James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles, two guerilla documentarians, have accomplished what neither the Republican party’s sense of outrage nor the Democratic party’s sense of decency could: They have inspired the federal government to begin cutting its ties with ACORN, the shady “community activist” organization that helped bring Barack Obama to power.
The set-up was both risible and shocking. Mr. O’Keefe and Miss Giles, who look for all the world like young Republican country-clubbers dressed for a tasteless costume party, walked into a number of ACORN offices and managed to pass themselves off as a pimp and a prostitute. They informed ACORN staffers that they were looking to set up a whorehouse and to traffic some children into the country for the purposes of prostitution. ACORN’s official mission is to facilitate affordable housing and social services for low-income families, not to facilitate child trafficking, but the staffers responded with advice on getting on welfare, claiming their underage victims as dependents, evading law enforcement, cheating on their taxes, defrauding federal housing authorities, et cetera ad nauseam. One ACORN staffer advised Miss Giles to bury her illicit sex-trade earnings in a tin in her back yard.
Asked about housing assistance, an ACORN staffer explains: “Honesty is not going to get the house. That’s why you’ve probably been denied. . . . Don’t say you’re a prostitute thing or whatever.” Similar sagacity followed.
This was not a single, isolated incident. Mr. O’Keefe and Miss Giles took their chinchilla cape and hot pants, respectively, to a number of ACORN offices: in Baltimore, Washington, New York City. The results were similar for each outing. Mr. O’Keefe says there are more and yesterday released another video, of a California ACORN office.
The Census Bureau has severed its relationship with ACORN, and House Republicans are pressing the Internal Revenue Service to do the same. The Senate has voted to deny any future Housing and Urban Development funding to the organization. (Whether Nancy Pelosi’s House will follow suit is not yet known.) Somebody in Washington must be forced to answer this question: Why would any government agency have anything to do with this motley crew? Heads already are rolling at ACORN, and they should be rolling in the offices of the government agencies that approved these relationships. HUD is bad enough, but letting ACORN within spitting distance of the IRS bespeaks defective judgment. The group is deeply tapped into Washington: ACORN relies on government money for some 40 percent of its revenue, and that fact is a national disgrace.
President Obama’s ties to ACORN are of long standing and are widely documented. ACORN, which ran a number of voter-registration drives rife with fraud (Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck being two notable registrees, along with one Mr. Jive Turkey of Ohio) is at its core a political operation, one that was an important presence in Obama’s community-organizing days, as well as in his campaign. The organization has enjoyed a degree of political protection in Washington: Rep. Barney Frank was called upon by the Consumer Rights League to investigate ACORN in his role as an overseer of housing and mortgage matters. He refused to do so.
ACORN now alleges that the videotapes were altered — but they fired the employees in question, which does not suggest gross distortion or an innocent misunderstanding. As more videos come out, this story will get worse. Not that this story is a story so far as the mainstream media is concerned: Outside of Fox News, which aired the videos, the media has abdicated on ACORN coverage. This is the sort of sting video that used to be the bread-and-butter of 60 Minutes and other investigative television journalism. Now they look on the story with contempt; Charlie Gibson sneered that it was the sort of thing better left to “the cables.”
This is serious business — advising people how to defraud the government in furtherance of child prostitution and human trafficking — but it took two twentysomething documentarians to get it on our national radar. We’d argue that Congress should investigate, but who would be put in charge? Barney Frank? Nancy Pelosi? A blue-ribbon committee selected by President Obama? By their fruits (and nuts) ye shall know them.