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Another Investigation Vindicates Now-Defunct ACORN; O’Keefe Tapes “Heavily Edited”

Jerry Brown, the Attorney General of California, completed an exhuastive investigation of ACORN, specifically the activities surrounding the right-wing sting operation from James O’Keefe. And like all other investigations to date, Brown found no criminal wrongdoing.

California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today released a report, including newly obtained videotapes, that shows some members of the community organizing group ACORN engaged in “highly inappropriate behavior,” but committed no violation of criminal laws.

Brown’s report also uncovered “likely violations” of state law, including dumping 500 pages of confidential records into a Dumpster, failure to file a 2007 tax return, and four instances of possible voter registration fraud by ACORN in San Diego in connection with the 2008 election, as well as other irregularities in the group’s California operations. These irregularities have been referred to the appropriate authorities.

“A few ACORN members exhibited terrible judgment and highly inappropriate behavior in videotapes obtained in the investigation,” Brown said. “But they didn’t commit prosecutable crimes in California.”

None of the activities Brown mentions had anything to do with the O’Keefe tapes, which he obtained in exchange for immunity from prosecution from the filmmaker. Brown finds that the tapes were altered to create a new reality:

Evidence obtained by Brown tells a somewhat different story, however, as reflected in three videotapes made at ACORN locations in California. One ACORN worker in San Diego called the cops. Another ACORN worker in San Bernardino caught on to the scheme and played along with it, claiming among other things that she had murdered her abusive husband. Her two former husbands are alive and well, the Attorney General’s report noted. At the beginning and end of the Internet videos, O’Keefe was dressed as a 1970s Superfly pimp, but in his actual taped sessions with ACORN workers, he was dressed in a shirt and tie, presented himself as a law student, and said he planned to use the prostitution proceeds to run for Congress. He never claimed he was a pimp.

“The evidence illustrates,” Brown said, “that things are not always as partisan zealots portray them through highly selective editing of reality. Sometimes a fuller truth is found on the cutting room floor.”

You can watch the full, unedited videotapes here. It’s sad that Brown had to essentially drop a potential lawsuit over unauthorized filming without consent by O’Keefe in order to get these. The report in fact contends that O’Keefe and Hannah Giles violated state privacy laws. But the release of the tapes does serve to blow up O’Keefe’s entire argument. In some of the video segments, you can see members of ACORN calling the police on O’Keefe after he details his prostitution scheme.

Sadly, this comes as cold comfort to ACORN, which dissolved as an organization a few weeks ago, largely due to a dry-up in funding because of the bad publicity created by these selectively edited video tapes. Regardless of the truth after the fact, O’Keefe and the right-wing noise machine clearly won a major victory here.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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