ACORN Probe: No Illegal Pattern in Videos

Still from a webvideo posted on biggovernment.com regarding ACORN biggovernment.com

An internal investigation of the community-organizing group ACORN found no pattern of intentional, illegal conduct by ACORN staffers on undercover videos shot by conservative critics of the group.

In a 47-page assessment that former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger was commissioned by the organization to do, he criticized ACORN's management as not moving fast enough to institute reforms after an alleged eight-year coverup by ACORN founder Wade Rathke of an embezzlement by his brother.

ACORN's leaders are "now reaping what Rathke sowed," wrote Harshbarger, who was brought in to investigate.

The organization's leadership has made reforms in finances and governance a priority, the Harshbarger report stated. However, it added, this focus has not yet been matched by similar attention to delivering services to ACORN's clients.

The videos of ACORN staffers offering advice to a woman and a man posing as a prostitute and her boyfriend triggered a firestorm of criticism this fall, with some ACORN employees appearing willing to support illegal schemes involving tax advice, misuse of public funds and illegal trafficking in children.

The videos "feed the impression that ACORN believes it is above the law," stated the Harshbarger report, intended as an independent examination of the issues.

"We did not find a pattern of intentional, illegal conduct by ACORN staff involved; in fact, no action, illegal or otherwise, was ever taken by any ACORN employee on behalf of the videographers," Harshbarger said in a statement. "Instead, the videos represent the byproduct of ACORN's longstanding management weaknesses, including a lack of training, a lack of procedures and a lack of on-site supervision."

Harshbarger's report says ACORN, which stands for the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now, should return to its roots, focusing on community organizing and should hire an independent ethics officer to oversee an internal governance program that is already under way.

ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis called the report "part vindication, part constructive criticism and complete roadmap for the future" on behalf of "the interests of the communities we represent - low- and moderate-income, African-American and Latino families."
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