Lawyer Hired by ACORN Finds No Pattern of Illegal Conduct by Group's Staff

The high-profile lawyer hired to investigate ACORN has found no pattern of intentional illegal conduct in the community organizing group -- a finding that was dismissed as "damage control" by one of the two filmmakers who, posing as a pimp and prostitute, videotaped staffers offering advice on how to operate a brothel .

Former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger was commissioned by ACORN to produce the 47-page report, which suggested that the group remain focused on community organizing and hire an independent ethics officer to oversee an internal governance program already under way.

"We did not find a pattern of intentional, illegal conduct by ACORN staff involved; in fact, no action, illegal or otherwise, was ever taken by any ACORN employee on behalf of the videographers," Harshbarger said in a statement. "Instead, the videos represent the byproduct of ACORN's longstanding management weaknesses, including a lack of training, a lack of procedures and a lack of on-site supervision."

Filmmaker James O'Keefe, who posed as a pimp on the videos along with purported prostitute Hannah Giles, dismissed the report on Monday.

"They probably didn't find anything wrong because Harshbarger probably spent more time investigating me than ACORN," O'Keefe told "The videos speak for themselves, really. Just watch the videos, the content is all there. You'll see the illicit conduct on the videos."

O'Keefe said the report is part of the group's "damage control," and he said more videotape footage is forthcoming. He declined further comment.

The videos -- first obtained by -- depicted ACORN employees offering advice to O'Keefe and Giles on how to skirt tax laws and avoid detection by authorities while operating a brothel. Videos from ACORN offices in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Brooklyn, N.Y., San Diego and San Bernadino, Calif., led to the firing of four employees and the suspension of two others.

The undercover sting also prompted the IRS and the U.S. Census Bureau to sever all ties to the organization, which bills itself as the nation's largest grassroots organization of low- and moderate-income families. A criminal probe was also launched by the Kings County District Attorney's Office to investigate activities at ACORN's Brooklyn office.

The report by Harshbarger, who previously served as president of Common Cause, a national nonprofit citizens' lobby and governmental watchdog group, said the videos "feed the impression that ACORN believes it is above the law."

In a statement to, U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, called Harshbarger a "liberal Democratic partisan"and said the internal audit had no credibility.

"Only an independent criminal investigation conducted by the FBI can be trusted to get to the bottom of the allegations against ACORN," Smith's statement read. "Given ACORN's record of criminal conduct, the internal audit was far too limited in scope. The videos showing ACORN employees advising an undercover team on how to avoid detection when engaging in criminal conduct is just the tip of the iceberg."

Smith said ACORN is under investigation in more than a dozen states, most recently concerning allegations that the group targeted Republicans during the 2008 presidential election.

"These are the real crimes that need to be investigated," Smith continued. "To investigate only the undercover videos is ignoring the elephant in the room by looking at the flea. ACORN needs to clean house in order to clean up its act. ACORN must implement a nationwide, no tolerance policy, to ensure that no laws are broken, bent or ignored."

ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis called Harshbarger's report "part vindication, part constructive criticism and complete roadmap for the future" on behalf of "the interests of the communities we represent -- low- and moderate-income, African-American and Latino families."

But Kurt Bardella, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said the report "missed the boat" and accused the organization as masquerading as a political action committee.

"They missed the boat here," Bardella told "This report certainly spends much of its time to vindicate ACORN, but the indisputable fact still remains that ACORN to this day is guilty of taking taxpayer money and using [it] for political purposes."

Asked if the report exonerated the group, Bardella said, "Absolutely not. It was a report commissioned by ACORN. Of course it was going to be positive and favorable for ACORN. We will await the findings of legitimate investigations that will ultimately speak for themselves."