Some on the liberal side of the blogosphere are pointing to a report from the non-partisan Congressional Research Service and saying it clears the controversial community organizing group ACORN of wrong-doing during last year's campaigns and of misusing money it gets from the federal government (Frank has followed some of the recent news about ACORN here and here).
Just what did CRS say? Its report, done for the House Judiciary Committee at the request of Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., is posted here.
A couple passages are worth highlighting. I'm going to put some phrases in bold because they contain key information about what CRS actually did. The "you" CRS is addressing is Conyers:
— You asked for a description of all federal funding received by ACORN over the last five fiscal years and a description of instances where ACORN violated the terms of federal funding. ... A search of reports of federal agency inspectors general did not identify instances in which ACORN violated the terms of federal funding in the last five years.
— You asked CRS to research improper voter registrations that resulted in people being placed on the voting rolls and attempting to vote improperly at the polls. ... A NEXIS search of the ALL NEWS file did not identify any reported instances of individuals who were improperly registered by ACORN attempting to vote at the polls.
Those passages say CRS looked through reports and news stories, which certainly can be helpful — but doesn't mean it did independent investigations and reached its own conclusions.
Another section of CRS' report is getting attention because it suggests that the undercover activists who posed as a pimp and prostitute when visiting some ACORN offices may have violated some laws when they videotaped the encounters. On that matter, the report states that:
"As a general matter federal law permits private individuals to record face to face conversations, as long as the recording is not done for criminal or tortious purposes. New York law seems even more forgiving, for it only reaches those who record remotely. The laws of the District of Columbia mirror federal law prior to the 1986 amendments to the federal statute. D.C. law permits one-party consent recordings, although the consequences of the want of complete symmetry with federal provisions are unclear. In contrast, the laws of Maryland and California appear to ban private recording of face to face conversations, absent the consent of all of the participants."