Commentary: ACORN: Tax advice for the sex trade
Undercover video succeeds where the Justice Dept. never could
Looking for a one-stop source of advice on sex trafficking, fraudulently obtaining mortgages, opening a brothel, tax cheating and shooting your husband?
Your go-to source for help appears to be certain offices of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, whose acronym, a nut, now seems singularly appropriate.
Two young conservative filmmakers, James O’Keefe, 25, and Hannah Giles, 20, posed ó improbably ó as a pimp and a prostitute, a very low-budget pimp and prostitute. O’Keefe wore a fedora and sported a walking stick and what appeared to be a short rabbit-skin cape purchased off the rack at Goodwill. The fetching and dewy Giles wore a tight skirt, a skimpy top and teetery high heels. She looked, well, dewy and fetching and like a kid sister who had purloined some of her older sister’s wardrobe.
Their story was even more improbable than their appearance.
With O’Keefe’s hidden camera, they visited ACORN offices in Baltimore, New York City, Washington, D.C., and San Bernardino, Calif., seeking help in buying a house to use as a brothel for 12 underage girls from El Salvador, currently waiting aboard a boat on the Chesapeake. The profits would go to fund O’Keefe’s campaign for Congress ó as a Democrat, of course.
Their problem, they said, was that they couldn’t get a loan through regular lenders for a house of ill repute, as sound an investment as that might be.
The ACORN staffers ó at least the ones in the videos that reached Fox News and were posted on conservative Web sites ó stood ready to help.
Since the girls weren’t 16, one counseled, they were too young to work legally, so there was no need to get them Social Security cards and, thus, no need to pay taxes on them. And another suggested that O’Keefe and Giles could shelter some of their income from the young ladies by listing them as dependents.
There was the problem of Giles’ occupation and income. She claimed to have been a hooker since the age of 13 ó you have to see Giles to realize how absolutely unlikely this was. A cheerleader since the age of 13, maybe, but a prostitute? No way. She also claimed to have earned $8,000 a month, which one ACORN adviser quickly calculated was $96,000 a year.
She suggested that Giles list her occupation for tax purposes as “performance arts” and take deductions for clothes, grooming and gifts for clients. As for the brothel, another ACORN adviser suggested as a cover vitamin sales or a Thai or Swedish massage spa or a group home.
In the San Bernardino office, they encountered Tresa Kaelke, who was rather engaging in her own way. She allowed as how she had turned a few tricks herself and once ran an escort service and shot her husband after first establishing a brutality defense. It’s the kind of know-how you just don’t find everywhere.
ACORN later on said Kaelke was only playing along with O’Keefe and Giles because she was afraid of them, although she looked like a woman more than capable of taking care of herself.
The two filmmakers succeeded where the Republican right and the Bush Justice Department did not ó in nailing ACORN.
On Friday, the Census Bureau severed its ties with the organization, which had been enlisted to see that the poor and disadvantaged were not undercounted.
And, on Monday, the Senate voted 83 to 7 to block the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development from giving any grants to ACORN. And the videos are said to have prompted a law enforcement organization to launch an investigation.
ACORN may do much that is good, but the stuff on these videos is simply inexcusable. It’s also very funny.
– – –
Dale McFeatters writes for Scripps Howard News Service. Contact him at McFeattersD @SHNS.com.