Published September 10, 2009
Officials with the controversial community organizing group ACORN were secretly videotaped offering to assist two individuals posing as a pimp and a prostitute, encouraging them to lie to the Internal Revenue Service and providing guidance on how to claim underage girls from South America as dependents.
The videotape was made public Thursday on BigGovernment.com, a political blog launched by Andrew Breitbart as a companion site to his BigHollywood.breitbart.com blog.
In the videotape, made on July 24, James O'Keefe, a 25-year-old independent filmmaker, posed as a pimp with a 20-year-old woman named "Kenya" who posed as a prostitute while visiting ACORN's office in Baltimore. The couple told ACORN staffers they wanted to secure housing where the woman could continue to maintain a prostitution business.
ACORN — the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now — bills itself as the nation's largest community of low- and moderate-income families "working together for social justice and stronger communities," according to its Web site. The organization has been accused by Republicans and conservative activists with fraud in voter registration drives around the country and has been under fire since last year for its support of President Obama and for its planned participation in next year's census.
A spokesman for ACORN, Scott Levenson, when asked to comment on the videotape, said: "The portrayal is false and defamatory and an attempt at gotcha journalism. This film crew tried to pull this sham at other offices and failed. ACORN wants to see the full video before commenting further."
On the videotape, "Kenya" can be seen telling an ACORN staffer that she earns roughly $8,000 a month. The ACORN employee then suggests to "Kenya" that ACORN could submit a tax return for 2008 showing that she made $9,600 for the entire year — instead of $96,000 — and that ACORN would charge "Kenya" $50 instead of the usual $150 fee for preparing her taxes.
ACORN offers tax preparation and benefits application services free of charge during tax season; it charges nominal fees during non-tax season.
The ACORN staffer can also be seen suggesting that the prostitute list her occupation as a freelance "performing artist."
"It's not dancing, trust me," the "pimp" says.
"But dancing is considered an art," the ACORN staffer replies. "[Exotic dancers] usually go under performing artists, or yeah, they usually go under performing arts, which will be what you are — a performing artist."
The "pimp" later says that he and "Kenya" plan to bring up to 13 "very young" girls from El Salvador to work as prostitutes. Although an ACORN staffer points out their plans are illegal, she also suggests that the girls can be claimed as dependents.
"What if they are going to be making money because they are performing tricks too?" the pimp says.
"If they making money and they are underage, then you shouldn't be letting anybody know anyway," the ACORN staffer says, and laughs. "It's illegal. So I am not hearing this, I am not hearing this. You talk too much. Don't give up no information you're not asked."
The "pimp" then asks ACORN staffers to "promise" not to discriminate against his sex worker because of "who she is and what she does," according to the audiotape.
"If we don't have the information, then how are we going to discriminate?" the ACORN staffer replies. "You see what I am saying?"
If the girls are under age 16, the ACORN staffer says on the tape, then they are not legally allowed to work in the state, regardless of what they do.
"So it's like they don't even exist?" "Kenya" asks.
"Exactly," the ACORN staffer replies. "It's like they don't even exist."
The staffer goes on to suggest that as many as three of the underage girls can be listed as dependents at the home, but a "flag" will be raised if as many as 13 are listed.
"You are gonna use three of them," the staffer says. "They are gonna be under 16, so you is eligible to get child tax credit and additional child tax credit."
The ACORN workers also appear to be promoting the group's services to the "pimp" and "Kenya."
A second ACORN employee can be heard on the audiotape suggesting that the couple join the organization for an annual cost of $120 prior to attending one of its first-time homebuyer seminars, which are underwritten with taxpayer funds.
Later, when the "pimp" asks what would happen if the organization is somehow connected to the scheme, the ACORN staffer replies, "First of all, it's not gonna damage us because we not gonna know. And with your girls, you tell them, 'Be careful.' Train them to keep their mouth shut."
"These girls are like 14, how can we trust them?" the pimp asks.
"Just be very, very careful," the ACORN staffer says. "Whatever you do, always keep your eyes in the back of your head."
Reached by FOX News, O'Keefe said he was "shocked" at the level of assistance provided by ACORN staffers.
"I was prepared for them to call the police, throw me out of the office and be hostile," he said. "Without hesitation, they helped me every way they could with evading taxes and setting me up with a brothel, with getting around federal tax laws — doing everything they could to help us. I was completely shocked."
House Republicans issued a report in July accusing ACORN of engaging in a scheme to use taxpayer money to support a partisan political agenda. California Rep. Darrell Issa, the top Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, called for a criminal investigation into the group, which dismissed the report as a "partisan attack job."