Washington The community organizing group ACORN said Wednesday it is ordering an independent investigation after its employees were caught on camera appearing to advise a couple posing as a prostitute and pimp to lie about the woman’s profession to get housing help.
The group, which came under fire from conservatives for alleged voter fraud in 2008, said it is refusing new admissions into its service programs.
The group, which advocates for poor people, conducted a massive voter registration effort last year and became a target of conservatives when some employees were accused of submitting false registration forms with names such as “Mickey Mouse.” ACORN has said only a handful of employees submitted false registration forms and did so in a bid to boost their pay.
ACORN will work with its advisory council, which includes prominent supporters of President Barack Obama, such as John Podesta, president of the nonprofit Center for American Progress, and Andrew Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, to name an independent auditor and investigator, ACORN chief executive Bertha Lewis said in a written statement.
The investigation will examine all the systems and processes called into question by the video, Lewis said.
In addition, ACORN won’t accept new admissions into its community service programs, effective immediately, and within the next few days will conduct staff training, she said.
Lewis said the steps were being taken in response to “the indefensible action of a handful of our employees.”
The moves are among several developments in recent days involving ACORN, a liberal-leaning group that is a popular target for Republicans. In addition to the hidden-camera video, it is under scrutiny for several voter-registration fraud cases.
Some Republicans are urging the Justice Department to investigate ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. The Senate voted Monday to block the Housing and Urban Development Department from giving grants to ACORN, and the Census Bureau last week severed its ties with the group for the 2010 national head-count.
Asked Wednesday about the controversy, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that “obviously the conduct that you see on those tapes is completely unacceptable.”
“I think everyone would agree with that. The administration takes accountability extremely seriously,” Gibbs said. “I think the Census Bureau evaluated and determined that this group could not meet the bureau’s goal of achieving a fair and accurate count in 2010.”