My Letter to the Editorial Page Editor of the L.A. Times Regarding That Fact-Challenged Pro-ACORN Op-Ed Written by the ACORN Consultant
I have sent the following e-mail to Nick Goldberg, the Editorial Page Editor for the Los Angeles Times:
A recent op-ed in your paper defending ACORN makes at least two factual misstatements: 1) that ACORN staff offered to help shield an underage prostitution ring at only two offices, and 2) that no voter fraudulently registered to vote by ACORN had ever actually cast a ballot. Furthermore, your paper failed to disclose that the author of the op-ed, Peter Dreier, has been a (presumably paid) consultant for ACORN in the past . . . something that might help explain how he botched the facts so badly.
I think the paper should issue corrections of the two false facts, and disclose Dreier’s past consulting work for ACORN.
This e-mail will be a little long, because I’m showing my work. While it might seem like an imposition to ask you to read such a long e-mail, I believe I’m doing you a favor, because I’m laying out the research necessary to show that corrections are warranted.
Let’s start with Dreier’s false claim that only two offices offered to help shield an underage prostitution ring:
Two “gotcha” right-wing activists showed up at about 10 ACORN offices hoping to entice low-level staff to provide tax advice for an illegal prostitution ring. In most ACORN offices, the staff kicked the pair out. In a few cities, staffers called the police. In two offices, however, the staff listened and offered to help. That was wrong. But ACORN immediately fired the errant staffers.
“Two” offices? Try at least five, if not more. Let’s start with the two that Dreier appears to acknowledge.
1) Baltimore: ACORN employees were fired in Baltimore after being caught on tape advising James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles regarding ways to evade the tax laws while running a prostitution business that involved 13 girls from El Salvador that were aged 15 and under. One employee, after being told that Giles was a prostitute, suggested that Giles call herself an independent artist or a dancer. ACORN employees suggested that the underaged prostitutes could be claimed as dependents — and argued that the underaged girls’ income did not have to be reported because they didn’t have Social Security numbers. An ACORN employee also gave advice on how to deal with an abusive pimp, advising them to tell the underaged prostitutes to keep their mouths shut. You may view the videos here:
And review a transcript here:
2) Washington, D.C.: In Washington, D.C., ACORN employees were fired after they gave O’Keefe and Giles advice on how to run a brothel including underaged prostitutes. An employee advised them to create a false company name to disguise the “lady of the night thing.” Giles was told to call herself a “consultant” or a “marketer” and to be “low key.”
Employees didn’t bat an eye when told that there were 10 El Salvadorian girls involved in the underage prostitution ring. An employee told O’Keefe to say that he was just the landlord and that he has no knowledge of what was going on in the brothel. When they discussed where his money came from, he was told: “When the police ask you, you don’t know where it’s coming from.” View the videos here:
And a transcript here:
That’s two. Ah, but Nick . . . there are more.
3) Brooklyn: In Brooklyn, O’Keefe and Giles received advice from ACORN employees on how to obtain mortgage loans when they were using El Salvadorian girls, aged 13-15, as prostitutes. One employee said: “Honesty is not going to get you the house.” Another advised the couple to find another name for the business besides “prostitution” . . . and to bury the proceeds in a tin in the back yard. Watch the videos here:
And read a transcript here:
4) San Bernardino: In San Bernardino, a woman explained how to report income from trafficking in underaged prostitutes. She advised them to call it a “group home” and not to declare too much money on their tax returns — which would work, she said, because it was a cash business. View the videos here:
A transcript is here:
5) San Diego: In San Diego, an ACORN employee actually went so far as to offer his help smuggling in underage prostitutes across the border. He told O’Keefe and Giles that Tijuana is the best place to smuggle the underaged prostitutes over the border, because “I have a lot of contacts” in Tijuana. Giles and O’Keefe told him that they have 12 girls who are 13-15 years old that they wanted to use as prostitutes. The man’s response? He said he wanted to talk to them via e-mail. Here’s the video:
And here is the transcript:
Now, the fellow in San Diego who offered his help in trafficking in underaged prostitutes apparently called his cousin, a police detective . . . two days later. I don’t know whether his cousin warned him that he might be the subject of a sting operation before the cousin talked to federal authorities, but I do know that the ACORN employee was later fired. And he sure seems helpful on the tape.
(There is another tape that has recently been released from Philadelphia, but the audio of the ACORN employee has been muted due to ACORN’s legal actions against O’Keefe and Giles, so let’s just stick with the five examples above for now.)
I have spent some time here to gather together the evidence and summarize it in one place so that you can clearly see, with just clicks of the mouse, that Dreier is absolutely full of it when he says that employees offered to help in only two places. Who are you going to believe: Dreier, or your lying eyes?
This not the only falsehood Dreier tells in his op-ed. He also says:
Our study documented that many news outlets reported the voter fraud allegations without attempting to verify them. Had they done so, they would have discovered that not a single person who signed a phony name on a registration form ever actually voted. What occurred was voter registration fraud, not voter fraud, and it was ACORN that exposed the wrongdoing in the first place.
You might think that the extraordinarily sweeping nature of that statement would raise a red flag. Can he really know that no person voted after being fraudulently registered by ACORN?
And in fact, it is not so:
Darnell Nash of Cleveland, Ohio, was registered to vote by ACORN nine times for last year’s election. Nash cast a fraudulent ballot and was convicted of vote fraud and voter registration fraud. He’s currently serving a six-month prison term.
A spokesman for Cleveland’s Democratic prosecutor Bill Mason told me earlier this month that a local investigation of ACORN remains wide open.
Now, when I read this piece, I wondered: how could the man get these facts so badly wrong? A commenter of mine pointed out one possible motive: he has been a consultant for ACORN. As Dreier’s online bio states:
He has worked closely with a wide range of community organizations, labor unions, and public interest organizations, and has worked as a consultant for a variety of foundations and government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), VISTA, the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the MacArthur Foundation, the Boston Foundation, the California AFL-CIO, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, ACORN, the Industrial Areas Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and others.
This was not disclosed in the L.A. Times piece, which says only the following about Dreier:
Peter Dreier is a professor of politics at Occidental College. His study of media coverage of ACORN can be found here.
The paper should have disclosed Dreier’s consulting work for ACORN. Don’t you agree?
I think the paper should do so now, and correct the two factual errors I have discussed in this e-mail. I look forward to your response.
As always, I’ll let you know what I hear back.
UPDATE: It might also be worth noting that Dreier’s online CV also contains this entry:
Advisory Committee, ACORN (1997- )
He should have mentioned that, too.
UPDATE x2: Since writing this post, I have learned that the American Spectator article was incorrect to assert that Nash was convicted of vote fraud. He was charged with vote fraud and numerous other felonies, but was convicted of three counts of false registration. I have written the author of the American Spectator piece seeking a correction but have received no response. Details in an update to this post.