ACORN picks former AG to lead probe

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UPDATED:

ACORN officials Tuesday named former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger to lead an independent inquiry into the group’s social-services program.

“We are pleased that a man of Mr. Harshbarger’s standing is going to be conducting this review,” said Maude Hurd, chairwoman for the group’s board of directors. “The board is very concerned to see that ACORN is able to carry out its mission of bettering low- and moderate-income communities.”

Officials also said the investigation will be “aggressive, thorough and far-reaching.”

The nationwide group has pursued anti-poverty campaigns since 1970 but recently came under scrutiny following the release of videotapes showing undercover operatives posing as a prostitute and a companion seeking tax and housing advice at five ACORN offices.

The group has since suspended accepting new clients into its service programs for working-poor families until the independent review is completed, but it has not suspended its community organizing and advocacy work.

“I have been asked by the leadership of ACORN to conduct an independent and comprehensive inquiry and review of the management of its service delivery to communities,” said Mr. Harshbarger, now senior counsel for the law firm Proskauer Rose LLP and a former president of the group Common Cause. “The CEO and board have also asked me to make a full report, including recommendations for restoring ACORN’s full capacities to carry out its mission.”

Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican, called for a stronger investigation.

“ACORN has already been down this path before,” said Mr. Issa, also the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

“In June of 2008, [ACORN] hired an outside council to conduct an internal review, which produced a report that detailed an organization in crisis and the lack of firewalls between its charitable and political activities,” he continued. “More than a year later, ACORN is facing the same criticisms and the same calls for transparency. A self-run investigation is not a substitute for an independent investigation. There is no adequate substitute or mechanism that can replace the immediate need for congressional committees.”

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