The national community-based group, ACORN, recently underwent some investigative journalism Sacha Baron Cohen-style. What the amateur journalist/actors/videographers found were several employees well-versed in and comfortable with fraud. The employees openly advised the actors, who pretended to want to start a brothel in order to raise money for a political campaign, on how to keep their shady business hidden from government eyes and how to evade their taxes. Since this video has come to light, ACORN’s image of helping the less fortunate afford housing, health care, and other services has tanked. Congress, with bipartisan support, has even withdrawn federal funding for the organization.
However, in the coverage from MSN and the Today show, one would think the journalists to be in the wrong instead of those who advised fraud. Commentators cite that conservatives have long been accusing ACORN of ‘shady’ practices and imply that this is just another conservative ploy to defame the organization. The backgrounds and friendships of the journalists are being studied. Some accuse the journalists of being paid by conservatives to pull-off the scheme. ACORN has even vowed to ‘go after’ the videographer and FOX News, which played the videos, claiming the videos were manipulated. (ACORN has fired or suspended each of the employees caught on tape.)
However, whether these amateurs were encouraged to investigate ACORN with conservative support or whether they did so independently, the more important issue is the shady practices they discovered. While prostitution between consenting adults should not be a crime, it is still disturbing to learn that an organization thought to be dedicated to helping the less fortunate achieve their goals was engaging in such morally questionable activities and purposefully promoting fraud. Citizens of the country should indeed be concerned with the practices of ACORN since $54 million in government monies (which means tax-payer money) have been granted to it since 1994. We should not be distracted by attempts to deflect blame off ACORN and onto these secret filmmakers. As long as the amateurs themselves did not tamper with the videos, they should be hailed for exposing a trail of fraud, not accused of ‘promoting an agenda’… unless that ‘agenda’ is truth.