- The Washington Times - Friday, September 25, 2009

Open the books

Andrew Breitbart, James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles probably aren’t too upset that the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) filed a lawsuit against them. It would make great fodder for more videos exposing ACORN’s troubled ways.

ACORN is suing Mr. O’Keefe and Ms. Giles for secretly videotaping its employees giving advice on how to obtain federal funds to run a brothel, and Mr. Breitbart for posting the videos on his Web site.

After hearing news of the lawsuit claiming Maryland wiretapping laws were violated, legal specialists scratched their heads. By filing the lawsuit, ACORN has given the defendants the right to force ACORN to disclose a broad range of information related to the lawsuit through a process called discovery.

Fox News host Greta Van Susteren, a former prosecutor, wrote on her blog Greta Wire that whoever decided ACORN should sue was an “idiot.”

“They are going to get hit with interrogations, requests for production of documents, depositions, etc.,” she wrote. “And who will get deposed? Just about everybody! And if that discovery produces evidence of a crime? You can be sure that evidence would be fed ex’ed to the Justice Department!”

Mrs. Van Susteren said that if she were advising ACORN, she would have said, “Lie low and just hope the heat passes” and definitely “not file suit.”

ACORN’s attorneys are seeking $500,000 in damages for two employees shown in the videos, who have since been fired, as well as $1 million for ACORN.

Keep ‘em open

A day after ACORN filed its lawsuit, the Treasury Department announced that it would grant a request by Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican, and Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican, to investigate whether ACORN had illegally used federal funds for political purposes.

The Republicans specifically asked Treasury to look into Citizens Consulting Inc., which manages ACORN’s finances.

Unlike ACORN, Citizens Consulting is permitted to engage in political activity, because of its unusual tax designation as a “taxable nonprofit.” Miss Collins and Mr. Issa asked Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George to find out “whether or not ACORN/CCI transferred political contributions and dues, but failed to use procedures that satisfy federal and state campaign laws,” among other things.

“It is inconceivable that you can have one controlling entity [Citizens Consulting] with authority over all of the funding that comes through ACORN whether it is charitable, political or federal and still be able to sufficiently separate what money is being used for what purpose,” Kurt Bardella, a spokesman for Mr. Issa, said in an e-mail to The Washington Times. “CCI was created by ACORN for the purpose of hiding what money is being used where and for what purpose. They are wholly owned and controlled by ACORN - they are even housed in the same office.”

Citizens Consulting received some press during the 2008 presidential campaign, when the Wall Street Journal discovered that the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama paid Citizens Consulting $832,000 for voter turnout activities.

The two Republicans also have asked the inspectors general at six other government agencies to do the same. Those agencies are: the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Small Business Administration, the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Federal Election Commission, the Department of Labor and the Election Assistance Commission.

Treasury, however, was the first to agree to comply with their request.

“This is the first step in the right direction toward much-needed transparency,” Miss Collins said in a statement. “We must bring all agencies and groups that use taxpayer funds into the spotlight of accountability.”

ACORN war

Liberal media trackers are upset with the amount of coverage Fox News personalities such as Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity have given to the ACORN scandal, firing off a report blasting their “obsession.”

Media Matters said they instead should spend more time covering “military contractors that have received billions of dollars in federal contracts and instances of Republican corruption at the highest levels of U.S. government.”

“Beck, Hannity and by extension Fox News, have shown their unbridled hypocrisy with the coverage they’ve devoted to the ACORN story,” Jessica Levin, a spokeswoman for Media Matters, told The Times in an e-mail. “The Federal money ACORN has received is about 470 times less than some well-known military contractors with long standing ethical issues. To claim this is about corruption is laughable. This is about politics and the agenda driven pseudo-journalism of Fox News.”

According to the report, Mr. Beck’s conservative bias has increased dramatically since he left CNN Headline News to host his Fox News Channel show. To help prove this, Media Matters points out that Mr. Beck discussed defense contractors Halliburton and KBR 11 times when he was working at CNN Headline News but only eight times since he has been on the Fox News Channel. Their researchers compared the contents of his programs between May 8, 2006, and Sept. 18, 2009.

Jeff Poor, a blogger for Newsbusters.org that is part of the conservative-leaning Media Research Center, offered a different reason for the perceived slant.

“Of course Fox News has devoted more airtime to ACORN,” he said. “But I think that is because early on they were the only ones covering it.”

Tactical reading

Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, said during a Senate Finance Committee hearing Wednesday that the Republican push to start putting pieces of legislation online before they are put to a vote isn’t as sincere at is might seem.

Republican senators on the committee were supporting a measure to put health care legislation on the Internet in a way that would be available to the public for three days before holding a vote on it, which upset Mr. Kerry.

“This is fundamentally a delay tactic,” the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate said. “I mean, let’s be honest about it. The legislative language, everybody knows, is relatively arcane, legalistic, and most people don’t read the legislative language.”

The GOP effort, sponsored by Sen. Jim Bunning, Kentucky Republican, was rejected by a vote of 12-11, largely along party lines. Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas was the only Democrat who supported it.

Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter @washingtontimes.com.

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