The community organizing group ACORN is under attack after hidden-camera videos captured its workers giving advice on falsifying taxes to conservative activists posing as a pimp and a prostitute.
The Senate voted Monday to block ACORN from getting any Housing and Urban Development grants, and Republican leaders in Congress are calling for an investigation. The Census Bureau severed ties with the group last week for all work related to the 2010 census.
ACORN has dismissed what it calls a concerted political attack, and says it plans to sue the activists who made the videos, the Web site that posted them and FOX News, which aired clips.
The videos were posted on the Web site biggovernment.com, which was started by conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart, a former editor for the Drudge Report. They show activists James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles posing as a pimp and a prostitute while visiting ACORN offices in Brooklyn, N.Y., Baltimore and Washington. The activists in disguise are given advice on how to falsify tax returns so they can buy a house.
"He [O'Keefe] has clearly made it a point to try and go around and expose some of the failings in ACORN operations, and he's clearly hit a nerve with these videos," NPR's Pam Fessler tells Melissa Block.
ACORN says it has fired the employees involved, and that the videos show a few bad apples at the organization.
However, Bertha Lewis, ACORN's chief organizer, says that the videos were doctored. She also said O'Keefe made similar attempts to solicit information on illegal activities at several other ACORN offices around the country, but was turned away. After O'Keefe visited ACORN's Philadelphia office, workers there called police.
ACORN is a community organization that works mainly in poor communities around the country. It has faced controversy in the past. During the 2008 presidential election, ACORN faced charges that its workers widely submitted fraudulent voter registration forms.
"They've had problems with this kind of thing before, where they just don't have very well-trained people, in a lot of cases, providing their services," Fessler says.
ACORN says the allegations against it are part of a larger effort by conservatives to discredit the group because it deals mainly with Democratic voters.