By Kathleen Gilbert
NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana, September 25, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The liberal community-based organization ACORN, which was recently disgraced by a series of undercover videos showing illegal activity by the group's employees, is now suing the young pro-life duo who shot the videos.
Defendant James O'Keefe, 25, who is being sued together with 20-year-old investigative partner Hannah Giles, is known among the pro-life community for conducting sting operations against Planned Parenthood in conjunction with Live Action Films. In one such investigation, O'Keefe caught a Planned Parenthood employee accepting a donation earmarked for the abortion of a black child.
Earlier this month the pair published videos of their visits to ACORN offices in five different jurisdictions, dressed as a pimp and his underage girlfriend-prostitute seeking a loan. Employees in the videos coached the flamboyantly-dressed pair in their endeavor to open a secret brothel complete with El Salvadorean child prostitutes, and to launder the ill-gotten funds for the pimp's future congressional campaign.
Both Republican and conservative Democratic legislators immediately condemned the contents of the videos and called for the de-funding, once and for all, of the controversial ACORN. The liberal activist group has been dogged in recent years by accusations of wide scale voter fraud, and, more recently, has been accused of covering up nearly $1 million in embezzled funds by ACORN founder Wade Rathke's brother.
“It is evident that ACORN is incapable of using federal funds in a manner that is consistent with the law,” said House Minority Leader John Boehner in response to the videos. “Simply put, ACORN should not receive another penny of American taxpayers' money.” Boehner's office estimates ACORN has received more than $53 million directly from the federal government since 1994, and likely more indirectly through federal block grants.
Although ACORN first responded to the scandal by firing several of its employees, the group has turned to the offensive by suing O'Keefe and Giles as well as Breitbart.com LLC for publishing the videos.
The lawsuit alleges that the pair violated Maryland's recording law, which requires consent from both parties, while videotaping employees at ACORN's Baltimore office. The suit also complains that the videos caused “extreme emotional distress” to the ACORN employees in the footage.
ACORN seeks $1,000,000 for itself, $500,000 for each individual plaintiff, as well as $1,000,000 in punitive damages against each defendant, and an injunction against further dissemination of the videos.
While O'Keefe and Giles left little room to suppose that both parties might have consented to the recordings, legal expert Ben Sheffner noted on his blog “Copyrights and Campaigns” that the suit is nonetheless likely to fail: Maryland precedent calls for the statute's enforcement only when plaintiffs have a “reasonable expectation of privacy” (REP).
“While the law in Maryland itself is scant, and the question is not entirely free of doubt, I think it unlikely that a Maryland court would find that ACORN and its employees had a REP in the circumstances here,” wrote Sheffner.
Despite the group's attempts to save face in the wake of the footage, ACORN's once-tight relationship with the federal government continues to slip.
The Internal Revenue Service has become the latest agency to cut ties with ACORN, announcing it would expel the group from its volunteer tax assistance program. In addition, amendments stripping ACORN of its federal funding have passed in separate measures in both House and Senate. Almost immediately after the videos were published, the Census Bureau broke off its cooperation with the group.
ACORN was not the only group to respond aggressively to the videos: columnist Joel Mowbray notes that each of the “Big Three” news publications – the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Associated Press – were forced to issue retractions after publishing misleading and defamatory information about O'Keefe.
“One wonders if the MSM reporters with egg on their faces realize the irony: the 25-year-old, self-described 'skinny nerd' with scarce resources has outclassed deep pocketed media titans,” wrote Mowbray. “Public trust in the mainstream is at an all-time low. Its reaction to the ACORN revelations and ham-handed attacks on O'Keefe will only accelerate the downward spiral.”
See O'Keefe and Giles' ACORN Exposé Videos and Transcripts here.
See related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
Pro-Life “Live Action” Investigator behind ACORN Sex-Racketeering Exposé
Planned Parenthood – Racist Donations Welcome We Abort Black Babies
Undercover investigator calls for congressional examination of PP