Published September 17, 2009
Prosecutors in Brooklyn plan to speak with the filmmaker who taped videos of ACORN workers advising about how to evade tax and housing laws, and will decide whether any criminal charges should be filed against the community organizing group, FOX News learned Thursday.
Investigators for Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes are making plans to speak with Filmmaker James O'Keefe about the undercover tape he and freelance journalist Hannah Giles made at the ACORN Housing office in Brooklyn, one of five videos recorded at ACORN offices around the country.
Prosecutors with the Rackets Division say they want to review the tapes to determine whether any possible criminal charges may be filed against the workers seen in the tapes giving advice to O'Keefe and Giles, who were posing as a pimp and a prostitute. The two were consulted about how to hide money earned in their prostitution ring and get federal funding with ACORN's help to buy a house that would serve as their brothel.
At least 20 states are now investigating fraud and potential voting regularities by the taxpayer-backed group. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced a state probe of ACORN late Wednesday.
The latest video, released Wednesday on FOX News, appears to show an ACORN worker in San Diego offering to help bring underage girls into the United States to turn tricks. The previous videos show O'Keefe and Giles in various conversations on how to hide their prostitution "ring" involving foreign, underage girls from federal authorities.
The videos released so far -- filmed in Baltimore, Washington D.C., Brooklyn, San Diego and San Bernardino, Calif. -- have led to the firing of four workers, an investigation by the Brooklyn D.A. and the termination of a nationwide partnership with the Census Bureau to participate in next year's decennial headcount.
The House on Thursday voted 345-75 to strip all federal funding from ACORN. The Senate on Monday voted overwhelming to block the federal Housing and Urban Development Department from providing funding to the group.
The White House signed off on the Census Bureau ending its partnership with ACORN, the first sign of evidence that the Obama administration is taking a closer look at ACORN and the federal funding it receives and perhaps beginning to distance itself.
Candidate Barack Obama paid ACORN $800,000 for its voter registration services during the presidential campaign and said at the time that the group could have a seat at the organizing table.
The release of the latest video came on the same day that ACORN announced the launch of an "internal review" to examine all the systems and processes called into question by the videos. In addition, ACORN won't accept new admissions into its community service programs, effective immediately, and within the next few days will conduct staff training, the group's chief executive, Bertha Lewis, said in a written statement.
However, Lewis told ABC News that all the negative attention is a "modern day form of McCarthyism" and said ACORN's efforts help make sure "poor people, young people, minorities are participating in this democracy."
"There is an undertone of racism here. I think they're basically saying these people shouldn't be trusted, how could they be trusted? You know, they're all poor black and brown people," Lewis said.
But any effort to appear constructive may be too late to contain the damage.
On Wednesday Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty ordered his agencies to stop all state funding to ACORN, unless it was illegal to do so. Schwarzenegger also sent a letter to Attorney General Jerry Brown asking his office to look into ACORN's activities, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday. The attorney general's office will review the videos and investigate or refer the matter to the local district attorney if it is believed there is any wrongdoing, Brown spokesman Scott Gerber said.
ACORN fired back at Minnesota, saying neither it nor its affiliates receive any funding from that state.
A federal investigation might be next.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signed on to recent calls for investigations into the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, saying Thursday that the advocacy group with a history of legal troubles is ripe for a review.
"Any group needs to have scrutiny that is applied to it," Pelosi said at her weekly briefing with Capitol Hill reporters. "It is totally unacceptable and inexcusable in my view. Hundreds of people have embarrassed ACORN. We have to have our own investigation. It's up to the (House) Appropriations Committee to scrutinize them."
Several Republican senators also are asking the FBI to step in and investigate not just possible criminal activities but also whether ACORN itself is a criminal enterprise.
FBI Director Robert Mueller said Wednesday that he had only recently heard about the ACORN videos but that given the preliminary information, it is the type of thing that the FBI and Justice Department "would look at."
Republican lawmakers are also urging the Internal Revenue Service to sever ties with group. The IRS partners with ACORN to assist the poor with free tax preparation.
In a written statement, the IRS said it has partnered with hundreds of community and volunteer organizations to provide free tax assistance.
"We are aware of recent events, and we are conducting a thorough review of our relationship with ACORN," the IRS said.
FOX News' Molly Henneberg, Major Garrett and Eric Shawn and FOXNews.com's Stephen Clark contributed to this report.