On Wednesday, ACORN filed suit in Baltimore, Md., against James E. O’Keefe III and Hannah Giles, the two filmmakers who published their exposé of the community-organizing group on Andrew Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com. Following the news, Sen. Mike Johanns (R., Neb.) tells NRO that O’Keefe and Giles are “unbelievably courageous” for standing up to ACORN.
“Here are a couple of young people who stepped into an ACORN office. The employees in each of the offices that they visited simply had the option to say ‘get the heck out of here, that’s not what our organization is about,’” says Johanns. “It was these young filmmakers, because of their courage, who were able to reveal a whole different side of ACORN. They saw ACORN employees counsel about how to break the law.”
The duo’s videos, says Johanns, “are some of the most remarkable things I’ve ever seen in terms of exposing an entity that receives government funds. When I replay the clips today, I still find them shocking. I applaud them for their courage and feel so badly that ACORN decided to let it fly and sue them. Now, ACORN is trying to intimidate them just because they stood up and captured the truth about ACORN’s activities on camera.”
The suit, he adds, is “so typical of ACORN. This is an organization that decided to send missiles in someone else’s direction when the spotlight got too intense. I think that ACORN now has real problems. They’ll have a very difficult time convincing any jury. It comes down to this: The ACORN employees were caught doing things that are just outrageous. They’re going to have to convince the jury that notwithstanding the outrageous behavior, ACORN should be compensated. That argument doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.”
“I think the sympathy of the country is absolutely opposed to the lawsuit,” says Johanns. “It doesn’t help ACORN that though their employees got caught doing some very, very bad things, ACORN is now trying push the blame onto the people who discovered the it.”
ACORN, Johann says, doesn’t have many friends left on the Hill to come to their defense. “This group is very toxic. You don’t run into anyone who defends what they are doing. I can count the number of people who support ACORN on one hand. It’s not just about the videos — it’s about ACORN’s activities in the past, their history. Investigations are warranted and very important to see what this organization is about.”
For his part, Johanns is calling for the Government Accountability Office to investigate ACORN. On Wednesday, he sent them a letter saying that an investigation is needed “given the cloud of scrutiny that surrounds the organization.” It was signed by 20 members of the Senate. “We’re anxious for the GAO to say yes to this,” says Johanns. “Based on past experience, this is the kind of thing they look into.”
Johanns also applauded the Senate Appropriations Committee for taking action today to bar ACORN from receiving further federal funding. Johanns, as you may remember, gained notice last week for proposing an amendment to bar ACORN from receiving transportation and housing funds. That passed 83 to 7 in the Senate. Then, Johanns proposed another amendment to prohibit the group from receiving funding from the Interior Department. That was approved by a vote of 85 to 11. This week, the Internal Revenue Service announced that it would no longer include ACORN in its list of groups approved to offer free tax preparation.
“Senator Johanns has become the national leader in looking into the abuses of ACORN,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) tells us. “He’s gotten the public’s attention. ACORN is losing its support, even among Democrats, and it is clear that it needs a housecleaning. We will do all we can to support him.”