Michael Gaynor
From Watergate to "ACORNgate"?
By Michael Gaynor
November 30, 2009

Will the "Pimp and Pro" ACORN story morph into ACORNgate?

Some people do hard work the right way, while others choose to disregard law that they don't like either in the pursuit of an important end that they think is sufficiently important to warrant disregarding that law they don't like or in the fatuous belief that they are "above the law."

On July 24, 2009, Congressman Darrell Issa (R. Cal.) released a devastating and detailed report on ACORN and a press release titled "REPORT: Is ACORN Intentionally Structured As a Criminal Enterprise?" (http://issa.house.gov/index.cfm?FuseAction=News.PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=ad0751a3-19b9-b4b1-1247-42fb7b539871).

The press release began:

"A report released today by Rep. Darrell Issa (CA), the Ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, presents evidence that ACORN has evaded taxes, obstructed justice, engaged in racketeering, and created a conspiracy to defraud the United States.

"'This report is a comprehensive and substantive examination of an organization that has operated in secrecy and outside the law,' Issa, also a member of the House Judiciary Committee said. 'There are number of legitimate questions raised about the political activities and organizational structure of ACORN. This report is about getting to the truth and when there are significant accusations and questions outstanding regarding an organization that has benefited from millions of taxpayer dollars, those questions should be answered and the truth should be brought to light.'

"'The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) has repeatedly and deliberately engaged in systemic fraud,' according to the report's executive summary. 'Both structurally and operationally, ACORN hides behind a paper wall of nonprofit corporate protections to conceal a criminal conspiracy on the part of its directors, to launder federal money in order to pursue a partisan political agenda and to manipulate the American electorate. Emerging accounts of widespread deceit and corruption raise the need for a criminal investigation of ACORN.'

"The report includes significant new information about wrongdoing brought to the attention of committee investigators by ACORN whistleblowers."

The Issa report did not mention the "Pimp and Pro" ACORN sting.

That was not possible, becaus the "Pimp and Pro" ACORN sting was in the planning stage when the Issa Report was being written.

Whether a result of coordination or simply sheer coincidence, the sting began on the same day that the Issa report was issued — July 24, 2009. ACORN's Philadelphia office was targeted in the morning and ACORN's Baltimore office was targeted in the evening. ACORN's Washington, D.C office was targeted the next day and then James O'Keefe went to California to show video to Andrew Breitbart, publisher of BigGoverment.com and then reconnected with Hannah Giles to do a sting at an ACORN office in New York and three in ACORN offices in California last August that would permit the kind of rollout that Breitbart favored.

As Mr. Spock of "Star Trek" would say, "Fascinating."

Doug Giles, Ms. Giles' dad, explained (http://townhall.com/columnists/DougGiles/2009/09/19/no,_it_wasn't_my_idea_for_hannah_giles_to_dress_like_a_hooker_and_infiltrate_acorn): "The truth of the matter, from a timeline standpoint, is that they hatched their plan in May of '09, fine-tuned it from May 20th — July 23rd, and then launched July 24th, fully accomplishing their mission by the end of August. And that's a fact to all those for whom facts still matter."

Like the whole truth, facts still matter to me.

Succumbing to the temptation to surreptitiously record to obtain evidence of the misconduct of political opponents did not begin with the "Pimp and Pro" ACORN story or even with the Watergate scandal.

If you believe in the rule of law in America, you believe that the same law applies to Republicans and Democrats and liberals and conservatives. If you believe the public should know the whole truth, you don't believe that two wrongs make a right or that the proper responses to the lies and crimes of the Far Left are inspiring cover stories and excusable criminal conduct from the Right. If you believe in federalism, you believe that each state is entitled to set its own public policy so long as that public policy is constitutional.

I wish that one-party consent was lawful throughout America, but it's not and a prohibition of surreptious recording without the consent of all parties to a conversation is constitutional. I respect that legal reality, but some others do not.

The second break-in to the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate in 1972, generally known as the Watergate break-in, boomeranged "bigtime."

Initially dismissed as "a third-rate burglary," it did not prevent President Richard M. Nixon's resounding re-election victory in 1972. But, mostly due to the determined efforts of the team of reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post, backed by editor Ben Bradlee and federal government insider Mark Felt (aka "Deep Throat"), that cover story did not hold and the cover up culminated in President Nixon's resignation after his political base collapsed as the truth became known.

President Gerald Ford succeeded President Nixon, pardoned him and declared that "our long national nightmare is over."

It wasn't. The Republicans were devastated in the 1974 Congressional elections, South Vietnam fell to the Communists, Jimmy Carter was elected President in 1976...and obviously the lesson that using illegal methods in the hope of exposing wrongdoing of political opponents was not learned by all.

Hannah Giles, heroine of the "Pimp and Pro" ACORN sting, told this inspiring it-came-to-me-on-a-morning-jog story about the origin of the sting when interviewed on "Hannity": "Well, Sean, it's amazing what girls think about when they are jogging. And that was just something that popped into my head. I had never seen an ACORN office, I really didn't even know that they existed and I jogged into the wrong part of town, saw some homeless people and street ladies and I put two and two together when I turned around to get back into a safe neighborhood. And it's like — what if these people went into ACORN — a prostitute and what would come from that? No bills, no nothing — would they get a house? Could they start a business? So we put it to the test."

Earlier this year Ms. Giles had an internship with the National Journalism Center in northwest Washington, D.C.

That ACORN office where Ms. Giles and James O'Keefe "put it to the test" was located on the second floor at 739 8th Street SE, a few blocks south of Pennsylvania Avenue, a bit north of I-295 and across the street from a beautifully kept Marine Barracks! That area is "safe" (as my wife and daughter attested). It's well kept and not reasonably described as "the wrong part of town." To be sure, I visited the area as well as the National Mall last weekend. I saw joggers and a couple of homeless people on the Mall, but none near 739 8th Street SE and no "street ladies" at all. If the deplorable MSM (mainstream media) had not been determined to avoid the "Pimp and Pro" ACORN story, it would have scrutinized the story. But the MSM does not really scrutinize ACORN, or Obama, or even the "Pimp and Pro" ACORN story (lest it focus the kind of attention on ACORN and Obama that does not suit the MSM's agenda).

Robert Stacy McCain, September 18, 2009 (http://rsmccain.blogspot.com/2009/09/fired-acorn-baltimore-workers-to-sue.html):

"UPDATE: Rather than talk to a veteran conservative journalist — I've got an e-mail address and have already interviewed Hannah's father, Doug Giles — James O'Keefe tells his story to the liberal MSM:

O'Keefe insists that he and Giles's work was done independently and rejects liberal suggestions that the videos were bankrolled by conservative organizations. He does, however, acknowledge receiving help and advice from a conservative columnist and Web entrepreneur.

When O'Keefe had filmed the first two videos — in the District and Baltimore — a friend urged him to share his project with Andrew Breitbart, a conservative Internet entrepreneur who had plans to launch an anti-liberal site called BigGovernment.com. Breitbart said he was skeptical after a June phone call with O'Keefe about what he had, but when the video was rolling in his basement office in Los Angeles in late July, Breitbart said, he gasped.

"Doug Giles is my friend, yet I am profoundly hurt by O'Keefe's deliberate insult — talking to the Washington Post before talking to me? When a 25-year-old punk starts insulting veteran journalists, there could be seriousconsequences...."

I think "The Other McCain" was being facetious about "serious consequences," but "there could be "serious consequences" of a legal nature, because the surreptitious recording that made the "Pimp and Pro" ACORN story sensational was legal at only two of the ACORN offices visited (Washington, D.C. and New York), no in Philadelphia, or Baltimore, or San Bernardino, or San Diego, or Los Angeles.

(With apologies to Senator Howard Baker), who knew that surreptitious recording is illegal in some states and when did he/she/they know it?

Ms. Giles knew at least by 2008.

Ms. Giles, in a September 23, 2008Townhall post titled "The Truth is Too Scandalous for YouTube" and lauding O'Keefe's Planned Parenthood sting (http://townhall.com/columnists/HannahGiles/2008/09/23/the_truth_is_too_scandalous_for_youtube): "In the summer of 2007 O'Keefe made phone calls to several Planned Parenthood clinics across the country. He only made these phone calls in states where it is legal to audio record without the other party's consent (i.e. Ohio, New Mexico, Idaho, Oklahoma)."

Ms. Giles can plead youth and inexperience, but a claim of ignorance that surreptious recording is not lawful across the whole United States will not do.

In addition, a plea of exigent circumstances will be a really steep climb, since both Ms. Giles and O'Keefe said that they were shocked by the reaction they received when they visited ACORN offices. For example, Fox News, "ACORN Officials Videotaped Telling 'Pimp,' 'Prostitute' How to Lie to IRS" (September 10, 2009) (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,548827,00.html):

"Reached by FOX News, O'Keefe said he was 'shocked' at the level of assistance provided by ACORN staffers.

"'I was prepared for them to call the police, throw me out of the office and be hostile,' he said. "Without hesitation, they helped me every way they could with evading taxes and setting me up with a brothel, with getting around federal tax laws — doing everything they could to help us. I was completely shocked.'"

If the reaction received was "shocking" instead of expected, then what's the excuse for violating state law prohibiting surreptitious recording? Curiosity and/or filmmaking won't do.

At Breitbart's Big Government.com, an article by former California Attorney General and current Republican Congressman Dan Lundgrun pleaded for mercy for Ms. Giles, 20, and O'Keefe, 25.

Lundgrun, in "Maryland Shouldn't Prosecute ACORN Filmmakers" (October 23, 2009) (http://biggovernment.com/author/dlungren/):

"Certain states, such as Maryland, have statutes prohibiting the recording of conversations without the consent of the other party. Unfortunately for the young investigative entrepreneurs, their disclosure of alleged illegal activities carried out by the ACORN employees took place in these so-called 'two party consent states' which prohibit the recording of confidential communications without the permission of all parties.

"From the vantage point of a former prosecutor and as an official charged with the responsibility of stewardship of the public purse, I believe all of the equities point to the exercise of prosecutorial discretion by declining to prosecute those who have in fact provided a public service to our nation. In other words, the good guys ought to win this one!"

While Lundgrun wisely called for the exercise of prosecutorial discretion, Breitbart baited current California Attorney General (and probably soon to be again California Governor) Jerry Brown.

Breitbart, in "ACORN: The LA Story, Part I" (November 12, 2009): "Since I woke up to the news that ACORN had sued the U.S. government to get its federal funding back, it struck me as obvious that ACORN is in the process of trying to get its mojo back absent any real investigations by the Holder Justice Department, the Democratic-controlled Congress, and the Jerry Brown sham investigation in California — not to mention the so-called 'internal investigation' whose chief investigator was picked by number one ACORN defender, John Podesta, and SEIU head Andy Stern, whose union is deeply aligned with the troubled 'community organizing' group."

BigGovernment.com's editorial panel (aka "Publius"), in "Calif. Attorney General Brown Will Face Independent Investigation for Secretly Recorded Conversations" (November 17, 2009) (http://biggovernment.com/2009/11/17/calif-d-a-brown-will-face-independent-investigation-for-secretly-recorded-conversations/):

"Brown's position on the recordings strikes the Big Government editorial panel as arrogant. First, the Attorney General is in the process of investigating the ACORN filmmakers for violating laws about secret tape-recordings while conducting similar recordings himself... repeatedly. Second, Brown conducted an internal investigation on himself (much like John Podesta of Media Matters and Andy Stern of the SEIU conducting the internal investigation of ACORN) for nearly three weeks before he solicited a third party. And judging by the wording in the attached letter, Brown seems none too happy to pass that duty elsewhere.

"Much like the internal investigations movement, Brown might be hurting right now. Stay tuned..."

"Stay tuned" is right.

If the MSM decides to investigate, there will be some Watergate parallels to appreciate.

There were TWO Watergate burglaries, the first of which was not noticed at the time.


"The Watergate burglaries, which took place on May 28 and June 17, 1972, were the focus of the Watergate scandal that ultimately led to the resignation of United States President Richard Nixon. Five men who were apprehended inside the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate building during the second burglary implicated themselves on other counts and charges by voluntarily telling investigators about having committed a 'first break-in.' Congressional and law enforcement investigations into the first burglary relied entirely on the testimony of the conspirators because there was no physical evidence of a first burglary, and there were no independent witnesses to the event.

"Physical evidence that might or might not have corroborated the testimony was destroyed by a number of people involved in and peripheral to first burglary, including G. Gordon Liddy, Jeb Magruder, John Dean, and the acting head of the FBI at the time, L. Patrick Gray, who resigned after his admission of destruction of evidence that had been taken from the safe of E. Howard Hunt

"As a result, the only information available concerning the first burglary is contained in the sworn testimony and anecdotal accounts of the participants themselves.'

"On or about May 27, 1972, under the supervision of Gordon Liddy and Howard Hunt, McCord, Barker, Martinez, Gonzalez, and Sturgis, broke into the DNC headquarters. McCord placed two monitoring devices on the telephones of DNC officials, one on the telephone of Chairman Lawrence O'Brien, and the second on the telephone of the executive director of Democratic state chairmen, R. Spencer Oliver, Jr. Barker selected documents relating to the DNC contributors, and these documents were then photographed." Judiciary Committee Impeachment Hearings, 93rd Congress Book I, Events Prior to the Watergate Break-in U.S. Government Printing Office 1974.

Surely the Watergate burglars were seeking evidence of wrongdoing to use for political purposes.

Unfortunately, they went about it illegally. The break-ins became the story, not possible Democrat wrongdoing.

G. Gordon Liddy (who wisely invested in gold a decade ago) probably knows what really was so.


"In 1971, after serving in several positions in the Nixon administration, Liddy was moved to Nixon's 1972 campaign, the Committee to Re-elect the President...to extend the scope and reach of the White House 'Plumbers' unit, which had been created in response to various damaging leaks of information to the press. At CRP and at the behest of John Dean (operating on his own to impress his superior, John Erlichman, unbeknownst to Liddy at that time), Liddy concocted several plots, some far-fetched, intended to embarrass the Democratic opposition. These included firebombing the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. in order to sneak into the building as firemen and grab sensitive classified documents leaked by Daniel Ellsberg, kidnapping anti-war protest organizers and transporting them to Mexico during the Republican National Convention (which at the time was planned for San Diego), and luring mid-level Democratic campaign officials to a house boat in Baltimore where they would be secretly photographed in compromising positions with call girls. Most of Liddy's ideas were rejected by Attorney General John N. Mitchell, but a few were given the go-ahead by Nixon Administration officials, including the break-in at Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office. Ellsberg had leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times. At some point, Liddy was instructed to break into the Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate Hotel."

"Liddy was the Nixon Administration liaison and leader of the group of five men who broke into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Complex with the intent to plant listening devices. John Dean had been given the responsibility for overall campaign intelligence by H.R. Haldeman, and recommended Liddy as intelligence chief to the Committee to Re-elect the President to Jeb Magruder, the Deputy Director. Liddy did not participate in the break-in himself, insomuch as he did not actually enter the Watergate Complex, rather, he admitted to supervising the break-in from another hotel across the street. For his crime, which he coordinated with Hunt, Liddy was convicted of conspiracy, burglary and illegal wiretapping. Liddy was sentenced to a 20-year prison term and was ordered to pay $40,000 in fines. He began serving the sentence on January 30, 1973. On April 12, 1977, President Jimmy Carter commuted Liddy's sentence to eight years, 'in the interest of equity and fairness based on a comparison of Mr. Liddy's sentence with those of all others convicted in Watergate related prosecutions', leaving the fine in effect. Carter's commutation made Liddy eligible for parole as of July 9, 1977. Liddy was released on September 7, 1977 having served a total of four-and-a-half years of actual incarceration."

The fact that Liddy supervised the break-in did not keep him from being convicted.

The motive became an unimportant detail in the courtroom of public opinion.


"E. Howard Hunt, one of the two admitted co-commanders, said under oath in congressional testimony that the reason for the first burglary was because G. Gordon Liddy 'had information' from 'a government agency' that 'the Cuban government was supplying funds to the Democratic Party.' Hunt said that to 'investigate this report, a surreptitious entry of Democratic national headquarters at the Watergate was made.' No such report from a government agency was produced in evidence, and no other physical evidence is in the record to support or corroborate this motive.

"G. Gordon Liddy, Hunt's co-commander, has never cited Cuban contributions to the Democrats as a motive for a first burglary. For several decades Liddy never cited any reason for a first burglary except an oral order Liddy said he received in a private meeting with Nixon adviser Jeb Magruder, which Liddy says took place 'toward the end of April' 1972. According to Liddy, Magruder said that he 'wanted to hear anything that was going on inside the office of Larry O'Brien, who was the chairman of the DNC' (and who was in Miami, Florida at the time); that Magruder 'wanted to be able to monitor his [O'Brien's] telephone conversations;' and that 'if there was anything else lying around,' that was to be photographed.

"In 1968, O'Brien was appointed by Vice President Hubert Humphrey to serve nationally as the director of his presidential campaign and by Howard Hughes to serve in Washington as his public-policy lobbyist. O'Brien was elected in 1968 and 1970 by the DNC to serve nationally as its chairman. With the upcoming Presidential election, John H. Meier a former business adviser to Howard Hughes, working with Hubert Humphrey and others, wanted to feed misinformation to Richard Nixon. In late 1971, the President's brother Donald Nixon, was collecting intelligence for his brother at the time and was asking Meier about Larry O'Brien.

"Meier told Donald that he was sure the Democrats would win the election since they had a lot of information on Richard Nixon's illicit dealings with Howard Hughes that had never been released, and that Larry O'Brien had the information, O'Brien didn't actually have any documents but Meier wanted Richard Nixon to think he did). Donald then called his brother and told him that Meier gave the Democrats all the Hughes information that could destroy him (Richard Nixon) and that O'Brien has it. Nixon's Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman said he believes Nixon told his Chief Counsel Chuck Colson to get the goods on O'Brien's connection with Hughes. This would have provided the President with the motivation to break into O'Brien's office, as he wanted to see if anything was going to break before the election.

"In more recent years, Liddy began to state in speeches, and in a subsequent libel suit, that the motive for a first burglary at the DNC was John Dean's desire to determine whether the Democrats possessed information embarrassing to Dean, and that the burglars, without Liddy's knowledge at the time, must have been seeking a compromising photograph of Dean's fiancée. (In contrast, E. Howard Hunt and Bernard Barker have said under oath that the participants had been instructed to photograph documents on Democratic donors and financial records.)

"There is no verifiable evidence of any motive for a first burglary at the Watergate complex."

It's not easy for the public to learn the truth and sometimes it doesn't.

Do we know the whole truth about "Watergate"?


Do we know the whole truth about the "Pimp and Pro" ACORN story?


Will the "Pimp and Pro" ACORN story morph into ACORNgate?

As Breitbart puts it, stay tuned...

© Michael Gaynor


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

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Michael Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member... (more)


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