 1800 recently, I was struck that the total vote was only in tens of thousands. Our esteemed Founding Fathers (outside of Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans perhaps) didn't trust the people in the slightest.
posted by Palamedes at 11:12 AM on September 16, 2009


Oh, you mean all those "crisis pregnancy centers" and abstinence-only programs that receive insane amounts of federal funding and then turn around a provide factually incorrect statements, berate women, lie about legal matters, and so on?

This, a million times this. What most disturbs me about this story is that it has no chance at all of leading to a general investigation of funding recipients and especially faith-based funding recipients, given the fictional underage girls that are the focus of so much concern trolling regarding the ACORN tapes. The pious love a prurient story to condemn, it allows them to enjoy something salacious while outwardly decrying it.

The Right is loving this right now, but don't be fooled into thinking that these folks have any concern for women in general. This article describes the problems with crisis pregnancy centers in some detail.

ACORN shouldn't be getting federal funds, given what is on those tapes. It makes me sad to say that, because I support a lot of the ideas they espouse on their website. But damn if "Imma ham it up for these bullshit kids and tellem I killed my husband" isn't some of the stupidest shit ever. We're in a fucking recession and folks with college degrees are working as fry cooks- ACORN couldn't find stable, noncrazy employees?
posted by Monsters at 11:13 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Already those on the right are anticipating that this will be Obama's Watergate.
posted by zzazazz at 11:14 AM on September 16, 2009


dios -
how is it moronic for ACORN to file suit? What kinds of internal documents are going to be discovered that are going to do any _more_ damage to them? Why can't they allow it? I don't quite understand your reasoning?

If they were innocent of any legal wrong-doing, and it was simply a matter of 4 to even 40 employees or volunteers that were bad actors, I don't see how this is really a problem. According to their website, they have over 400,000 "members" in 1200 neighborhoods in 42 states. Even with 40 bad actors, that 1 in 10,000 people in an organization that is trying to organize poor and low income people to participate in the political process.

The more I look into this, the more this really, really, really, stinks of "poor people shouldn't organize and vote, because they might vote for things that we don't like" on the side of people who are afraid of ACORN or any community activists. This really riles me and makes me want to punch people. In fact, it makes me want to take away the voting rights of people too fucking stupid to realize that they are being un-democratic, unjust, and frankly, assholes.
posted by daq at 11:15 AM on September 16, 2009


This whole thing sucks on all sides, but maybe it's Brand New Day time for all of the parties concerned this very noble and very basic idea of helping low-income families become healthy, happy and successful. I think all of the controversy has strayed so fucking far from that goal, that a reset with new branding, investment and strategy could really prove beneficial to all the little trees that the forest has forsaken.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:17 AM on September 16, 2009


It appears to be shot with a hidden camera, and unless both parties consented to the recording it's a violation of California Penal Code Section 632, no?
posted by mullingitover at 1:03 PM on September 16


That's an interesting point. But I just read that statute you linked, and it does not apply to this circumstance. Rather, it appears to apply to tapping or reading communications without consent. I find that odd, though, because the statutes I have read on this point in other states make clear that they cover the recordation of any discussion or communication.

So I'm not sure that statute would prohibit this conduct. Although it raises a good point because there are some states that would prohibit this kind of thing.
posted by dios at 11:18 AM on September 16, 2009


Monsters -
From ACORN's own website - "Today, ACORN is the nation’s largest grassroots community organization, with more than 400,000 low- and moderate-income families organized into more than 1,200 neighborhood chapters in 42 states. ACORN continues to build community organizations that are committed to social and economic justice, and continues to take action on thousands of issues. Through direct action, negotiation, legislative advocacy, and voter participation, ACORN assists those who have previously gone unheard become powerful actors in our democratic system."

They are a target because they are the low and moderate income families, mostly minorities, and they are voting on issues that the rightwing fears will mean letting them move into their neighborhoods forcing them to look at people who aren't like themselves. It's like the right-wing spin machine has put a hot wire into the lizard brains of people who are scared of anything they don't understand or haven't had explained to them in a non-threatening way.

Frankly, I find it evil incarnate.
posted by daq at 11:20 AM on September 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


So it is your contention that I could walk into my local H&R Block office and receive advice on how to run an illegal prostitution ring, conceal underage foreign sex slaves, how to launder the sex money for a political campaign, how to avoid police and federal suspicion and how to be safe from pimps?

I'm saying I bet you could, eventually, get someone to suggest you call yourself a "freelance performance artist" if you traveled the country for a year hitting every H&R Block office you could find, yes. I'll grant you that Acorn probably gives better advice on how to be safe from pimps, though why you think it should not I can't possibly imagine.

If true, sounds like a project for your investigate and report back to us!

I am not consumed with an irrational hatred for H&R Block and don't care what prostitutes call themselves on their taxes because I am not an insane person who obsesses about trivialities, but knock yourself out.
posted by enn at 11:20 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm totally doing this with Goldman Sachs.

It's not a bad idea, but I think the bar for getting someone at Goldman Sachs who will divulge the information you're looking to speak to you about it is going to be much higher than walking in off the street.

Discussing, shall we say, "extra-legal" activity even with people you know and trust can be dicey work. Discussing illegal activity with people you've just met is stupid on top of the moral considerations. The guys at Goldman Sachs or most other well-connected institutions are probably not that stupid.
posted by weston at 11:20 AM on September 16, 2009


Once is a bad apple, twice is a coincidence, but four times starts to look like systemic corruption. --
posted by timeo danaos at 10:26 AM


Or it's an undocumented feature, not a bug. Maybe an Easter Egg, accessed by pressing CTL-Underaged Girls, ALT-Money laundering, CTL-Hookers, ALT-Political Bribes?
posted by JB71 at 11:22 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


John Stewart, The audacity of ho's.
posted by jenkinsEar at 11:24 AM on September 16, 2009


dios -
how is it moronic for ACORN to file suit? What kinds of internal documents are going to be discovered that are going to do any _more_ damage to them? Why can't they allow it? I don't quite understand your reasoning?


Because they do not want to expose their entire organization to discovery. They do not want to expose their financial documents, internal memorandums, internal investigations, policies and procedures or even their lobbying efforts to production.

No corporation wants to do that. Especially one with this much heat on it.
posted by dios at 11:25 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sigh.

I think the bar for getting someone at Goldman Sachs to speak to you who will divulge the information you're looking to speak to you about it for is going to be much higher than walking in off the street.

I think I screw up my comments more by editing them than by just writing and posting.
posted by weston at 11:25 AM on September 16, 2009


dios: "This is called investigative journalism."

I know you're aware of the word suborn. I know it. I find it hard to believe you consider hiring actors to entice someone to commit a crime is most accurately called "investigative journalism" instead of subornation. just because subornation isn't against the law doesn't mean it's journalistically ethical.

now, this doesn't change what these ACORN workers did, nor does it invalidate the result. but let's call it what it is, huh?
posted by shmegegge at 11:28 AM on September 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


One part that really annoys me is how the woman in the video later claimed that this will be her carreer, and that it is the "future of journalism".
Dear lord, I hope not.

But of course you can just hear the wheels grinding along, and shady news organizations counting out the bills to pay young people to go out with undercover cameras.
No longer satisfied with confrontational journalism, now we will want people to go out and make the news themselves. I guess this was all inevitable in a post-Survivor world...
posted by Theta States at 11:29 AM on September 16, 2009


So it is your contention that I could walk into my local H&R Block office and receive advice on how to run an illegal prostitution ring, conceal underage foreign sex slaves, how to launder the sex money for a political campaign, how to avoid police and federal suspicion and how to be safe from pimps?

Perhaps not, but until very recently, had you wanted to find yourself some advice on how to game the financial system to take out a mortgage that you couldn't afford, you'd have been able to walk into pretty well any financial adviser/bank/mortgage broker in the USA and have them provide you with that advice -- whether you asked for it or not.

The consequences of those actions were rather more serious than the actions of these half-wits. But breaking the law/gaming the system in that sense was likely to get you a promotion rather than get you sacked and defunded.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:32 AM on September 16, 2009 [6 favorites]


dios-
Ok, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess you haven't actually looked at ACORN's charter or how it is organized (I hadn't until today, though all the attention made me curious). According to their website, "ACORN is a non-profit, non-partisan social justice organization with national headquarters in New York, New Orleans and Washington, D.C."

They are financed entirely by grants and fund-raising.

I honestly hope they do go the lawsuit route and win. I hope they go through discovery and nothing even remotely controversial comes about, or if anything does, it's something like "an accountant was imbezzling money' or something else that doesn't reflect badly on the stated goals of the organization, just the activities of a few bad actors.

This does not sound like some evil conglomerate that is trying to rule the world. This sounds like exactly the type of organization that would form when you have large swaths of the population marginalized by the political process because they are poor, under-served by their local governments, and need a voice, because last I checked, our society was supposed to be all about communities working together to form a better living condition for those living in them.

But, you know, that must be un-American or something, if you listen to Glenn Beck or any of the other right-wing squawking heads.
posted by daq at 11:33 AM on September 16, 2009


daq, the thing with discovery is that parties can ask for basically everything that's ever been recorded. This is bad for two reasons.

First, discovery requests can be for just about any kind of record, ever. Most organizations have paper trails that go back forever, and email makes it worse. Internal emails are a massive source of embarassment and potential liability for any organization. If ACORN sues, we'll get to see not just more of the same kind of manufactured, PR responses they've been getting killed on for the past few days, but unredacted, candid thoughts from the lowliest volunteer all the way up to the organization's directors.

Second, discovery requests don't really have to be limited to a particular subject, especially when made by the defense. All they need to do is be "reasonably calculated" to lead to admissible evidence. So if ACORN sues, these journalists will probably wind up with documents showing the organization's thoughts and internal discussions on just about every unpleasant activity of which they've been accused. This is not likely to be good for their image, even if it doesn't expose them to prosecution or civil liability.

As such, you really don't want to put yourself in a position to be subject to discovery requests if you can all avoid it, especially if, like ACORN, you have things to hide. I'm not saying that ACORN has necessarily done anything criminal here, but this week's events conclusively prove that they've done things which are unforgivably dumb, the publication of which they simply cannot allow. As it stands, I'd say there's still a chance, albiet a small one, that the organization can continue as a discrete entity, but if they file suit, I'd lower that chance to just above zero.
posted by valkyryn at 11:38 AM on September 16, 2009


I know you're aware of the word suborn. I know it. I find it hard to believe you consider hiring actors to entice someone to commit a crime is most accurately called "investigative journalism" instead of subornation. just because subornation isn't against the law doesn't mean it's journalistically ethical.
posted by shmegegge at 1:28 PM on September 16


First, where are you getting that "actors were hired"? These were two independent college kids who did this with their own money.

Second, subornation in the legal contest has to do with getting people to perjure themselves when they are under oath. Perhaps there are other uses of the word of which I am unaware, but I fail to see how asking questions would be the same as subornation. Because if it were so, then we have it going on in AskMetafilter here where people often ask questions about illegal activity (how do I dispose of a corpse?).

Third, you are completely discrediting the idea of investigative journalism in the name of defending this bullshit. And that is sad.

Is the "Catch a Predator" guy suborning the sex offenders? Is every undercover journalist who exposes corruption or illegal activity "suborning" the illegal activity? Of course not.

Consider the implications of the defense you are making. It's absurd.
posted by dios at 11:38 AM on September 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Did anyone here watch the San Bernardino video? At first you're all like "No way! Really! OMG she killed her husband!" and then after a couple minutes, it becomes glaringly clear that the ACORN employee is totally fucking with them. You would have to possess a completely Vulcan level of literal-mindedness not to see that. Now, that was pretty stupid of her. I mean, apparently the country, and especially our esteemed leaders, are perfectly willing to take the most absurd and transparent tall tales to be the Lord's own truth here, and it's a shame this employee didn't realize that. Not fucking with people who are clearly fucking with you is difficult to resist sometimes, but is also one of the basics of professionalism. It's no surprise at all that this pair had to shop around for a while before they found someone willing to cast aside her professionalism and act for the camera.

But so my point is, watch the videos. Think to yourself, "does this pass even the most cursory bullshit threshold?" If it does, congratulations, you may have a career waiting for you in television news or representative Democracy. If it does not, let's not play into Glenn Beck's little script here by condemning anything but a frustrated employee's slip of unprofessionalism. Let's especially not talk about "bad apples" as though any of this were real.

I mean, come on.
posted by rusty at 11:39 AM on September 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


dios: "college kids who did this with their own money."

I lol'd.
posted by mullingitover at 11:43 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


...they deserve to have their public funding stripped. This is what happens to every group (on the left, or the right) whose directors and managers put political influence and local power games above their self-described mandate of service.

Funny, my local, state, and federal governments still get nothing BUT public funding, and they consistently "put political influence and local power games above their self-described mandate of service."
posted by coolguymichael at 11:44 AM on September 16, 2009


This sounds like exactly the type of organization that would form when you have large swaths of the population marginalized by the political process because they are poor, under-served by their local governments
posted by daq at 1:33 PM on September 16


So it is your position that any organization formed to assist marginalized poor people will necessarily result in indictments for voter fraud and systems where the poor are taught how to commit and cover-up heinous crimes with the organizations help?

I cannot and refuse to believe that is the position would take. Yet is exactly the implication of your comment that an entity like ACORN is inevitable.

It would seem to me that the wiser argument would be that this particular entity is the problem, not the process of organizing the poor.
posted by dios at 11:44 AM on September 16, 2009


>... so ACORN wasn't apparently an entirely bad actor

Not entirely, no.

Not exactly helpful, though.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:45 AM on September 16, 2009


So it is your contention that I could walk into my local H&R Block office and receive advice on how to run an illegal prostitution ring lie on my mortgage application form, conceal underage foreign sex slaves conceal outstanding debts, how to launder the sex money for a political campaign take after sale 'cashbacks' to pump up agent commissions, how to avoid police and federal suspicion liability by hiding assets in 'family trusts' and how to be safe from pimps the IRS?

I'd bet you'd hit pay dirt in the very first H&R Block office you visited. No need to trawl cross country.

On preview: What PeterMcDermott said.
posted by PenDevil at 11:45 AM on September 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


It would seem to me that the wiser argument would be that this particular entity is the problem, not the process of organizing the poor.

And the poor are the ones who really lose out here, not Democrats or the President or whoever. The poor lose out when the organizations that are meant to serve them don't do enough to preserve their license to operate. I hope the woman who was 'just fucking with [the videomakers]' considers her little lark worthwhile.
posted by Monsters at 11:49 AM on September 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


Again, not having been in an H&R Block office, I cannot dispute that. But if so, sounds like a great project for an enterprising journalist. Regardless, it doesn't excuse what we have here. "These people are bad too" is not a defense of anything.
posted by dios at 11:49 AM on September 16, 2009


Daq, Acorn's CEO had to resign in 2008, as he had been found to be covering up approx. $1MM in embezzlement perpetrated by his brother: NY Times:
The brother, Dale Rathke, embezzled nearly $1 million from Acorn and affiliated charitable organizations in 1999 and 2000, Acorn officials said, but a small group of executives decided to keep the information from almost all of the group’s board members and not to alert law enforcement.

Dale Rathke remained on Acorn’s payroll until a month ago, when disclosure of his theft by foundations and other donors forced the organization to dismiss him.
There are pretty good odds that a fishing expedition conducted by a well-funded law firm (and we all know which part of the political spectrum will be funding this) will turn up all sorts of things that are, if not illegal, certainly politically disastrous.

I'm not saying that Acorn is necessarily a corrupt organization, I'm saying that every organization- even the ones that you believe are on the side of the angels- has all sorts of crap in their closet, and an open-ended discovery is very likely to bring it out in the daylight. Self-preservation suggests they will complain loudly but never file suit.
posted by jenkinsEar at 11:50 AM on September 16, 2009


mullingitover: ? Can you explain what is funny?
posted by dios at 11:50 AM on September 16, 2009


This is an outrage. Knowledge of how to scam the system should be reserved for the rich. Only the sanctioned classes should have access to the mysteries.

And if every ACORN office every day had a line of pimps waiting to get funded, they still couldn't steal as much as your average corproate boardroom can manage in an afternoon, no matter how many 12-year-old El Salvadoran girls they've turned out.

This whole things makes me see red. I'm gonna go smoke dope and read comic books instead of thinking about this, thus doing my part to contribute to the problem. Fuck.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:53 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


dios -
Huh?
You lost me on your logic chain there.

I don't see anywhere that can factually state that ACORN's purpose and goal is to create voter fraud and "systems where the poor are taught how to commit and cover-up crimes with the organizations help".

Where are you getting that from anything I've said. Yes, I know that is what Glenn Beck and other squawkers are parroting, but I don't see anywhere in the literature or public statements by ACORN where they are advocating voter fraud, or training their employees to "teach poor people" how to do what you said. Actually, what I've been seeing is that ACORN and ACORN staff ARE POOR PEOPLE.

Or am I missing a memo that you haven't revealed?
posted by daq at 11:57 AM on September 16, 2009


Gorilla journalism?

I think the crucial bit is "edited video." Was it dubbed? I don't know.
But 'bury your cash in your backyard' - really? Child prostitution?

Given there's been ongoing campaigns to sling mud at the organization, you can manufacture something to stick eventually and this is the result.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:02 PM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hey Dios, did Glenn Beck rape and murder a girl in 1990?

Sounds like a project for your investigate and report back to us!
posted by bpm140 at 12:06 PM on September 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


That San Bernadino video makes the film-makers look like idiots. That woman is clearly yanking their chain as hard as possible. I love how ABC tries to confirm the claim that she killed her husband by speaking with her ex-husband!
posted by winna at 12:06 PM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dios, Puhleeze.

Let's look at history. This whole anti-ACORN thing was just the smoke-screen for the vote supression scheme Karl Rove put into action in the 2004 election. They planted a whole buch of stories so that when their much larger scheme was uncovered, they could point to a fake "both sides are doing it" narrative.

Thank God Obama protected the vote with thousands of attorneys in 2008. Its going to be a staple of the Democratic victory machine for years to come.

Sorry this bothers you.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:07 PM on September 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


daq: first, I've never listened to Glenn Beck in my life, so if you want to have a discussion with me and not be completely ignored, you would be best served by addressing me on the statements I am making and not disrespecting me by suggesting that I am spitting out talking points.

Second, the point is this: if you are alleging [Premise 1] there is no unique problem with ACORN and that [premise 2] ACORN is the natural consequence of poor people organizing, then you are alleging that any negative thing ACORN does (the indictments, embezzlement, advice on how to commit and conceal crimes) is necessarily a by-product of poor people organizing. I don't see how you reach any other conclusion from your premises.

I tend to think (and I'm sure you would agree) that the identified problems are unique to ACORN and not to the process of organizing poor people. That is, you can have a well run organization of poor people. Thus, the problems are with ACORN, this unique entity.
posted by dios at 12:08 PM on September 16, 2009


dios: "First, where are you getting that "actors were hired"? These were two independent college kids who did this with their own money.
"

this is why you are impossible to deal with. if it works for your sensibilities, let's replace the word "hiring actors to" with "being actors who" and recognize that the sentence still stands despite your hair splitting.

"Second, subornation in the legal contest has to do with getting people to perjure themselves when they are under oath. Perhaps there are other uses of the word of which I am unaware"

christ, I knew you would try this tack. this is why I linked to the definition of the word in my comment. the 1st listed definition of the word "suborn" in every english dictionary is "To induce (a person) to commit an unlawful or evil act." I'm not talking about subornation of perjury, just subornation. so let's drop the "oh, I'm only familiar with terms I learned in law school, not common english" act.

but I fail to see how asking questions would be the same as subornation. Because if it were so, then we have it going on in AskMetafilter here where people often ask questions about illegal activity (how do I dispose of a corpse?)

because the two are so comparable! oh my god, is that what it was? these guys were just asking questions as a joke and getting joke answers to the general amusement of all involved while everyone was aware that there was a record being kept? is that what you'd like to call it? is THAT investigative journalism? since I'm taking issue with your definition of "investigative journalism" remember, then are you putting forward that that joke askme was a moment of investigative journalism?

Third, you are completely discrediting the idea of investigative journalism in the name of defending this bullshit. And that is sad.

no, YOU are discrediting the idea of investigative journalism by using it to describe what happened here. that's. my whole. point.

Is the "Catch a Predator" guy suborning the sex offenders?

yes.

Is every undercover journalist who exposes corruption or illegal activity "suborning" the illegal activity?

is he enticing someone to commit the activity, or merely reporting that it happened? if it's the former, then yes, by the very definition of the word.

Consider the implications of the defense you are making. It's absurd.

no, what's absurd is that I've been drawn into this with you. right now, you're a caricature of yourself. it's like I'm having an argument with the dios-bot, aping all of dios' absurdities without any of the actual argumentative muscle.
posted by shmegegge at 12:11 PM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


jenkinsEar -
That's one story I hadn't gotten to in my googling yet. And I'm not really all that shocked. Yet I still don't see how this is "bad", except for how this screw up means fewer poor and moderate income families and communities are going to be left out of the political process.

Reading some cursory stuff on some of the bad actors named in the NYTimes article, I see a whole lot of activists and very left-wing outspoken people. Crusaders and whatnot. Seems a lot of them didn't quite stay as true to their causes as they thought they would when they started in the 60's.

I guess I'm rather annoyed at how much the crap being spewed about ACORN is targeted at their front-line workers and not at the people at the top. Though, I guess trying to get any "gotcha" moments out of the executives is probably much harder than baiting the lowest rung employees. Not to mention that the bad actors from the executive circle seem to have left the company as of currently, and that's probably for the best (though Maude probably should have a go at finding a replacement ASAP, since she decided to be a part of the cover-up of the embezzlement).

Too bad such a good idea was so badly corrupted by greed, of all things. I guess the hippies really have failed.
posted by daq at 12:15 PM on September 16, 2009


Well, ladies and gentlemen, it appears that, despite my attempts to have an actual substantive discussion, we've reached "fuck you dios" part of the discussion where we get an increase in people who choose to insult me, call me names, question my motivations, suggest bad faith and generally bash a strawman in an effort shout me down. I don't want to deal with such nastiness from people who can't talk about things without resorting to that garbage. Sorry.
posted by dios at 12:18 PM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I feel like the actors who went after ACORN were probably not in the right. It's a bit like if Walmart decided to send lawyers to local small businesses looking for small violations of the ADA or Endangered Species Act. Admittedly, they did find a bit problem, and it's good the people responsible were fired.

It's clear the right has an agenda against ACORN, and I suspect it mostly has to do with how ACORN tries to increase representation among demographics who tend to be democrats. Since it's unfashionable to admit that, they instead change it to "voting voter registration fraud" and census misrepresentation, just like how Obama becomes the leader of a Marxist takeover.

Might I suggest that we now have actors go into the NRA and ask about details on when we can and cannot shoot invaders on our property? And how to falsify evidence so that we don't get in trouble if we are out of line? Or how to hide that incidence of assault on our record? I'm sure at least one NRA charter would say something embarrassing.
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:19 PM on September 16, 2009


...we've reached "fuck you dios" part of the discussion where we get an increase in people who choose to insult me, call me names, question my motivations, suggest bad faith and generally bash a strawman in an effort shout me down.

Huh.
I must have missed that part of this thread....
posted by Floydd at 12:24 PM on September 16, 2009


Daq-

I guess that's my point; the higher-ups are the ones most likely to be impacted by the discovery process, so they will never move the organization into a situation where discovery is necessary. Discovery threatens them directly, far more than it threatens the folks on the line.

I don't have any idea as to whether Acorn is a corrupt organization as a whole- and I can understand a CEO covering for his brother's bad actions in some kind of Faustian bargain. His actions were clearly unethical, but were not illegal- and that's an important distinction.

All I'm saying is that Acorn- like any organization with that many people in it- has certainly had involvement in ethically dubious activity in the past, and that a lawsuit plus a discovery motion is pretty likely to surface more issues. These issues don't even need to be real- they will be spun out of proportion. The folks who decide whether to file lawsuits are extremely unlikely to proceed, as it will almost certainly be the end of their outfit's ability to receive state and federal grant money.
posted by jenkinsEar at 12:28 PM on September 16, 2009


> I must have missed that part of this thread....

Preempively claiming victimhood is a big part of the conservative modus operandi these days.
posted by you just lost the game at 12:28 PM on September 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


If you're looking for a choir to preach to while you're enjoying the embarassment of an evil organization of community organizers, Yahoo! Buzz is three doors down on the right.
posted by mullingitover at 12:28 PM on September 16, 2009


It's not a bad idea, but I think the bar for getting someone at Goldman Sachs who will divulge the information you're looking to speak to you about it is going to be much higher than walking in off the street.

The difference is the price of entry. Look at UBS and the 50,000 wealthy US citizens they helped to evade taxes. I'd absolutely love to see how many of those account holders were involved in something illegal, other than tax evasion.
posted by ryoshu at 12:30 PM on September 16, 2009


To me ACORN is a very good example of a group that has such terrible governance and such a complete lack of a culture of accountability that they deserve to have their public funding stripped. This is what happens to every group (on the left, or the right) whose directors and managers put political influence and local power games above their self-described mandate of service.

I believe that could be said of any large group. Too big to fail means its too big. But if one is small, you can't get the tit of Uncle Sam to suckle.

A possible lesson is to do what the large firms do, make everything it's own small seperate corp. such that if one fails, the rest can continue.

terrible governance and such a complete lack of a culture of accountability that they deserve to have their public funding stripped.

And if there was more openness and transparentency, would this have happened?

one video .... a second video ..... third video .... Then a fourth

Fine basic PR. Not a bad plan to mold public opinion.

so an organization having a few bad apples is a fair reason to stop funding it?

If one is going to condem a group for the actions of a few when its a group you don't like because of a label of "right", then one should apply the same when they are labeled "left".

I look forward to a United States without a military.

Alas, as Chalmers Johnson points out in Nemesis the US Military is 'round 'bout 25% of the economy. Not to mention my guess is without the ability to "project power" about the globe the US Dollar would not be doing as well as it is.

I'm going to go out on a limb, but I don't think ACORN can 'project power' on an international stage, nor does its spending come up to 1/4 of the US economy.


Don't cry for ACORN - the devoted staffers will move to other non-profits and some will start up the next version of that ACORN did. The end of cheap oil and NINJA loans would have shrunk or killed ACORN anyway.
posted by rough ashlar at 12:36 PM on September 16, 2009


dios - I apologize if you took my referencing Glenn Beck or other rightwing squawking heads as your stated position. I do not mean that you are parroting their stories or that you even listen or know of what they have said. However, you stating "indictments for voter fraud and systems where the poor are taught how to commit and cover-up heinous crimes with the organizations help" is a rather direct parroting of the current right-wing talking points, so, um, if it quacks like a duck and all that.

[QUOTE] if you are alleging [Premise 1] there is no unique problem with ACORN and that [premise 2] ACORN is the natural consequence of poor people organizing, then you are alleging that any negative thing ACORN does (the indictments, embezzlement, advice on how to commit and conceal crimes) is necessarily a by-product of poor people organizing. I don't see how you reach any other conclusion from your premises. [/QUOTE]

I am stating that there is a unique problem with ACORN, an organization whose stated goal is to help poor and disadvantaged communities.

I am also stating that the specific allegations that ACORN is actively promoting voter fraud or that their purpose is to teach poor people how to commit and cover-up heinous crimes, is a false allegation, proven by evidence sought by multiple independent entities, including the New Mexico County Clerks Office, where the GOP originally alleged that ACORN was involved in voter fraud. In that case, specifically, ACORN came out smelling like roses, because they had done absolutely nothing wrong. One Link, Two Link. There's also a lot of alleged voter intimidation in those 2 links, from the GOP.

I still don't see where you get premise 2. This "natural consequence of poor people organizing"? No, maybe I see it as a natural consequence of ALL organizations that have people in them. People are not reliable. They will always fail you, and are always capable of doing things that are not in the best interest of the organization they are a part of. DUH! It's called human fucking nature. This does not mean that the organization itself should be disbanded, or that organizations like it should be prevented from doing the same kinds of work they are attempting to do.

Again, I don't understand your logic. Not one bit.
posted by daq at 12:37 PM on September 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


if you are alleging [Premise 1] there is no unique problem with ACORN and that [premise 2] ACORN is the natural consequence of poor people organizing, then you are alleging that any negative thing ACORN does (the indictments, embezzlement, advice on how to commit and conceal crimes) is necessarily a by-product of poor people organizing. I don't see how you reach any other conclusion from your premises.

What is the unique problem to ACORN?

You are fully aware, of course, that a study at NYU School of Law found that voter fraud is extremely rare

No serious student of election law believes that mass voter fraud is occuring anywhere. There is no data to support it and tons against it. Instead, it is used as an excuse for voter "jamming" a well-known GOP method of intimidating African-Americans at the polls.

Luckily were not going to stand for that anymore, counselor.

ACORN is a shibboleth of the Right, a boogey man.

I think that the reason people believe that you are channeling Glenn Beck is that you still advance these theories despite the fact that the only rational and complete analysis of the alleged "problem" shows that there is no "problem" at all. The real problem for the GOP is black people voting.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:51 PM on September 16, 2009 [6 favorites]


The hidden camera/"investigative journalism" discussion above brings to mind the Food Lion vs. Prime Time Live case in 1992.
posted by ericb at 12:51 PM on September 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Of course they were there to be found! Find me one organization that is in the business of offering tax advice on a national scale — from Wall Street on down — no employee of which has ever made a verbal suggestion to someone as to how to conceal the source of income from the Feds. Come on now. If Fox wants to take the credit for getting a few people fired, good on them, but this faux naivete and the idea that, now that a few employees have been discovered lying, the organization is tainted and reputable people may no longer associate with it is complete manufactured bullshit.

Most such organizations have safeguards against such behavior, and ways for their employees to report it to higher-ups, to contain it, however. And they take efforts to acknowledge their failings when they find these instances.

They don't do what I was arguing against -- they don't circle the wagons and say "but....you only found ONE office that did that! Totally not our fault!"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:54 PM on September 16, 2009


I just finally looked at the video and it seemed to me it was as much about switching to shots of what's-her-faces prostituted-up legs as it was about exposing ACORN's practices. Every 10 seconds it switched to a shot of her legs dangling in the air. Whether it was done to add eye candy, or because they thought it would titillate, or because the lady was going on an ego trip, it added nothing substantial to the video.

That's why I'm highly skeptical of labeling this "investigative journalism". Basically, two college students punked a few ACORN employees. The San Bernardino lady was clearly messing with them with her "Oh yeah, I used to be a hooker" and "I'll threaten the neighbors to make sure they don't talk" but these students reported it as if these were entirely factual without even doing a bit of legwork to verify it.

If anything, it says something about our inclination to engage with people and try to help them or communicate with them, even if we shouldn't. I mean, the premise was so ridiculous: "I am a pimp, and an aspiring congressman about to operate a sexual slavery ring, can you tell me how I can bilk the IRS?" Those workers must have thought it was a hoot. I'd like to see the video after these morons left, where the workers would look at each other in disbelief and say, "What the hell just went on here?"
posted by Deathalicious at 12:55 PM on September 16, 2009


The hidden camera/"investigative journalism" discussion above brings to mind the Food Lion vs. Prime Time Live case in 1992.

I'll note that the Food Lion case had people bleaching the meat. Now meat packers dunk the meat in Ammonia, and in an attempt to circle this back I wonder what things that were considered 'over the top' like funding a prostitute will be legal, accepted and taxed for its revenue stream in the future.
posted by rough ashlar at 12:57 PM on September 16, 2009


This isn't journalism, this is Punk'd.

In the same way Jay Leno can go out and do man on the street interviews and have a lot of people say really stupid things, these two were able to do the same. This should not be used to assess the performance of ACORN, if you want to assess them, send in an auditor and review their processes. The same goes for those that have gone into planned parenthood offices claiming they are underage pregnant teens, etc.
posted by Edward L at 12:58 PM on September 16, 2009


They acquired the story.

dios, are you insane or merely ignorant? They did not "acquire the story." The right has been on an unhinged demagogic tear about ACORN for years. These weren't guerilla journalists. They were tools of a deranged right-wing movement led by various talk-radio hosts and whacked-out politicians.
posted by deanc at 1:09 PM on September 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


To me ACORN is a very good example of a group that has such terrible governance and such a complete lack of a culture of accountability that they deserve to have their public funding stripped.

I wouldn't be surprised if this were true. It's been years since I worked for ACORN, briefly, but I quit partly because of the cavalier attitude everyone seemed to have about, well, everything. There was a lot of real solidarity among the employees and good intentions, but the record keeping, hiring, paying didn't seem as professional as a big political nonprofit should be. I'd nearly forgotten about ACORN before last year. While Republicans denounced ACORN as the machine behind Obama, I was a little surprised to learn they were still around. (Lately, though, I've started carrying my old ACORN pin just to frighten the Glenn Beck watchers.)

Personally, I think ACORN should go ahead and sue the hell out FOX and whoever else is implicated. The embarrassment of discovery works both ways.

I'm not at all surprised to learn that dios thinks some sub-Kutcher punking (on both sides, apparently) is "utterly brilliant gorilla journalism." Standards have fallen so low.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:11 PM on September 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


I mean, the premise was so ridiculous: "I am a pimp, and an aspiring congressman about to operate a sexual slavery ring, can you tell me how I can bilk the IRS?"

I wonder if anyone was talented enough to have the 'actors' fill out a federal form or 2 where lying on the form is a felony?
posted by rough ashlar at 1:12 PM on September 16, 2009


ACORN is a shibboleth of the Right, a boogey man.

More like this is just a big game of Illuminati. Right Wing Smearjobs got a good diceroll and just took out Community Organizers.
posted by Palamedes at 1:14 PM on September 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


Hey, so good to know we will have such strict standards for handling employee disciplinary problems in organizations that get federal funds now! I assume that means the Blackwater contracts that the state dept just re-upped will now be reassessed.
posted by madamjujujive at 1:20 PM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why pick on Blackwater when there are charges of sex rings with contractor Dynacorp to try and tie the 2 as being equal?
posted by rough ashlar at 1:21 PM on September 16, 2009


I assume that means the Blackwater contracts that the state dept just re-upped will now be reassessed.

One could contact those who voted to defund ACORN and voice such concerns.
posted by Monsters at 1:29 PM on September 16, 2009


Ultimately this hurts poor folks the most. These right wing thugs will spend more time destroying a group that supports Obama than they ever will going after Wall St companies or banks. They are only interested in political points. The left does the same - but at least they more often try to expose corporate fraud than go after groups like ACORN whose purpose is to help low income communites and families.
posted by Rashomon at 1:32 PM on September 16, 2009


Acorn says workers conduct 'indefensible', suspends, plans audit in wake of videos
ACORN, calling the actions of some of its employees "indefensible," has suspended advising new clients as part of its service programs and is setting up an independent review to see what happened.

ACORN chief executive Bertha Lewis said in a written statement that she was "ordering a halt to any new intakes into ACORN's service programs until completion of an independent review."
posted by jenkinsEar at 2:03 PM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


[few comments removed - do not do that Glenn Beck shit here, period, ever, thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 2:11 PM on September 16, 2009 [6 favorites]


I'm ambivalent about the whole thing. The ACORN office where this happened is about 3 blocks from my house. I haven't had much personal involvement with them, but from what I understand is that they hire a lot of minimally qualified people from the neighborhood and you sort of take what you can get. Their tax person specializes in helping the elderly and illiterate to fill out their tax forms and not really much beyond that. It's not a CPA that will help you set up a shell corporation or anything. I don't doubt that some people from the neighborhood have incomes that they prefer not to explain. My general reaction was "Meh, who cares." until they got to the part about the underage prostitutes.

The previous charges of voter fraud were similarly overblown. Suprise surprise, when you pay per person registered, someone is going to try to game the system.

But I guess all these things point to the fact that ACORN is poorly run and that money is better spent elsewhere. I'd just hate to see an organization that genuinely does help people get the axe because they're sloppy about hiring.
posted by electroboy at 3:18 PM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


utterly brilliant gorilla journalism

One of these words is unexpected.


I find this fascinating as an example of gorilla journalism.

Twice. I think the spunk flowing at the occasion of a conservative boogeyman taking a hard shot interfered with the learning centers.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:33 PM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


First, where are you getting that "actors were hired"? These were two independent college kids who did this with their own money.

This is America. Even racist demagogues like O'Keefe have to eat. I'll bet that we eventually learn that these two have received payment for their work by the GOP, by a Republican politician, or by another racist and conservative activist group that hates poor people.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:38 PM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


[comments removed again, this is not going to become all MeFites against dios. Go to MetaTalk if you want to flip out at one user, that sort of stuff poisons threads. Or make your cases reasonably. Your choice. Thanks]
posted by jessamyn at 3:59 PM on September 16, 2009


It would seem to me that the wiser argument would be that this particular entity is the problem, not the process of organizing the poor.
dios, I think it is fair to say that the only reason that the right-wing demaogogues riled up O'Keefe and much of the conservative movement against ACORN was because they had a problem with the organizing of the poor. Much of the Republican convention was, itself, focused on condemning Obama's background as a community organizer.
posted by deanc at 4:10 PM on September 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Hey, are they going to stop spending money on Halliburton/KBR/Blackwater/E-whatver, too?
posted by mikelieman at 4:24 PM on September 16, 2009


Hey, are they going to stop spending money on Halliburton/KBR/Blackwater/E-whatver, too?

Not unless black people are involved.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:45 PM on September 16, 2009


this is not going to become all MeFites against dios

For some reason that made me lol.

It is interesting, but not surprising, that an organization that strives to help the poor and disadvantaged can be cut off from funding by some IRL trolling. But when it comes to highly paid war contractors... Rape? Torture? Murder? If we investigate those sorts of things we'll hurt morale.
posted by ryoshu at 5:33 PM on September 16, 2009


"When I first heard this I was all set to call up my senators and give them a proper chewing out with the full allotment of piss and vinegar for caving to this preposterous stunt straight out of the red-baiting handbook and for being a bunch of uselessly craven and gutless losers generally and lacking the backbone God gave an amoeba, but it turns out that both Senators Burris and Durbin were among the seven opposed and there went my fun. Some days I envy you guys in the Blue Dog states."

Make the call, provide just as much positive feedback as you would have negative.
posted by Mitheral at 5:52 PM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Republican conservatives fresh from their own sex and funding scandals are now going to play the outraged moralists? Of course it will work. This is America after all.
posted by telstar at 6:12 PM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I guess my comment was insipid enough to stay.
posted by telstar at 7:24 PM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Out of morbid curiosity, do we know how long these people had been employed at ACORN? It seems to me that the most reliable way to get footage like this is to have payed off people on both sides of the camera. Just a paranoid thought.
posted by dopeypanda at 8:34 PM on September 16, 2009


FWIW - my mom volunteers as a counselor at one of those "crisis pregnancy centers" and she's met with people posing as pregnant women, trying to get them to break the law.

Generally, they try to ask the counselor to interpret a pregnancy test for them (if I remember correctly). This is something counselors aren't allowed to do in her state (and maybe in any state).

The difference is, she volunteers for a very well-run organization. They make sure all their volunteers know the law and stick to it.

As for whether this is "real" journalism - who cares? I'm a American journalist employed by a large newspaper chain, and I could care less whether their ethical standards are different than mine. Journalists aren't special people. We're just people exercise our right to publish anything we want.

Some of us are lucky to be paid for it. Others are very motivated volunteers. Some of us have more rules than others.

As long as there is no deliberate, malicious distortion, and no laws were broken to get the information, I don't have a problem with someone publishing it.

And if the fear of getting outed by activists is what scares organizations into managing themselves better, aren't we all better off?
posted by bugmuncher at 9:18 PM on September 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


(sorry for bad grammar. I have had a splitting headache for the last three or four hours.)
posted by bugmuncher at 9:18 PM on September 16, 2009


I'm ambivalent about the whole thing. The ACORN office where this happened is about 3 blocks from my house. I haven't had much personal involvement with them, but from what I understand is that they hire a lot of minimally qualified people from the neighborhood and you sort of take what you can get. Their tax person specializes in helping the elderly and illiterate to fill out their tax forms and not really much beyond that. It's not a CPA that will help you set up a shell corporation or anything. I don't doubt that some people from the neighborhood have incomes that they prefer not to explain. My general reaction was "Meh, who cares." until they got to the part about the underage prostitutes.

This. ACORN is an underfunded organization that works in poor crime ridden areas. In practice, it would probably be impossible for them to have a policy of completely clean employees and a policy of encouraging local employment.

I wonder how many of the people having the "OMG prostitution freak out," have ever gone to the other side of the track for a cheap trick. Recent history (Witter, Spitzer et al) would lead me to guess that the number is quite high. But of course they can leave at night, while ACORN at least tries to make a difference.
posted by afu at 2:14 AM on September 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


DC Madam Customer David Vitter Is Outraged By The ACORN Prostitution Scandal
posted by homunculus at 9:26 AM on September 17, 2009


First, where are you getting that "actors were hired"? These were two independent college kids who did this with their own money.

This is America. Even racist demagogues like O'Keefe have to eat. I'll bet that we eventually learn that these two have received payment for their work by the GOP, by a Republican politician, or by another racist and conservative activist group that hates poor people.


They were paid by BigGovernment.com, an organization that's spearheaded by Mike Flynn and Andrew Breitbart, and more videos are apparently on the way. Anyhow, these were certainly not young bright-eyed bushy-tailed college kids who did this with their own money. That's for sure.
posted by blucevalo at 10:21 AM on September 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


They were paid by BigGovernment.com, an organization that's spearheaded by Mike Flynn and Andrew Breitbart

That's what I thought. It's funny that people actually buy that these two are somehow doing this on their own dime. I'm not surprised that Metafilter would get paid a visit by someone delivering Republican talking points like that. This ACORN stuff is just more "death panel" garbage from a pack of dishonest right-wing racists.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:21 AM on September 17, 2009


I've heard several people say they were paid by biggovernment.com and that seems like a reasonable assumption, but do you have an actual source, or is that just an assumption on your part, too?
posted by buggzzee23 at 11:45 AM on September 17, 2009


What I want to know, too, is what, if any, criminal charges have been filed against ACORN or it's employees? None, I expect, because as far as I can tell, no crimes have been committed. There's talk of committing crimes, sure, but the provocateurs who claimed to want to engage in criminal activity are admitting that they made it all up! They were just kidding! It was a fraud prank! Well, then, it isn't any less reasonable to assume that the ACORN employees weren't kidding, too, and I haven't seen any evidence to the contrary.

Even talking about engaging in criminal activity in an official capacity is deeply, deeply unprofessional and deeply, deeply stupid; the employees deserved to be canned, just for that. But all I've seen evidence of so far is talk, nothing else. The witchhunt that's resulting from this is unfortunate. I think it's funny that dios can't contain his glee over this; boy, does that ever put the lie to "Heavens, I'm so non-partisan!" shtick.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:09 PM on September 17, 2009


"weren't" s/b "were"
posted by octobersurprise at 12:11 PM on September 17, 2009


I've heard several people say they were paid by biggovernment.com and that seems like a reasonable assumption, but do you have an actual source, or is that just an assumption on your part, too?

They were paid by worked hand-in-hand with BigGovernment.com and got its moral if not financial backing

Does that satisfy your skepticism? Whether they were paid or not, they were not working on their own.

As for "just an assumption on my part, too," what else am I assuming?
posted by blucevalo at 12:41 PM on September 17, 2009


Blucevalo, I think what buggzzee23 meant was "where's the evidence that Biggovernment.com actually WAS behind it".

And to answer that question: according to this New York Times article, Biggovernment.com was the organization who "broke" the story, and further language in the article seems to suggest to me that the relationship wasn't simply a case of two kids who made a video and THEN shopped it around.

Biggovernment.com also has a reputation for trying to look "grass-roots" when it's in fact got some rather deep pockets.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:48 PM on September 17, 2009


Biggovernment.com also has a reputation for trying to look "grass-roots" when it's in fact got some rather deep pockets.
"Editor Mike Flynn said BigGovernment's contributors [include] former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint and Dana Loesch, a radio host and spokeswoman for the Nationwide Tea Party Coalition." *
As has been noted above, this new website was launched last week with the ACORN controversy center-stage -- and was founded by conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart (who has taken on Hollywood with his Big Hollywood website).
posted by ericb at 1:02 PM on September 17, 2009


EmpressCallipygos, thanks .....

Sorry, I jumped the gun. My apologies to buggzee23.

In any case, BigGovernment.com's involvement here should not be in question.
posted by blucevalo at 1:13 PM on September 17, 2009


I think the other part of the equation is that when you work in poorer communitiesthat have high crime rates, some of the people you want to help are either involved in or know someone who's committing some sort of crime, whether it's selling drugs or breaking into cars, prostitution or what have you. Eventually this sort of thing is going to come up in conversation and you have to make a decision how to handle it. Do you ignore it? Do you do like most people and offer up a "hey, you gotta do what you gotta do" type of nonresponse?
posted by electroboy at 1:28 PM on September 17, 2009


MSNBC just profiled the two behind the video: James O'Keefe (mentioned above -- and no stranger to hidden videotaping) and Hannah Giles. Giles is the daughter of conservative "Christian youth leader" Doug Giles* -- also a columnist for TownHall.com and host of Clash Radio.

The two were inspired by "idealism and righteousness" in their quest to get ACORN employees to fall for their stunt. MSNBC also reported that the two have been/are "supported by Andrew Breitbart," the founder of BigGovernment.com which used the video release to launch the new website last week.

* - ""Doug Giles is the secular fundamentalist's nightmare. He has faith, hope and even a little charity. He lambastes the enemies of the Lord and of commonsense. And he does it with wit as well as logic. Doug serves two great causes: religious truth and what Arnold Bennett once called "the great cause of cheering us all up." - John O'Sullivan Editor at Large, The National Review
posted by ericb at 2:16 PM on September 17, 2009


These were two independent college kids ...

Yeah, riiiight!
posted by ericb at 2:18 PM on September 17, 2009


Blucevalo, I think what buggzzee23 meant was "where's the evidence that Biggovernment.com actually WAS behind it".

And to answer that question: according to this New York Times article, Biggovernment.com was the organization who "broke" the story, and further language in the article seems to suggest to me that the relationship wasn't simply a case of two kids who made a video and THEN shopped it around.

Biggovernment.com also has a reputation for trying to look "grass-roots" when it's in fact got some rather deep pockets.


Well, that's a whole lot of nothing in the evidence locker. So, the next time the NYT "breaks" a story from a "freelancer" should we assume they actually paid said "freelancer" to manufacture the "story". After all the NYT does have a reputation for making shit up.
posted by MikeMc at 2:46 PM on September 17, 2009


MikeMc: "So, the next time the NYT "breaks" a story from a "freelancer" should we assume they actually paid said "freelancer" to manufacture the "story". After all the NYT does have a reputation for making shit up."

do you believe the two situations are equivalent? I mean, I don't think anybody is saying they're 100% certain, but I also think there's plenty of reason to be suspicious.
posted by shmegegge at 2:51 PM on September 17, 2009


I think nine times out of ten I'll still take the word of the New York Times over that of BigGovernment.com. If that makes me a credulous member of the loony leftard community, so be it.
posted by blucevalo at 2:57 PM on September 17, 2009


do you believe the two situations are equivalent?

I believe the "evidence" cited here is weak at best nonexistent at worse. I can honestly say that I am not at all familiar with BigGovernment.com but "suggestion" and "reputation" do not evidence make.
posted by MikeMc at 3:03 PM on September 17, 2009


L.A. Times: Dispute intensifies over legitimacy of prostitution video involving ACORN.
posted by ericb at 3:11 PM on September 17, 2009


"Preempively claiming victimhood is a big part of the conservative modus operandi these days."

True. Except that doesn't apply to dios and responses here, nor the acrimony in general.
I think one can express the thought that one's opponent is being disingenuous without venom.
So too, I think if something's taken the wrong way or one misunderstands something, I think it's not unconscionable to apologize.
There's me and maybe 20 other people who take the time to say they're sorry when they're wrong or if they make a mistake and misunderstand something, etc.
You'd think it's a cardinal sin around here though.
Fuck why even engage in debate if all you want to do is shout someone down? Doesn't anyone want to learn anything?
I made fun of dios' use of the term 'gorilla' - simple mistake, can happen to anyone, so I thought it worth joking about. But I engaged his argument, at least conceptually, and took it seriously and gave it due consideration. I didn't question his sanity.
That doesn't mean I at all agree with dios.
I think his argument is valuable though - if only to illustrate other perspectives and how someone might look at this using other data sets.
He's a very literal minded guy. Intellectually, and this is no slight, he's akin to a rook. (The chess piece, not the bird).
I suspect the blind spot here, his, and this is speculation, is that he (and more literal minded folks in general) wouldn't get the subtextual nature of the attack.
I would think that one who has familiarity with such things - perhaps from a legal background - would miss the implication that posing as a pimp and prostitute to a black woman dealing with folks from an impoverished background has.
This is not to imply ignorance or stupidity. Simply that familiarity breeds contempt.
Police officers in Chicago do see prostitutes. Given the area they're working, those prostitutes are black. They do see child prostitution rings and all other manners of malfeasance.

Such a situation when brought into a place like ACORN does not have the contextual shift for some people that it has for others.
Now, I'm being charitable and not calling some of those folks racists. I exclude dios as a matter of course as I've not seen anything here to indicate he is a racist (perhaps something exists, perhaps not, I've not seen it and unless someone is overtly racist here I have to give them the benefit of the doubt and take them at whatever they say their words are or mean mostly because of the nature of this medium but in part because of the presumption of an interest in the free exchange of ideas and a certain degree of courtesy must exist to support that - not that I'm at all perfect in reflecting that but I do try).

But the premise here is racist, at least in part, and most certainly classist.
What some folks see are a reasonable premise and expect to see a reasonable response.
That is: "Hi, I rape kids. Want to help me?" "No! Of course not! Get out!"
In this case, because they know such people exist, they expect the response they themselves would have to such an offer. Even though actual experience in such situations would quickly reveal that such offers never happen in such a manner.

What some other folks see are an unreasonable premise and and unreasonable response.
"Hi, I rape kids. Want to help me?" "Yes, but let's do this under the table."
Here most people see that the offer is silly, but, like with professional wrestling where they just can't believe the ref is allowing this shit to go on, they see the actions of the ACORN folks as reprehensible. Again, lack of experience being on that side of the table for the most part.

But what others see are an unreasonable premise with a reasonable response.
"Hi, I rape kids. Want to help me?" "*Ha ha ha, this guy is either an idiot or he's joking* Sure, I'll help you. I've raped some kids myself. Good money in it."
Folks who see it this way have either been on the ACORN side of the table or have enough empathy to put themselves in those shoes or they view the situation as the paradigm shift that it is without regard to socio-economic ... I hesitate to say 'stereotypes' or 'prejudices' because those have such negative connotations and I don't mean this in the pejorative ... let's say 'environmental/background cues.'

See - if you're seeing this in the latter case than your understanding of the situation is that ACORN as a social justice organization will have a tendency to obey the law.
That is - ACORN as an instrument, without regard for its constituents.

In the former cases the emphasis is those cues - these are poor black people, this is a monolithic organization in opposition to individual effort, etc. - whatever the political/social cast.
dios' assertions are a bit tangential - in that his focus was more on how it was executed and so the emphasis is on the mechanics and the process of revelation. They're derivative from some of those information sets though, so while I'm not addressing his argument as to whether this was well done purely as a matter of execution (although I'd be forced to admit it has had an effect), the point on presumptions still holds.

And one glaring presumption (in the manner in which this was done) is that some people can't compete on a level playing field and have to break the law and/or advise others on how to break the law.
Furthermore - that organizing in a way other than for profit is suspect. Or rather - no one organizes (or incorporates) unless there's something 'in it' for them.

In contrast to this presumption is ...and admittedly it's a presumption as well... that it is not the thing in itself that is the 'profit.' That is - there's nothing being hidden there, one does not seek freedom for its own sake but this is not a hypocrisy. One must want something then seek the freedom to do it.

That the thing one wants is not directly money, or that it is an abstract concept such as 'equality' or 'equal opportunity' does not mean that a given organization is not altruistic - or that altruism in large organizations can't or doesn't exist.

So, in a manner of speaking, certain forms of the American dream are at odds here.

And while I tend to champion certain conservative causes, it's always been American institutions that I've sought to conserve. And I've never had any taste for elitism of any kind. No matter how successful. Or even when it's been in a righteous cause.

Were I an investigative journalist I would not have predicated my investigation on being a pimp or child pornographer. I would have relied on inquiring into more substantive crimes and revealing organizational flaws.
I would have looked for conspiracy within the system. I would not have used cultural prejudice by implication.
So I see no righteousness in this.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:13 PM on September 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Videotaping may have violated state criminal statutes.
posted by ericb at 3:15 PM on September 17, 2009


Police report filed by ACORN exposes false claims by individuals behind videos
"In recent days, Hannah Giles and James O'Keefe, the conservative filmmakers who made the widely circulated ACORN videos, as well as Andrew Breitbart and Mike Flynn, who have been promoting the videos for BigGovernment.com, have claimed that the filmmakers were never rebuffed by any of the ACORN offices they visited in their attempts to get ACORN to assist them in improper activities. However, in a newly released video, ACORN Housing Corp.'s Katherine Conway Russell directly rebuts those claims, citing a police report ACORN filed as evidence that she asked the filmmakers to leave the ACORN office in Philadelphia and called the police after the filmmakers asked suspicious questions."
posted by ericb at 3:16 PM on September 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Giles is the daughter of conservative "Christian youth leader" Doug Giles...

He is also the senior pastor at the Clash Church (Aventura, Fla.).
posted by ericb at 3:23 PM on September 17, 2009


I can honestly say that I am not at all familiar with BigGovernment.com ...

Perchance since it only launched last week?
posted by ericb at 3:30 PM on September 17, 2009


"[Hannah Giles] ... is also the daughter of self-promoting hoohaa and Aventura pastor Doug Giles of Clash Church and Clash Radio. One of the senior Giles' many motivational tomes, The Bulldog Attitude, is sold on Amazon.com. Writes one reviewer of Pastor Giles' self-help advice: 'The bulldog attitude translates into an intolerant attitude towards everyone else who isn't on the same page.'

Shall we speculate here about how much of this message the younger Giles may have absorbed from her daddy? The too-hip-for-thou Clash Church appears to have been founded by a pubescent marketing firm hopped up on Coca-Cola and thrash metal: 'An energetic church that meets you right where you are' goes the tag line. Daddy Giles appears in sunglasses and open-necked shirt against a background of garage band, mouthing inanities about the devil in a voice evidently modeled on The Big Bopper. Everything -- from Daddy Doug's three-minute video chants to any of his many self-published books -- is for sale in the online church store.

Looks like Hannah G is a chip off the old mutt."*
posted by ericb at 3:34 PM on September 17, 2009


So, the next time the NYT "breaks" a story from a "freelancer" should we assume they actually paid said "freelancer" to manufacture the "story". After all the NYT does have a reputation for making shit up.

If you'd be so good as to actually READ the article you linked us to, you could see that the New York Times FIRED Jayson Blair when they discovered that he was "making shit up." And we here on MeFi prompted another instance of the New York Times pulling work when they found out a freelancer had manufactured it. I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound like the actions of an institution who has a "reputation" for "making shit up" or "Manufacturing" the "story".

Incidentaly, excessive "quotes" don't make what you're "saying" look all "cute" or "witty". They just make "you" look "annoying as all hell."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:54 PM on September 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


C'mon guys, dios is right about how brilliant a move it was. They were several steps ahead of ACORN and knew what their standard PR responses would be. They deftly revealed their cards one by one as ACORN was reeling. I mean really guys, think back to the GiveWell fiasco: the guy got caught and offered a BS apology. Then ya'll found more, and the piling on really started. Or Edgar Martins' response that tried to limit his response to the housing images while other older photoshops were being found in the meanwhile.

ACORN really needs to get its PR act together. It's incredibly difficult managing that many loosely-affiliated people. You just can't issue denials and attacks when you don't have the whole story. Yes, the kids probably got caught in other offices, so what? Be calm, recognize that it's a real goddam issue to people, and 'look into it.' With the voter registration fraud, they almost immediately went on the attack, claiming that the people who have issues with it are just trying to disenfranchise the poor. Yes, the accusations spun into the wild claims of voter fraud. Yes, they caught it themselves. The fact remained there was voter registration fraud under their watch. Man the fuck up. Admit to it, and make clear what did and did not happen. Promise to punish the wrong-doers, and to further strengthen policies. ACORN has become a target specifically because it overlooks these things, and insults the people who point it out instead of just trying to get back to their work. They enjoy the spotlight too much. And these kids played them exactly right.

Also, who the hell gets punk'd (since yea, that's all it was) by these obviously preppy kids? I've never seen such a healthy-looking street walker. To the lady who joked along with it: You don't do that. I mean yea, I laughed. But stoppit, you're at work. Don't claim fear of violence afterward, either.

And I guarantee that the O'Keefe dude is playing with semantics about not being kicked out of other offices. Either "kicked out" or "other" are going to be the keywords. The police reports mention that they left before police arrived, so they'll say whatever they want.
posted by FuManchu at 4:38 PM on September 17, 2009


Incidentaly, excessive "quotes" don't make what you're "saying" look all "cute" or "witty". They just make "you" look "annoying as all hell."

I take it you're upset with me. Be that as it may when someone asked if there was evidence you posted a reply full of nothing more than innuendo and reading between the lines and claimed that to be the story behind the story. I would quote you directly but I don't want to upset you further by using additional quotation marks.

As for the NYT, you can see how someone could say that can't you? While I'm on the NYT let's look at what could be inferred from the two incidents cited in your last post.

A) The NYT does not fact check it's articles therefore the veracity of it's articles are suspect.

or

B) The NYT does fact check it's articles but does a really shitty job of it therefore the veracity of it's articles are suspect.

or


C) The NYT does fact check it's articles but publishes fabrications anyway therefore the veracity of it's articles are suspect.

and

The fact that the NYT fired two writers for fabricating stories is meaningless. They got caught out and had to make some face saving moves.

I'm not bashing The NYT but trying to make a point (and apparently doing a piss poor job of it).
posted by MikeMc at 4:42 PM on September 17, 2009


or

D) The NYT does fact check and does a very good job, but intentional fabrication of relatively minor details is difficult to catch. However, once the fabrication is exposed, they do a thorough investigation of all the reporter's stories and publish corrections.
posted by electroboy at 5:17 PM on September 17, 2009


Sorry, I jumped the gun. My apologies to buggzee23.

No apology necessary, my intent in that post was about as clear as mud.
posted by buggzzee23 at 5:36 PM on September 17, 2009


I'm not bashing The NYT but trying to make a point (and apparently doing a piss poor job of it).

Making a series of suppositiosn without researching the subject, all of them tinged with moral condescension, and then behaving as though these are the only options, they are consistent throughout a very large paper, and the paper's enormous and immediate response was based in ass covering rather than a genuine desire to root out the truth and resolve the problem? You're not just doing a piss poor job of making your case, you've slipped into actively slandering thousands of honest workers merely because of their affiliation, by employment, to a few bad apples.

Which, come to think of it, is the case against ACORN as well.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:44 PM on September 17, 2009


Considering their funding has been cut, it seems ACORN has nothing to lose by taking O'Keefe and FOX News to court. I'd donate money to ACORN's legal fund, if it did. The discovery proceedings would be enlightening, outlining in more detail how the GOP organizes and funds its smear campaigns and astroturfing. I wouldn't be surprised if a commenter or two in this thread alone receives money or other fringe benefits in exchange for astroturfing on the GOP's behalf.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:02 PM on September 17, 2009


FOX News punk'd by ACORN.

Here's an example of the "utterly brilliant gorilla journalists" dios so admires being interviewed by Sean Hannity:

Hannity: Did you ever check to see if in fact she (Kaelke) had a husband that was killed?

[ACORN volunteer Tresa Kaelke allegedly claimed to have killed her husband. The San Bernardino police concluded, “the claims do not appear to be factual. Investigators have been in contact with the involved party’s known former husbands, who are alive and well.”]

Giles: We’re working on that.
Hannity: You haven’t gotten to the details on that.
Breitbart: Look, there’s so much stuff coming in ...
Hannity: In fairness, she could have just been --
Breitbart: She certainly does exist and if you look on the internet, you can see that she’s also involved in the other side of ACORN. So she is a community organizer in the political sense ...
Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. "We're working on that." Someone "confessed" a murder to this trio and they reported it when they had no idea if that confession was remotely true or not. Giles, O'Keefe, and Breitbart aren't exactly Woodward, Bernstein, and Bradlee. They're more like Boris Badenov, Natasha Fatale, and Fearless Leader.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:26 AM on September 18, 2009 [2 favorites]



...Vera was secretly filmed on Aug. 18 as part of a young couple's high-profile expose
.

Police say he contacted law enforcement two days later. The detective consulted another police official who served on a federal human smuggling task force, who said he needed more details.

The ACORN employee responded several days later and explained that the information he received was not true and he had been duped.

Vera was fired on Thursday.
posted by verb at 9:07 AM on September 23, 2009


Acorn video guy financed by conservative billionaire Peter Thiele.
posted by ericb at 9:40 AM on September 23, 2009


I'm in favor of Peter Thiel's involvement meriting a front page post.

As it happens I went to school with O'Keefe and one of the sources for this new wrinkle in the story and think that it deserves a lot of consideration—along with the questions about the editing of the footage.
posted by ProfLinusPauling at 1:55 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Isn't Thiel's involvement restricted to a previous project, though, not this one?
posted by verb at 2:31 PM on September 23, 2009


verb: "Isn't Thiel's involvement restricted to a previous project, though, not this one?"

I don't know, have you seen their bank statements? Because that's the only thing I'd trust.
posted by mullingitover at 7:05 PM on September 23, 2009


NBC Nightly News: ACORN video ‘pimp’: Activist or agitator? [video | 02:42].
posted by ericb at 7:35 PM on September 23, 2009


NBC Nightly News: ACORN video ‘pimp’: Activist or agitator? [video | 02:42].

See, this is why I can't be a news reporter. I would have clocked him about 3 minutes into the interview. "I consider myself a progressive radical" indeed.
posted by Deathalicious at 4:35 AM on September 24, 2009


ACORN Sues Makers Of Pimp And Prostitute Video.
posted by ericb at 8:29 AM on September 24, 2009


As a followup, mentioned by ericb, ACORN has in fact sued Breitbart and the "filmmakers".

Note that Fox is not a named defendent. This is probably because limiting their litigation to private citizens avoids bringing down the unholy legal wrath of News Corp, Fox's parent company, which is unlikely to take this sort of thing sitting down. Neither Breitbart nor the kids who made these videos is going to have a multi-million dollar defense budget, so they're much, much easier targets.

Way to stick it to the man, ACORN.
posted by valkyryn at 9:20 AM on September 24, 2009


Anti-ACORN Bill Ropes In Defense Contractors, Others Charged With Fraud

Jeremy Scahill: ACORN Got Pennies Compared to War Contracting Firms- Their Crimes Pale in Comparison
posted by homunculus at 8:26 AM on September 27, 2009


Anti-ACORN Bill Ropes In Defense Contractors, Others Charged With Fraud

LOLLAWMAKERS
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:36 AM on September 28, 2009


Ha ha. Sounds like they accidentally did something real.
posted by Artw at 9:05 AM on September 28, 2009


"Oops, we accidentally teh Military-industrial complex."
posted by Deathalicious at 8:05 AM on September 29, 2009


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