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EDITORIAL: ACORN keeps falling

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 23, 2009

As scandals concerning the left-wing "community" group ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) continue to metastasize, the organization seems to think it can handpick allies to "investigate" its own transgressions. Fortunately for the rest of us, the growth of independent writers and researchers using modern communications means there are plenty of other outfits that can and will expose corruption.

Case in point: The Pelican Institute think tank in New Orleans keeps unearthing examples of federal and state tax liens against ACORN's national headquarters in the Crescent City. The institute's indefatigable research broke into national attention yesterday via a column by nationally syndicated writer Deroy Murdock in the New York Post. And freelance journalists and state attorneys general not aligned with ACORN are more than holding ACORN's collective feet to the fire. All of this makes a mockery of ACORN's self-selection of two "internal investigat[ors]" to report on where ACORN went wrong.

ACORN is trumpeting its choice of former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger for a supposedly "aggressive, thorough and far-reaching" probe. This is the same Mr. Harshbarger who once kissed up to power by giving "thanks to courageous, independent people like [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi" -- another ACORN ally -- and the same Mr. Harshbarger whose lust for the limelight is such that he prosecuted the now-infamous pseudo-sex scandal in 1986 known as the Amirault case, which observers as diverse as the Wall Street Journal and the leftist Nation magazine now say was a grossly error-filled miscarriage of justice.

Another "adviser" for the internal investigation will be former Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry G. Cisneros. He was last seen pleading guilty on perjury-related charges about hush payments to a mistress. Mr. Cisneros also has a long history of being an advocate for ACORN.

Meanwhile, even external probes are being shunted off to ACORN allies. In Maryland, the review of ACORN's infamous prostitution scandal is now being led by state Attorney General Doug Gansler. This official once refused to remove an ACORN link from his Web site, and he said the prostitution videos "are no more relevant to us ... than a murder that takes place in Baltimore." No matter the context, that's pretty cold.

Mr. Gansler is one of a number of state attorneys general supported by ACORN after receiving an "A" on ACORN's legislative scorecard, which perhaps explains why so many state AGs have been slow to crack down on ACORN's hijinks. The good news is that Attorney General Buddy Caldwell of Louisiana, ACORN's longtime home state, seems to be an independent actor. He got an "F" on the scorecard, and he started his own investigation back in January of 2008. Mr. Caldwell, a Democrat, has subpoenaed ACORN financial information going back to 1998.

Now the Pelican Institute has added to the story. Pelican investigator Steve Beatty found a Sept. 3 IRS filing for a $548,000 lien against ACORN for nonpayment of employment taxes and unemployment-insurance taxes. This follows another $1 million IRS lien against the group, since repaid, and $334,000 in liens from Louisiana tax officials.

No bogus internal investigation can hide the stench around ACORN that is drawing attention from these independent watchdogs. More power to the watchdogs. All of ACORN's rot should be permanently unearthed.