The embattled community organizing group ACORN is filing a lawsuit today in Maryland District Court, accusing individuals behind an embarrassing series of hidden camera videos of violating state law by recording employees' conversations without permission. Similar to the videos recorded in ACORN's Brooklyn offices, the Maryland video shows workers giving inappropriate advice to two filmmakers (left) posing as prostitute and pimp seeking assistance in getting a house for a brothel. Alan Schwartz, general counsel for Acorn, accused the fake pimp, James O’Keefe, of "trying to destroy an organization whose principal purpose is to help poor people."
ACORN is seeking monetary damages and wants to expose "the planning and background and funding for the activities that went on by O’Keefe." The group also wants to stop further distribution of the videos, which probably won't have the desired effect of making everyone forget they watched them. In speaking to the press yesterday, Schwartz also took pains to stress that employees' conduct was totally inappropriate. (The staffers in the Baltimore video were fired.) In addition, ACORN announced a hiring freeze, new training programs and an internal investigation.
But the damage control wasn't good enough for liberal firebrand Rep. Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, who yesterday urged the White House to block any federal funding for ACORN. In a statement, Frank said, "I am very disappointed in the actions that were taken by members of ACORN. I do not believe that ACORN's response has been adequate for an organization that has received public funding." Earlier this month, the House and Senate both voted to suspend ACORN's funding.
And the IRS yesterday announced that "in light of recent events," it would no longer include Acorn in groups approved to offer free tax preparation. Acorn spokesman Brian Kettenring tells the Times, "Acorn is now one of the I.R.S.’s largest free tax assistance providers, and we are disappointed that we won’t be able to serve the tens of thousands of families that would look to us this coming tax season."