A Congressional Research Service report into the controversial voter-registration work of nonprofit group ACORN -- which has long been a target of conservatives -- suggests that a right-wing video sting against local ACORN offices and those elsewhere could have been illegal.
The sting involved a pair of activists going into offices of the organization and asking for help setting up an international prostitution ring. In a video released in November, an ACORN worker identified as Lavelle Stewart tells the pair, "I think you have to hook up with somebody who is on that international sex business level." She adds, "I can do research for you ... ," and says "14-, 15-year-olds been traveling overseas for years." Lavelle tells the duo she knows porn magnate Larry Flynt and says maybe she can arrange a business meeting.
The video sting also targeted ACORN offices in Baltimore, Washington, Brooklyn and San Bernardino. The Congressional report suggests that the stingers, including activist James O'Keefe, posing as a pimp, and a woman acting as a prostitute, might have broken state laws, including California's, that prohibit recording conversations without consent or a judge's warrant.
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The main thrust of the report, however, was to look into alleged improprieties when it comes to the group's voter registration efforts. ACORN, which stands for Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, has been a thorn in the side of conservatives because, while it gets some federal funding, its voter registration drives target poor neighborhoods and thus often benefit the Democratic party.
Republican critics of the group have also noted that President Obama, who once worked as an attorney on a case involving ACORN, also benefited from the group's efforts during the presidential election.
The Congressional report -- requested by Democratic Rep. John Conyers of Michigan -- looked at ACORN for the last five years and concluded that the group has not broken any laws as a result of its voter registration drives and that it has not violated terms of its federal funding. The report's authors noted that they found no improper registrations among ACORN-recruited voters, but that investigators could not look at every name on every voter registration list.
More from the New York Times.