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Investigate ACORN, Now!

A new video recording and transcript have surfaced that raise deeply troubling questions about the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). Law enforcement authorities must investigate this matter immediately, and Congress needs to de-fund ACORN and exclude it from all government programs until this investigation is complete.

On September 10, the news Web site Big Government broke a story that could be a turning point for ACORN. A video recording has surfaced in which two people go undercover, posing as a prostitute and a "friend" looking for housing.

The people they go to see identify themselves in the recording as being affiliated with ACORN in Baltimore. These undercover persons slowly reveal that they're involved in prostitution and are seeking ACORN's help in obtaining a house in which to put thirteen underage El Salvadoran girls, and turn the house into a brothel. Shockingly, the individuals who say they are from ACORN go on to explain how to go about doing these things, even advising the "prostitute" that she could claim three of these girls as "family members" on her taxes to claim a deduction.

Over the past few years, individuals associated with ACORN have been charged or convicted of commiting various voter-fraud crimes. If this tape is authentic, then depending on the applicable law in Maryland, these ACORN individuals could be charged with conspiracy counts for tax evasion, housing fraud, and even exploiting underage children.

The ACORN high command always denies any knowledge of wrongdoing; it's always some "rogue element" (though there seem to be a lot of rogues in ACORN). But crimes of this nature are so serious that an investigation is needed to find out who knew what about this situation.

First, there needs to be an investigation by the local prosecutor and the Maryland attorney general. Although the underage prostitutes in this situation did not exist, the video shows the housing workers appearing to be quite nonchalant, considering the information (and telling the undercover reporters that they do not "judge" them and that the nineteen-year-old who claimed to be a prostitute should feel good about making something out of herself), so much so that you have to wonder what other situations they've been involved with in the past.

Second, there needs to be a federal criminal investigation. The tape shows people who are willing to work with this undercover couple in a possible (depending on the applicable law in that jurisdiction) conspiracy to commit tax fraud, to defraud federal housing programs, and possibly violate the Mann Act in transporting minors across state lines for sexual purposes.

Finally, there should be a congressional investigation. House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers had earlier expressed an interest in holding hearings about ACORN. It would seem that the time has come to hold those hearings.

This is needed both because of the role ACORN currently plays with the federal government, and also with the future role that they are being considered for. 

Right now ACORN is heavily involved in voter-registration programs, especially in inner cities. ACORN is also involved in federal programs to find housing for low-income people and receives federal taxpayer money for this public service.

(As an aside, they were also, perhaps, the foremost actors in coercing banks to make housing loans under the Community Reinvestment Act to people who could not qualify for those loans. The cascading defaults on those mortgages are what burst the housing bubble, dragging down the financial stocks and causing the stock market crash.)

But, most importantly, heavy lobbying is going on in Washington to give ACORN a leading role in the 2010 national census. ACORN workers would be going door-to-door, collecting information on people within their homes and reporting the number of people in each home.

Those numbers are used to redraw every congressional and state legislative race across the country. If certain heavily Democratic urban areas were over-counted because of fraudulent numbers, it would eliminate some Republican elected seats and replace them with Democratic seats.

ACORN's current role is unacceptable if they are involved in any of the things shown by this video recording --to say nothing of expanding their role to entrust the census to them!

And this is just one incident in Baltimore. Are there other incidents that have been unfolding across the country? Does ACORN's senior leadership have knowledge of any such incidents?
Again, we need investigations.

ACORN has gotten away with too much for too long. If this tape is genuine, then it shows extremely serious criminal activity perpetrated by some ACORN individuals. It's time to get to the bottom of this.

Ken Klukowski is a fellow and senior legal analyst with the American Civil Rights Union. Ken Blackwell served as the Ohio Secretary of State and Co-Chairman of the Year 2000 Census Monitoring Board.

To view the videotape of the incident in Baltimore on the biggovernment.com Web site and for more on this story, click here.