ACORN is once again in the news. This time it is because two employees were taped giving advice about prostitution and how to evade the IRS. ACORN was last in the news because of concerns about fraudulent voter registration.
The video was created by conservative activists posing as a pimp and a prostitute. The employees in question are said to be seasonal, part time employees and not ACORN officials.
Obviously, the fact that the employees were willing to give such advice is a matter of concer. However, the implications of this video must be properly considered.
First, while the employees were ACORN employees, there is the question of whether or not they presented ACORN’s actual views on prostitution. It seems that they did not, since they were fired for unprofessional behavior. Also, there were several attempts to run the same sting at other ACORN offices that failed. As such, the most reasonable inference is that the employees acted on their own and revealed their own ethical views rather than those of ACORN itself. To think otherwise would be fall victim to a rather hasty generalization. This would be on par with thinking that all Republicans commit adultery because of that governor’s little “walk along the Appalachian trail” or to conclude that all Republicans are uninformed and rude because of Joe Wilson’s actions.
Of course, it does show that ACORN probably needs to work a bit on how it screens its employees. After all, ACORN had problems with part time employees who provided fraudulent voter registration forms. ACORN officials, it must be noted, were the ones who informed the government about the irregularities in question. If they had been involved in a plot, they would have hardly brought these problems to the attention of officials.
Second, there is the question of how “honest” the video actually is. The video has been edited and fades to black in some areas, leading one to wonder about the whole story. The Daily Show illustrates how a little creative editing can change how something appears, so that is something that should be kept in mind. Of course, it should also be kept in mind that the video might have simply been edited on reasonable grounds and that it does show events in an honest and accurate way.
So, what does the available evidence support? The most reasonable conclusion is that the ACORN employees acted on their own and do not represent ACORN’s official views. In light of the problems ACORN has had in the past, it does show that ACORN should review its hiring practices. Of course, even the best hiring practices can let in bad apples.
It should not be concluded that ACORN is itself for prostitution or in support of evading the IRS. Now, if the video had shown ACORN policy makers offering such advice, then the matter would be quite different. But, the evidence needed to show that ACORN has a policy of advising prostitutes and pimps is lacking.
Sometimes though, the aggregate of bad employees forms a parrallel system that overtakes the written rules and official policy, such as in Abu Graib or even Frat house hazing. That parrallel system can become more defining than the “real” system, corrupting everyone to the point that the whole organization is rotten. Happend with New Orleans PD, too.
I think this is the case with ACORN. Th organization needs to be liquified.
Michael LaBossiere says
If there is evidence of such systemic problems, then I agree that ACORN needs to be cleansed.
While the entire episode is actually quite laughable, I would imagine that these two individuals are now history at ACORN. I would not label any organization that has done as much as ACORN has for Democracy, as a failure, based on just two people.
But when I think about it, are people really that gullible that they would even think of giving advice on such a preposterous idea? Evidently, I guess so. I still think it’s hilarious…which doesn’t say much for the intelligence of the ‘planted’ spies! Jus’ sayin’!
Jay Kay says
More employees were fired in DC for doing the same thing. But I am sure that ACORN is really a good organization. It’s just a few bad apples…
Michael LaBossiere says
If ACORN has a systemic problem with giving pimping advice (although, as we all know, pimping is not easy) then there needs to be an investigation. If this sort of thing is limited to a few lower end employees, then it is a problems that ACORN needs to address at that level. After all, to condemn a large organization based on the misdeeds of a few employees (who are not in charge) would be a mistake. Now, if ACORN has an organizational policy of pimp support, then the police need to get involved.
Michael LaBossiere says
I wondered about that myself. After all, a person would have to be a bit dim to start talking about illegal activities with some folks they just met.
T. J. Babson says
James O’Keefe is hilarious. Here he is trying to get Lucky Charms banned from his campus because they negatively stereotype Irish people. Priceless.
T. J. Babson says
As far as I can tell, ACORN hires people from the inner city and gives them money for each new voter they sign up. And then they are “shocked, shocked” that a lot of those “new voters” are fraudulent.
Maybe I am being too harsh. After all, what’s a little voter fraud as long as you mean well?
Michael LaBossiere says
Yes, that is a serious flaw in their payment system. They should go with an hourly wage and keep people based on how well they complete proper registrations. To be fair to ACORN, they do review the forms and the ACORN officials were the ones to raise concerns about the fraudulent forms.
Actually from my knowledge, they were paid by the hour. Or at least the ones where I worked were.
As I first watched the Baltimore Acorn video I thought, “Oh this can not be real”. 13 and 15 year old girls into a life of sex slavery – and of all people, African American workers are helping to make it happen! But then as I saw the faces of these workers I realized that if they were acting they should be getting an Oscar because they were totally convincing. I have called and my senators, governor, and the President Obama. No matter where you stand on politics – 13 AND 15 YEAR OLD GIRLS BROUGHT TO AMERICA TO HAVE THEIR LIVES – I CAN’T EVEN SAY IT – AND THE WORKERS DIDN’T EVEN BAT AN EYE. By the way, this “they failed in other ACORN branches” defense just doesn’t wash. With the Washington Branch Video now being reported the ice starts to get a bit thinner for this argument.
Looking at ACORN’s webpage, I found a posting by Bertha Lewis, ACORN’s chief organizer.
It reads like something written by Lenin.
The relentless attacks on ACORN’s members, its staff and the policies and positions we promote are unprecedented. An international entertainment conglomerate, disguising itself as a “news” agency (Fox), has expended millions, if not tens of millions of dollars, in their attempt to destroy the largest community organization of Black, Latino, poor and working families in the country. It is not coincidence that the most recent attacks have been launched just when health care reform is gaining traction. It is clear they’ve had these tapes for months.
We are their Willy Horton for 2009. We are the boogeyman for the right-wing and its echo chambers. If ACORN did not exist, the right-wing would have needed to create us in order to achieve their agenda, their missions, their ideal, retrograde America. This recent scam, which was attempted in San Diego, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia to name a few places, had failed for months before the results we’ve all recently seen. I am appalled and angry; I cannot and I will not defend the actions of the workers depicted in the video, who have since been terminated. But it is clear that the videos are doctored, edited, and in no way the result of the fabricated story being portrayed by conservative activist “filmmaker” O’Keefe and his partner in crime. And, in fact, a crime it was – our lawyers believe a felony – and we will be taking legal action against Fox and their co-conspirators.
We will not be intimidated by this international conglomerate, which has made as its mission the destruction of our organization. ACORN members are committed to the empowerment of their communities – Black, Latino, poor, and working families – at the deepest level. We are an organization committed to halting the foreclosure crisis and keeping people in their homes. We are an organization committed to ensuring quality, affordable health care for every American. We are an organization that will not be stopped in our commitment to our members and our communities which has included:
Helping hundreds of thousands of African-American and Latino voters register to vote and get to the polls in recent years;
Preparing, since 2004, approximately 150,000 free tax returns totaling $190 million in refunds and increased earned income tax credit participation;
Providing effective foreclosure prevention advocacy saving thousands of American families from losing their homes to foreclosure.
Say what you will about Ms. Bertha and ACORN, but as a WASP, I am extremely proud of their fantastic achievements, and can only wish them much more success in their future.
I suppose we could cast aside the entire organization on the basis of two or more bad apples, but then we would have a one-party Democratic Party in control of our country. Neither possibility is acceptable.
I have a history and government major and my background would hardly describe Ms. Lewis’ position as Lenin and/or Communist rhetoric.
Simma dawn, Baby. You sweat the small stuff too much.
I’m noticing a pattern forming.
How many bad apples? Here is another….
Let us not forget their involvement in voter fraud for the last 3 presidential elections and a few elections in between.
..and what is this? A non partisan group being involved on one side of a political issue?
What do we give them money for? All they seem to do is try and strengthen the Dems’ power base at any cost.
Oh, and what about Acorn members being paid to go to town hall meetings to show support against regular citizens(unpaid that is) and in some cases to intimidate them after meetings were over at their very homes?
This cancerous tumor of an organization should just be gotten rid of.