After watching the snippets posted on the Web, a few observations:
• Acorn ought to fire its entire human resources department
Beyond the initial WTF reaction, you have to wonder about the judgment of people who think it was wise-let alone ethical-to counsel complete strangers on the fine points of importing under-age girls for prostitution, among other unsavory activities that your tax dollars went to fund. Was Acorn filling jobs based on how poorly applicants scored on their IQ tests? I'd like to believe that a few bad apples were the exception, rather than the rule. That faith is being put to the test.
• Get a good lawyer
Even a defense attorney with the prodigious talents of an F. Lee Bailey may have a tough time arguing his way out of this one. Who knows? Maybe there's a legal sharpie somewhere with a novel stupidity defense. Some of the Einsteins caught on film might yet be able to get off on a technicality. In general, the consent of all parties seems to be required in California and Maryland. Recall that Maryland prosecutors accused Linda Tripp of illegally taping a phone conversation she had with Monica Lewinsky and then turning that conversation over to Newsweek. The state later dropped its case.
• Race baiters will take the bait
Here's where it's turning ugly. The staffers encountered by O'Keefe and Giles in their travels fit a right-winger's most paranoid fantasy, one featuring sundry inarticulate minority members offering hush-hush advice on how to best evade the law. This is red meat for the Republicans and its amen corner in the blogosphere and Fox. Rush Limbaugh was already working himself into a fit earlier in the week over the videotaped beating of a white school boy beaten up by black kid on a school bus and Kanye West's boorish behavior at the MTV Video Music Awards - he's black, Taylor Swift is white, so it's gotta be racial, right? - to come up with his narrative about "Obama's America." (Here's the transcript.) You ain't heard the last word from this crowd.
• This is a bigger scalp than Van Jones
In the end, a home-made video by a couple of conservative activists has accomplished What Beltway conservatives could never pull off before. Getting Van Jones to resign as the president's special advisor on green jobs was a satisfying victory, but nothing like this. The Republicans have been targeting Acorn since the 2008 elections, when it was a favorite bogyman for the right. The organization's voter-registration drives helped Democrats more than Republicans. Ditto for their efforts helping poor people seeking housing help from Uncle Sam. Despite fraud allegations, critics still haven't come up with evidence to prove massive violations that swayed an election. Now they've got a second wind. The argument? Easy. "If some Acorn employees were so eager to help complete strangers import underage sex slaves, what else are they capable of?"
• A black eye for community organizing
Remember Sarah Palin's snarky putdown of community organizing during her keynote at the Republican National Convention? When she hit below the belt, it thrilled the conservative faithful. They didn't buy into the argument that community organizers offered needed help to poor communities. Now, thanks to the parade of chuckleheads caught on camera, they're going to be that much less sympathetic. But is the picture being painted really accurate? As per Nathan Newman on TPM "Acorn registers lots of voters across the country and employs many people in doing so. Some fake registrations to justify their pay, a problem faced by everyone hiring anyone to register voters for elections or on initiative petitions." Not that it will help much but Acorn operates an aggressive anti-fraud operation that was recently praised by Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle.