Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

ACORN videos from National City, San Bernardino cause stir [Updated]

September 17, 2009 | 12:23 pm

The chairman of the Republican Party in San Diego County and a Republican member of the Board of Supervisors have joined Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in calling for an investigation into ACORN.

Tony Krvaric, chairman of the local GOP, and Supervisor Bill Horn said they are particularly suspicious of the group's voter registration efforts in a local Assembly race and a San Diego City Council race, both won by Democrats.

An undercover video shot at the group's office in National City purports to show workers willing to help someone interested in setting up a prostitution ring, possibly with girls from Tijuana. The video has been  shown nationally on commentator Sean Hannity's Fox News program.

"Coverage by the national media has put a black mark on our region and we have an obligation to find the truth," Horn said. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) has introduced a motion in Congress calling for the government to deny all federal funding to ACORN.

Meanwhile, the debate about another video purporting to show an ACORN worker in San Bernardino offering advice on how to set up prostitution businesses intensified today.

Conservative activists James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles pose as a pimp and a prostitute, respectively, in a hidden-camera video released Tuesday that depicts a woman who O’Keefe says is an ACORN worker in San Bernardino saying she could show them “how not to get caught.” On the video, which is edited, she also discusses killing her ex-husband and says she “laid some groundwork” beforehand by going to domestic violence shelters and saying she was abused.

But Christina Spach, the office supervisor at the ACORN office in San Bernardino, told the San Bernardino Sun that the woman on the tape knew the pair were joking but went along with it in part because she was alone in the office and was concerned for her safety. "Just to be clear, ACORN is not in the prostitution business," Spach told the Sun. "She was in an office all by herself. She felt unsafe in their company."

ACORN called on the activists to release the full tape, but declined to make the worker on the tape available to speak with reporters. A spokesman for the ACORN offices in National City and San Diego said the brief clips shown on the Hannity show were out of context and misleading. He promised a fuller explanation in two days after ACORN has a chance to interview its workers about the incident.

O’Keefe and Giles have previously released similar videos in Baltimore, Washington and New York that have appeared on websites and Fox News. In a letter to Brown released to reporters, Schwarzenegger, a Republican, said the reports “concerned me greatly."

"I believe it is appropriate that your office launch a full investigation into ACORN’s activities in California,” the governor wrote. “My administration stands ready to assist in any way necessary.”

Brown spokesman Scott Gerber said in a statement that his office would review the video, "and if we think there's any wrongdoing, we'll look into it or refer it to the local" district attorney.The U.S. Senate voted Monday to block federal housing grants to the group, which has also come under fire in voter registration fraud cases, particularly during last year’s presidential campaign.The group registers voters for Democrats.

[Updated at 9:43 p.m.: In San Diego, an ACORN organizer was fired for "unacceptable conduct" in answering questions from the undercover couple posing as a prostitute and pimp. Spokesman David Lagstein made the announcement just hours after saying no action would be taken against the organizer, Juan Carlos Vera. Still, Lagstein referred to the two who came to the National City office as "unscrupulous partisan videographers."]

-- Tony Perry in San Diego and Michael Rothfeld in Sacramento