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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
WEBCommentary Contributor
Author:  Michael J. Gaynor
Bio: Michael J. Gaynor
Date:  December 8, 2009
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Topic category:  Government/Politics

Infamous ACORN Apologists Celebrate Pearl Harbor Day With Whitewash for ACORN

Fittingly, the public relations report ordered by ACORN's current control group from the Proskauer firm was issued on December 7. It deserves to live infamy. But it should be read, in order to appreciate how ACORN apologists quibble about details in a transparent attempt to redirect attention from the big picture. Yes, James O'Keefe, the "Pimp" in the "Pimp and Pro" ACORN videos did not wear that coat when he visited ACORN offices and instead saved it for the B roll. But, theatrics aside, the videos showed that ACORN is hardly a benevolent organization worthy of either a tax exemption or taxpayer dollars. Of course, the report notes that surreptitious recording in six of the eight cities in which ACORN/ACORN Housing offices were visited apparently was illegal, but that demonstrates that the persons responsible for the videos risked criminal prosecution on multiple felony counts in perhaps four states in order to make the public aware of the truth about ACORN and does not undermine their truthfulness in the courtroom of public opinion.

The title of Big Government.com editor Mike Flynn's latest article--"Complete ACORN Whitewash Report: Nothing to See Here Folks, Move Along…We Have to Pass ObamaCare" (December 7, 2009)--suggested what is really important: stopping the implementation of the radical ACORN agenda headed by Obamacare. Doing that requires much more than embarrassing ACORN and reducing its funding. It requires putting the spotlight on ACORN political corruption, including ACORN's (1) ties to Obama, (2) illicit coordination with the Obama presidential campaign and (3) status as an unofficial arm of the Democrat Party, instead of the sensational, sexy "Pimp and Pro" ACORN sting strategized by BigGovernment.com publisher Andrew Breitbart and starring beautiful Hannah Giles, 20, as the scantily clad "Pro" and slender James O'Keefe, 25, as the "Pimp." Unfortunately, ACORN is successfully keeping the focus away from its political corruption and subversiveness.

On September 21, 2009, eleven days after the first video was released, the Proskauer firm was retained by the current leadership of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (“ACORN”) to:

"Conduct an independent inquiry into circumstances surrounding certain videos (the 'videos') filmed by two individuals in or around July 2009 at several ACORN office locations;

"Evaluate the management and governance reforms that ACORN’s new leadership (the 'reform leadership') has developed since June 2008 (when news surfaced of embezzlement by a relative of ACORN’s founder, Wade Rathke) and the effectiveness of ongoing efforts to implement those reforms; and

"Propose short- and long-term recommendations regarding ACORN management, oversight and governance."

The report's "Executive Summary" highlighted ACORN's desperate situation: "We were invited by ACORN to conduct an independent analysis not just of the videos that caused this summer’s uproar but also of the entire organization, its core weaknesses and inherent strengths. The hidden camera controversy is perceived by many as a third strike against ACORN on the heels of the disclosure in June 2008 of an embezzlement cover-up, which triggered the firing of ACORN’s founder, and the allegations of voter registration fraud during the 2008 election, done in collaboration with Project Vote. It erupted just as ACORN’s reform leadership was about to complete an ambitious and professionally directed organizational and cultural transformation designed to revisit its mission, reshape its scope and charter, and meet squarely its legal, governance and compliance responsibilities."

Does that strikes you as an "independent analysis"?

Predictably, Proskauer blamed only the "old" leadership for being overzealous and leaving ACORN embarrassed.

"The serious management challenges detailed in our report are the fault of ACORN’s founder and a cadre of leaders who, in their drive for growth, failed to commit the organization to the basic, appropriate standards of governance and accountability. As a result, ACORN not only fell short of living its principles but also left itself vulnerable to public embarrassment."

Anything about ACORN being subversive, corrupt and criminal?

No.

The report completely blamed the former leadership for what it called the "hidden camera controversy."

"This hidden camera controversy is an apt example. While some of the advice and counsel given by ACORN employees and volunteers was clearly inappropriate and unprofessional, we did not find a pattern of intentional, illegal conduct by ACORN staff; in fact, there is no evidence that action, illegal or otherwise, was taken by any ACORN employee on behalf of the videographers. 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."

The report looks forward and endorses...the people who ordered (and presumably paid for) the report!

"ACORN’s current leadership understands full well what must be done. If nothing else, the organization’s recent crisis and turmoil has educated its leadership and staff about the importance of prevention."

If the report's recommendations are followed...ALL SHOULD BE WELL!

"With our recommendations in hand, ACORN now has a roadmap for reform. Our experience tells us that these recommendations, acted on with a sense of urgency, are crucial to reclaim, maintain and strengthen ACORN’s ability to serve its members and constituents."

Those recommendation, saith Proskauer, "are neither an epitaph nor an absolution for ACORN, but are a roadmap to reform and renewal, if implemented in their entirety in concert with other measures to regain the public’s trust."

ACORN is a poisoner of the body politic that never deserved the public's trust!

The Nine Recommendations

"1. ACORN should return its organizational focus to its core competency – community organizing and citizen engagement empowerment, with related services – and transition away from the provision of services that may be provided more effectively and efficiently by others.

"2. ACORN should consolidate, simplify and centralize its local and national organizational staffing, monitoring and supervision.

"3. ACORN should develop a simplified national organization and board structure consisting of just two entities – a 501(c)(3) for charitable, non-profit fundraising, advocacy and education with a majority of independent members, and a 501(c)(4) for support of ACORN community organization and political activity, with at least one-third independent members.

"4. ACORN should continue to implement the comprehensive internal governance program and strategy, including internal controls, compliance and codes of ethics, designed to educate and guide staff, volunteers and board members, that was recommended and has been adopted within the past year.

"5. ACORN should recruit an independent ethics officer and/or independent inspector general to oversee and implement the governance and compliance program at the national level, and an independent member of the national board should chair a board-level ethics and governance committee.

"6. ACORN should hire an appropriately qualified and experienced chief operating and financial officer, comptroller and in-house auditing staff.

"7. ACORN should continue to strengthen its legal capacity to guide its governance reforms, coordinate the dissolution of all extraneous ACORN organizations and represent the organization’s interests in litigation and investigations.

"8. ACORN should require all of its state and local affiliates to agree to oversight by the national staff and board, and to adhere to appropriate national standards, including financial audits, training and supervision.

"9. ACORN should formalize a strong, independent national advisory group and charge it with the responsibility to report within six months, and thereafter annually for two years, to the national board on the progress of the reform action plan."

Proskauer conceded that ACORN is in trouble.

"ACORN’s transformation may succeed if its current leaders move rapidly to implement effective legal, best practices and appropriate regulatory compliance and governance systems. ACORN will then be in a position to regain and reinforce the trust and credibility required to successfully pursue a mission on which hundreds of thousands of citizens depend.

"The roadmap for reform is clear, but it will not occur overnight and will require perseverance and patience."

The Report's Findings on "the videos":

"Utilizing a deliberatively planned, sting-like operation, James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles (collectively, the “videographers”) either separately or together visited eight ACORN or ACORN Housing offices during July and August 2009, pretending to seek assistance with illegal matters, including prostitution and human trafficking. In each instance, Mr. O’Keefe or Ms. Giles wore a hidden camera, the presence of which was not disclosed to ACORN or ACORN Housing employees. The videographers visited ACORN or ACORN Housing offices in Baltimore, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, San Bernardino, San Diego and Washington D.C.

"The publicly released versions of the videos show ACORN or ACORN Housing employees apparently willing to offer ways to effect illegal schemes involving tax advice, misuse of public funds and illegal trafficking in children, and feed the impression that ACORN believes it is above the law. The videos were distributed on or about September 10, 2009 on BigGovernment.com, triggering a period of intense coverage and commentary in traditional and social media.

"The unedited videos have never been made public. The videos that have been released appear to have been edited, in some cases substantially, including the insertion of a substitute voiceover for significant portions of Mr. O’Keefe’s and Ms.Giles’s comments, which makes it difficult to determine the questions to which ACORN employees are responding. A comparison of the publicly available transcripts to the released videos confirms that large portions of the original video have been omitted from the released versions. To date, the videographers have declined or ignored our interview requests

."We have described what we have been told were the specific circumstances of each visit in narratives attached hereto as Appendix D, which stem from interviews of ACORN employees, many of whom did not have direct knowledge of the events but who spoke with the individuals captured on video, or with employees who had been approached by the videographers. We did not interview the employees captured on video, since we were satisfied there was no question that the visits occurred and the comments were made. In addition, we could not offer them – or our notes – confidentiality or privileged communication status. Hence, all our knowledge about the videos is largely circumstantial and secondhand. It is important to note that none of the ACORN offices visited has any written record of the visits, nor did ACORN know that it was a systematic campaign until the videos aired.

"Captured on video"?

Recorded on video.

The reported included these comments:

"1. Three of the six videos – Brooklyn, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. – involved only ACORN Housing employees, over which ACORN has no control.

"2. The released videos offer no evidence of a pattern of illegal conduct by ACORN employees. In fact, out of the three videos involving ACORN employees, at least two involve extenuating circumstances.

"3. The ACORN employees captured on video were members or part-time staff. They were not organizers or supervisory level employees.

"4. None of the individuals captured on video consented to being video- or audio-taped, and four of the states where the videos were recorded appear to prohibit such taping without consent.

"5. In offices where the videographers spoke with organizers, videos were not released.

"6. Police reports regarding the video incidents were filed in Philadelphia and San Diego.

"7. The released videos were edited or manipulated by the videographers and/or individual(s) acting on their behalf.

"8. There is no evidence that any action, illegal or otherwise, was taken by ACORN employees on behalf of the videographers.

"9. Experienced forensic investigators would be able to determine the extent to which the released videos have been manipulated to distort, rather than merely shape, the facts and the conversations, as ACORN alleges. Viewed from the perspective of managerial oversight, the videos stand as a symbol of ACORN’s organizational and supervisory weakness. The disparate ways in which ACORN staff handled the videographers’ visits highlight the organization’s failure to deploy best practices at the grassroots level to ensure proper screening and intake processes, supervision and training. In addition, ACORN itself failed to adequately investigate the totality of the circumstances of the visits prior to taking action against its own employees and, hence, was in no position to defend itself."

Appendix D on video narratives:

"Baltimore Office

"The videographers initially spoke with a part-time ACORN employee. This employee had been a member of Baltimore ACORN for 10 years and, at the time, worked in the Baltimore office as a receptionist and greeter. The videographers represented that they needed help and had been turned down elsewhere, and that Ms. Giles was a dancer and Mr. O’Keefe was a college student trying to help her. Although Mr. O’Keefe appeared in all videos dressed as a pimp, in fact, when he appeared at each and every office, he was dressed like a college student – in slacks and a button down shirt. Ms. Giles, however, was dressed as she appears in the videos.

"The ACORN employee reportedly was concerned for Ms. Giles’ safety because she knows people in her community with similar issues. She enlisted the assistance of another part-time employee who works in ACORN’s free tax clinic. The tax employee noted that she considered Ms. Giles to be her client, not Mr. O’Keefe, since Ms. Giles was the individual needing help. Ms. Giles represented that she was an exotic dancer. Mr. O’Keefe said she was a prostitute. The tax employee relied only upon the statements made by Ms. Giles. In addition, the tax employee noted that she did not intend to, nor did she, file any tax returns on Ms. Giles behalf.

"The office’s supervisor reported that that no supervisor was present at the time of the visit. He said no one reported the incident to him and that he first heard about it when the media called to alert him that a video would be aired shortly. Both employees involved were immediately terminated and are quite contrite and apologetic.

"Brooklyn Office

"Both employees featured in the Brooklyn video were employees of ACORN Housing, a separate entity from ACORN. One was a counselor who worked on foreclosure mitigation. The other was an administrative assistant. ACORN and ACORN Housing are located on the second floor of the same building in Brooklyn, and the floor has an open floor plan, with cubicles. Visitors are greeted by a receptionist employed by New York Organizing and Support Center ('NYOSCI') in a separate reception area. Depending on what a visitor requests, the receptionist directs the visitor to ACORN or ACORN Housing.

"According to an employee in the Brooklyn office, ACORN and ACORN Housing work closely together, and have the same belief in working to help low-income communities. One side of the room works to empower members and get them to change their own lives, and the other side helps with home ownership. Each organization has its own payroll and bookkeeper.

"When Mr. O’Keefe and Ms. Giles entered the Brooklyn office, the ACORN Housing employee noted that it is a place of business, and Ms. Giles would have to go home and change into more appropriate clothing. Ms. Giles responded that if she went home, her pimp would beat her up. She said she had a quick question, and would then be on her way. The ACORN employee agreed to speak privately with Ms. Giles, who said she had an abusive pimp and wanted to get away. Ms. Giles stated that the pimp recruited 13-year-old girls to prostitution. Ms. Giles said she wanted to buy a house to protect them.

"The ACORN Housing employee responded that Ms. Giles could not buy a house because her income derived from illegal activities. She also told Ms. Giles that she needed to get out of this situation and be smarter than this. The ACORN Housing employee has represented to her former colleagues that she felt sorry for Ms. Giles.

"Employees in the Brooklyn office considered the incident a hoax because Ms. Giles was dressed like a stereotypical prostitute and, while claiming to fear her abusive pimp, proceeded to speak openly to strangers about her circumstances.

"Los Angeles Office

"A video of an ACORN Housing employee was released on November 17, 2009. Because this individual is not employed by ACORN, we did not have the opportunity to learn the circumstances surrounding this video. The one ACORN employee captured on video declined to speak with the videographers.

"Miami Offices

"Ms. Giles, without Mr. O’Keefe, visited the Miami ACORN office and the Miami ACORN Housing office. At the Miami ACORN office, Ms. Giles was asked whether she needed assistance with foreclosure or first-time home buying. Ms. Giles insisted that she speak with the counselor privately. When the counselor agreed, Ms. Giles represented herself as a prostitute. The counselor responded by stating that everyone deserves a second chance, and provided Ms. Giles with a list of domestic violence shelters. Ms. Giles responded that she needed to have a house. The counselor noted that Ms. Giles needed three years of tax returns and that, since she hadn’t paid taxes, she needed to straighten things out with the IRS. The counselor then ended the conversation. Before leaving, Ms. Giles pleaded with the counselor not to call the police or security, to which the counselor responded that perhaps ACORN Housing could help.

"Ms. Giles, again without Mr. O’Keefe, then visited the ACORN Housing office. It is not clear whether this occurred on the same day. She was described as being dressed in a short skirt and revealing shirt. Ms. Giles said she needed a place to stay, or a house. She was given a list of shelters to call.

"Philadelphia Office

"Mr. O’Keefe called the Philadelphia office to make an appointment, stating that he was interested in running for Congress in the future. The call was transferred to the Philadelphia office’s Legislative Director, who reported the following set of events: when told that ACORN could not help him with his political aspirations, Mr. O’Keefe stated that he also needed help with housing. This, combined with the fact that Mr. O’Keefe called from a New Jersey number (listed under the name of his mother) raised ACORN’s suspicions. Mr. O’Keefe was told to call back at 3 p.m. Through an Internet search, the Legislative Director quickly identified Mr. O’Keefe and his blog, including his previous involvement in a campaign against Planned Parenthood.

"Later that day, Mr. O’Keefe and Ms. Giles arrived on a different floor of the ACORN office, and spoke with members of Philadelphia ACORN. They claimed they were referred to the office for help by the Legislative Director. When a staff member used a text message to alert the Legislative Director, the Legislative Director came downstairs. At that point, O’Keefe and Giles had left the office. The police were notified and arrived shortly thereafter.

"The Legislative Director attempted to contact a fellow employee in the Washington, D.C. office to alert him to these events, but at the time, ACORN’s email system was not working.

"While no video of this visit was released, some of the released videos contain scenes of the sign of the Philadelphia ACORN office and shots of Philadelphia’s head organizer with no audio.

"San Bernardino Office

"In San Bernardino, a female ACORN employee was alone in the office when the videographers arrived. The videographers were accompanied by another male individual who has not been identified. According to an affidavit prepared by the ACORN employee, she was suspicious of the videographers and their story; was scared for her safety; and responded to their comments with outrageous statements, including that she had killed her husband and had previously run an escort service. In fact, her former husbands are alive. She eventually encouraged the videographers to leave the office and meet a neighbor. The ACORN employee then left the videographers with the neighbor, closed and locked the office, and left.

"San Diego Office

"In San Diego, the ACORN employee who met with the videographers does not speak English as his first language. His colleagues usually converse with him in Spanish. In the released video, his participation amounts mostly to nodding or saying “OK.” It is difficult to determine what this employee is responding to because the videographers statements are obscured by a voiceover inserted later. At one point during the meeting, the ACORN employee attempted to call the police. At other points, he attempted to take pictures of the videographers with his cell phone. Following the interview, he called a relative in the National City police department to report the incident. According to a statement released by the National City Police Department:

'On August 20, 2009, an ACORN employee contacted his cousin, a National City Police Detective, to ask him general advice regarding information he had received about possible human smuggling. In response, the Detective contacted a law enforcement officer serving on a federal task force that specifically deals with human smuggling. The task force officer said he needed more specific details to move forward. This message was related to the ACORN employee. The ACORN employee responded several days later and explained to the Detective that police assistance was not needed because the information he initially received was not true and what had happened to him was a ruse.'

"Washington, D.C. Office

"Two of the individuals included in the Washington, D.C. video were employees of ACORN Housing. The third individual is an unaffiliated real estate broker who happened to be in the office at the time. Because these employees work for ACORN Housing, we have no knowledge of the circumstances surrounding this visit."

ACORN is a subversive, corrupt, criminal enterprise that should be dissolved, not reformed.

Fittingly, the public relations report ordered by ACORN's current control group from the Proskauer firm was issued on December 7. It deserves to live infamy. But it should be read, in order to appreciate how ACORN apologists quibble about details in a transparent attempt to redirect attention from the big picture. Yes, James O'Keefe, the "Pimp" in the "Pimp and Pro" ACORN videos did not wear that coat when he visited ACORN offices and instead saved it for the B roll. But, theatrics aside, the videos showed that ACORN is hardly a benevolent organization worthy of either a tax exemption or taxpayer dollars. Of course, the report notes that surreptitious recording in six of the eight cities in which ACORN/ACORN Housing offices were visited apparently was illegal, but that demonstrates that the persons responsible for the videos risked criminal prosecution on multiple felony counts in perhaps four states in order to make the public aware of the truth about ACORN and does not undermine their truthfulness in the courtroom of public opinion.

For the public to see the light about ACORN's evil and America's plight, it takes insiders who decide to do what's right or infiltrators and strategists to whom criminal prosecution is not a paralyzing fright.

Michael J. Gaynor

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Biography - Michael J. Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member.

Gaynor graduated magna cum laude, with Honors in Social Science, from Hofstra University's New College, and received his J.D. degree from St. John's Law School, where he won the American Jurisprudence Award in Evidence and served as an editor of the Law Review and the St. Thomas More Institute for Legal Research. He wrote on the Pentagon Papers case for the Review and obscenity law for The Catholic Lawyer and edited the Law Review's commentary on significant developments in New York law.

The day after graduating, Gaynor joined the Fulton firm, where he focused on litigation and corporate law. In 1997 Gaynor and Emily Bass formed Gaynor & Bass and then conducted a general legal practice, emphasizing litigation, and represented corporations, individuals and a New York City labor union. Notably, Gaynor & Bass prevailed in the Second Circuit in a seminal copyright infringement case, Tasini v. New York Times, against newspaper and magazine publishers and Lexis-Nexis. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed, 7 to 2, holding that the copyrights of freelance writers had been infringed when their work was put online without permission or compensation.

Gaynor currently contributes regularly to www.MichNews.com, www.RenewAmerica.com, www.WebCommentary.com, www.PostChronicle.com and www.therealitycheck.org and has contributed to many other websites. He has written extensively on political and religious issues, notably the Terry Schiavo case, the Duke "no rape" case, ACORN and canon law, and appeared as a guest on television and radio. He was acknowledged in Until Proven Innocent, by Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson, and Culture of Corruption, by Michelle Malkin. He appeared on "Your World With Cavuto" to promote an eBay boycott that he initiated and "The World Over With Raymond Arroyo" (EWTN) to discuss the legal implications of the Schiavo case. On October 22, 2008, Gaynor was the first to report that The New York Times had killed an Obama/ACORN expose on which a Times reporter had been working with ACORN whistleblower Anita MonCrief.

Gaynor's email address is gaynormike@aol.com.


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