Friday, September 18, 2009
An ACORN employee in National City seen on videotape offering a duo posing as a prostitute and her pimp advice on getting 12 young girls across the border from Mexico has been fired.
The employee, Juan Carlos Vera, is featured on a 37-second video clip and a second 15-second clip aired Wednesday night on Fox News as part of a story about the nonprofit, which touts itself as an advocate for the poor.
The videos, and others like it, were secretly created by conservative activists James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles for BigGovernment.com, a new Web site launched by Internet entrepreneur Andrew Breitbart.
In the first clip, the employee tells the duo it's easier to get people across the border through Tijuana than any other area along the border because he knows people there. In the second clip, he asked the supposed prostitute how much her services cost.
Similar undercover videos have been taken in ACORN offices in Baltimore, Brooklyn, N.Y., Washington, D.C. and San Bernardino. An ACORN employee in Baltimore told the duo young girls from El Salvador who would be part of their business could be claimed as dependents.
Local ACORN spokesman David Lagstein initially defended Vera on Thursday, saying his comments in the video were taken "completely out of context."
But later the same day, Lagstein held a news conference in which he said he had since seen a seven-minute version of the video and it contradicted what Vera has told him.
Lagstein also called the secret videotaping a smear campaign designed to distract from the nation's debate on health care reform. He said his group is investigating the possibility of a lawsuit against the filmmakers.
ACORN, meanwhile, lost all federal funding Thursday thanks to a measure sponsored by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista. The Democratic-controlled Congress voted 345-75 in favor of the measure. The Senate took similar action on Monday with an 83-7 vote in favor of cutting off all housing and community grant funding to the group.
The undercover videos also prompted the California Republican Party to send letters Thursday to District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and Registrar of Voters Deborah Seiler requesting an audit of voter registration cards generated by the local ACORN office.
ACORN officials have said they are revamping their employee training and plan to launch an independent review of the group's practices.
ACORN stands for Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Last year, it came under fire after its employees submitted false registration forms during the presidential race. ACORN officials said a handful of employees did so in a bid to boost their pay.