An internal investigation of a series of videos depicting ACORN workers assisting a costumed pimp and prostitute concluded Monday that those employees "did not engage in any illegal activity."
While the report, prepared by former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger, cited ACORN employees for poor judgment, it ultimately found they did not violate any federal laws.
"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 videographer," Harshbarger wrote in the report.
Motivating ACORN's internal review were a series of hidden camera videos taken and published online by James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles in October. In each, the two dress as a pimp and prostitute, respectively, enter ACORN offices and seek advice -- which ACORN employees inevitably give.
The videos proved so politically potent that Republicans eventually passed a series of efforts in the House and Senate to cut off ACORN funding. However, those actions are now under review, as some lawmakers contend they qualify as unconstitutional "bills of attainder" -- punishments targeted to a specific group.
Nevertheless, the funding blocks dealt serious, symbolic damage to the community organization, which has since launched a series of counter-lawsuits to recoup its losses.
ACORN has long admitted its employees on tape could have exhibited better judgment, which their report on Monday reflects. Harshbarger also offered nine recommendations for improving the group's management, one of which stresses a need to return to ACORN's "core competency – community organizing and citizen engagement empowerment, with related services."
But the report also takes a shot at O'Keefe, Giles and those who disseminated the videos in question. ACORN maintains those detractors committed in kind ethical breaches that obscure what really happened at each office.
"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," Harshbarger said.