A new government report debunks claims made by right-wing politicians and media that the now defunct community advocacy group ACORN violated elections law and supported voter fraud.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released Monday also confirms that two former ACORN employees in Maryland did not break the law when they offered advice to conservative activist James O’Keefe and columnist Hannah Giles, who secretly videotaped a meeting with the employees while posing as a couple interested in starting a brothel.
O’Keefe and fellow activists pled guilty last month to a misdemeanor charge for illegally entering Sen. Mary Landrieu’s New Orleans office and tampering with her phone.
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ACORN fired the employees that advised O’Keefe and Giles and then filed a lawsuit against the pranksters, alleging they broke a Maryland law stating that both parties must agree to sound recordings.
The media firestorm created by O’Keefe’s video was the tipping point in a right-wing war against ACORN that can be traced back to the Bush administration. Congress quickly acted to strip the organization of funding, and both public and private donors dropped their sponsorship.
ACORN had been the largest poor people’s rights and community organizing group in the nation, but, starved for funds, the national organization folded in March.
ACORN voter registration drives in poor and minority neighborhoods were apparently a threat to the Bush administration as early as 2004, according to a Truthout investigative report. Emails that surfaced in August 2009 revealed the role that Karl Rove and other administration officials played in the firings of nine US attorneys, two of whom had refused to bring criminal charges against individuals affiliated with ACORN.
The media was quick to report on an alleged history of voter fraud and election violations attributed to ACORN and its affiliates during the 2008 election season, but the GAO report found that, in every case identified, complaints filed against ACORN with the Federal Elections Commission were dismissed.
The report also showed that four of six FBI investigations into alleged voter fraud committed by ACORN employees were closed due to lack of evidence. The two other investigations were also closed and referred to local and state jurisdictions.
The report detailed five cases in which ACORN employees pled guilty to misdemeanor counts of voter registration fraud, but stated that these cases did not allege any wrongdoing on behalf of ACORN or any affiliated organizations. In fact, ACORN offered materials to local election officials that helped initiate the prosecution of the guilty individuals, and each case stated that ACORN had properly trained the individuals to legally register voters.
The GAO report also states that agencies providing funding to ACORN generally did not report “any problem with grants,” although reviews are ongoing.