Community organizing group ACORN is calling on attorneys general in California and Maryland to investigate James O’Keefe following his arrest in Louisiana on charges stemming from an alleged attempt to tamper with Sen. Mary Landrieu’s phone lines.
In an email sent to supporters Wednesday morning, ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis said that secretly recording individuals without their consent is illegal in California and Maryland, two of the states where O’Keefe and accomplice Hannah Giles set up stings pretending to be a pimp and prostitute, in order to catch ACORN employees giving illegal advice.
“Now that he’s proven that [O’Keefe’s] law-breaking isn’t a one-shot deal, we are demanding that the attorneys general in California and Maryland conduct formal investigations of O’Keefe’s actions from last year,” Lewis said in the email.
She then urged supporters to “join in and help sting the stinger” by writing a letter to the attorneys general requesting an investigation.
California and Maryland may not be the only states where O’Keefe could potentially face legal action over his surreptitious videotaping. There are about a dozen states that forbid the practice, including Pennsylvania, where an ACORN worker has launched a lawsuit against O’Keefe.
Last month, Katherine Conway-Russell of ACORN’s Philadelphia office filed a suit against O’Keefe and Giles, saying the duo violated Pennsylvania law when they filmed her last summer, and attempted to “entrap” her into giving advice on illegal matters.
ACORN itself has launched a lawsuit against O’Keefe in Maryland, where third-party recording is illegal.
O’Keefe and three others were arrested on Jan. 25 when they allegedly dressed up as phone repairmen and attempted to enter the offices of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA). O’Keefe has been charged with entering federal property with intent to commit a felony.
In public statements, O’Keefe has said he was trying to determine why the phone lines at Landrieu’s offices were busy, and why members of the public trying to reach her could not get through.
“Regardless of the impact on ACORN, the fact remains that the attorneys general for California and Maryland should be investigating O’Keefe’s actions at our offices in those states, especially in light of what has happened in New Orleans,” ACORN’s Lewis said in her email.
She also took aim at right-wing media figures, saying that it’s ACORN’s success as a political organizing group that has made it the target of conservative ideologues.
“[I]t is ACORN’s success that has made the Glenn Beck/Karl Rove/Sarah Palin crowd so determined to destroy us,” Lewis wrote. “According to a study by the New Organizing Institute (NOI), an estimated 865,000 people cast ballots in 2008 that had been successfully registered by ACORN since 2004.”
Brad Blog has been chronicling alleged falsehoods regarding O’Keefe’s exposes on ACORN.
You folks do realize that James O’Keefe never actually wore his ridiculous pimp costume into those ACORN offices on those doctored and illegally recorded video tapes, right? But, rather, he was filmed outside of the offices wearing his get-up, while appearing as the conservatively dressed boyfriend of a hooker trying to escape an abusive pimp when the cameras were rolling inside the offices. That’s just one of many deceptions O’Keefe carried out.”
“Although Mr. O’Keefe appeared in all videos dressed as a pimp, in fact, when he appeared at each and every office, he was dressed like a college student – in slacks and a button down shirt,” former MA Attorney General Scott Harshbarger wrote in his ACORN-sanctioned internal review (PDF link).
Harshbarger’s report stated that “in fact, there is no evidence that action, illegal or otherwise, was taken by any ACORN employee on behalf of the videographers. 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.”
“A self-run investigation is not a substitute for an independent investigation,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) complained last September.