Undercover videos threaten ACORN

PHILADELPHIA - September 17, 2009 For years, ACORN has advocated for poor people. Today, the nonprofit organization is the focus of undercover videos that show its workers giving advice to a couple, conservative film making activists, posing as a pimp and prostitute in search of housing to use as a brothel they'll staff with underage girls from El Salvador.

The activists videotaped in several cities around the country. They've released videos of ACORN workers reportedly offering them help. ACORN's CEO calls the workers actions indefensible and has fired the four seen in undercover videos. But she contends the edited tapes don't show what happened in most cases.

"Show the tapes where this doesn't work and also show the tapes at the end of the conversation where people said we really can't assist you," CEO Bertha Lewis said.

It seems that's what happened at a Philadelphia ACORN office.

"On July 24, we had the same two people come into our office dressed as a pimp and a prostitute," Carol Hemingway, Philadelphia ACORN President, said.

The local ACORN president says the couple tried to solicit help with tax returns. And when ACORN workers refused, the couple allegedly got belligerent and ACORN workers called police.

"We have a copy of the police report that was filed," Hemingway said.

ACORN is already under scrutiny for alleged voter registration fraud where some workers were accused of submitting some falsifying voter forms. The controversies have cost the nonprofit organization. The US Census has severed its relationship with ACORN.

The US Congress is considering cutting its funding. The House voted Thursday to deny all federal funds for ACORN in a GOP-led strike against the scandal-tainted community organizing group that comes just three days after the Senate took similar action.

"ACORN has violated serious federal laws, and today the House voted to ensure that taxpayer dollars would no longer be used to fund this corrupt organization," said second-ranked House Republican Eric Cantor of Virginia.

The vote, on a provision attached to a student aid bill, was 345-75, with Democrats supplying all the "no" votes.

On Monday the Senate voted 83-7 to deny housing and community grant funding to ACORN, which stands for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.

Republicans accelerated their attacks on the liberal-leaning group a year ago when ACORN, in conducting a massive voter registration drive, was accused of submitting some false registration forms.

The Senate and House initiatives to cut funding for ACORN won't take effect until the bills to which they are attached clear Congress and are signed by President Barack Obama. The Senate measure is attached to a fiscal 2010 spending bill.

"President Obama needs to indicate whether he'll sign this bill and join us in ending all taxpayer funds for this corrupt organization," House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio said after the vote.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs on Wednesday said the conduct seen on the tapes "is completely unacceptable." He said the Obama administration "takes accountability extremely seriously" and noted that the Census Bureau had determined that ACORN could not meet its goal for conducting a fair and accurate count next year.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a conference call with reporters, called the latest allegations against ACORN "horrible." However, she pointed out that ACORN has many honest employees and was conducting an internal investigation, and that it was up to House-Senate negotiators to determine whether the provision to cut funding would be in the final version of the bill.


The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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