ACORN released the following statement:
The recent arrest of James O’Keefe, is further evidence of his disregard for both state and federal law in pursuit of his extremist agenda. From the day that O’Keefe’s undercover “sting” videos came out, ACORN leadership pledged accountability for its own staff while pointing out that the videos had been shot illegally and edited deceptively in order to undermine the work of an organization that has empowered working families for four decades.
Unfortunately, during the rush to judge ACORN, both the media and Congress failed to question the methods, intent and accuracy of Mr. O’Keefe’s videos. Subsequent independent reviews by the Congressional Research Service and former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger have already concluded that it was O’Keefe, and not ACORN staff, even those fired for acting inappropriately, who broke the law in the undercover videotapes.
Throughout all of the attacks that began with partisan smears against our successful voter registration program, our members have never stopped working to improve their communities, stop the foreclosure crisis and make ordinary people’s voices heard.
According to a study by the New Organizing Institute 746,000 ballots cast in 2008 were by voters registered by the community organization ACORN. For better or worse, progressive candidates win elections by getting more people to vote, and corporate candidates win elections by suppressing the vote.
So it is no surprise that the GOP would seek to attack a singularly effective voter registration group. Reagan attacked ACORN members in the 80s, Gingrich attacked ACORN members in the 90s, and one-time ACORN supporter Sen. John McCain attacked out of desperation.
What is surprising is that rightwing activists, outraged by the election of a "community organizer in chief," continued to attack the organization of low-income families after the 2008 election.
In early 2009, Doug Giles, a founder of the rightwing community townhall.com, dressed his 19-year-old daughter (Hannah Giles) up as a prostitute and sent her across the country with political protege James O'Keefe. By posing as a young couple in need of housing and visiting dozens of ACORN offices across the country, the couple was able to get enough video of ACORN loan officers to creatively cut and splice and subtitle together a swiftboat video. The video implied that, among other things, ACORN actively supports prostitution, tax fraud, election fraud, domestic abuse, and human trafficking.
The rightwing base, having been informed by Fox News for months that ACORN was responsible for the GOP's failure, seized on the news. Republican candidates like Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), lacking the desire or ability to improve the nation, took up the issue as their crusade. Conservative Democrats like Sen. Kay Hagan were quick to agree to throw the organization under the bus in order to get back to dealing with economy and healthcare.
The organization had little budget to defend themselves from what became a nationally coordinated attack orchestrated by career character assassins.
The result is that one of the Left's main non-union organizing efforts is nearly destroyed (or "really volunteer" as John Hood puts it). This year is ACORN's 40th anniversary. It remains to be seen if we will have a 50th.
ACORN is continuing to organize to keep families in their homes, demand better schools, outlaw predatory lending, restore the Gulf Coast, and yes, register people in underserved communities to vote. Help ACORN fight back here.