This week, video blogger and conservative activist James O’Keefe released videos of two successful undercover investigations carried on this summer where he went to ACORN offices, one in Baltimore and one in the District of Columbia, and found the employees eager to assist him in committing and covering up multiple crimes, including tax fraud, prostitution, human trafficking and defrauding the federal government.
In both cases, O’Keefe presented himself as a pimp and his associate Hannah Giles as a prostitute looking for assistance in qualifying to purchase a house to use as a brothel to which they would be bringing underage Salvadoran girls smuggled into the country illegally to work as prostitutes. The ACORN workers seemed completely unsurprised when confronted with this scenario and in both cases gave him extensive advice on how to conceal profits from the illegal business, how to avoid paying taxes for their underage sex workers, how to keep from being harassed by the police and other pimps, how to launder money from prostitution and how to obtain public assistance for underage sexworkers claimed as dependents. They were even willing to fill out fraudulent tax forms for him.
O’Keefe’s presentation of his intent was completely unambiguous, repeatedly referring to the business as prostitution, leaving no room for any claim that the ACORN workers didn’t know what they were discussing. O’Keefe also presented himself as a law student with political ambitions and got excellent advice from the ACORN staff on how to distance himself from the prostitution business to protect his reputation for his future political career.
Major media outlets had been largely ignoring this story until today’s announcement that the Census Bureau would not be following through on a plan to use ACORN workers as data gatherers, specifically because of this scandal. O’Keefe’s work is now getting considerably exposure, but some outlets like the New York Times remain strangely silent on exactly why the Census Bureau decided to fire ACORN. This scandal may also have repercussions for the allocation of federal funds from the federal Stimulus plan to ACORN.
As is standard practice at ACORN the workers implicated in the videos have been fired, but no one in management will be held accountable. In an ironic twist, O’Keefe may face charges in Maryland for making the videos without the consent of the subjects.
With the mainstream media facing budget cuts because of shrinking subscriber bases they are doing a lot less investigative journalism. O’Keefe’s work may signal a new frontier in citizen journalism which could fill that gap, though clearly there are risks involved.
The following videos of the two undercover investigations are heavily edited compared to versions released earlier, but provide a concise and effective summary of events leaving little question about the intent of the ACORN workers.