In response to a request from Rep. John Conyers, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, the Congressional Research Service issued a report finding absolutely zero cases in which ACORN violated the terms of its federal funding in the past five years.
But the report may have more harrowing implications for the creators of the infamous "prostitution videos" that prompted Congress to cut ACORN's funding, a move that a judge recently ruled was unconstitutional. According to the CRS report, the videographers may have violated federal law -- specifically the Electronics Communication Privacy Act:
The allegations concerning recording the conversation with ACORN affiliated individuals without their consent and subsequently disclosing the violations, at a minimum, of 18 U.S.C. 2511(1)(a), (b), and (c) to qualify for the one party consent exception of 18 U.S.C. 2511(2)(d), meaning the alleged conduct would not be considered unlawful under ECPA.
The authors of the report seem fairly certain that the makers of the video tape violated state laws in Maryland and California, concluding that "the laws of Maryland and California appear to ban private recording of face to face conversations, absent the consent of all of the participants."
In addition, CRS found no evidence for of the most pernicious and widely held right-wing theories about ACORN -- that it "steals" elections by deliberately collecting false registrations.The report could not "identify any reported
instances of individuals who were improperly registered by ACORN attempting to vote at the polls."
The CRS report follows an independent internal review of ACORN conducted by former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger, which found no pattern "of intentional, illegal conduct by ACORN staff."
ACORN hasn't issued an official statement on the CRS report yet, but when asked about the report's implications, ACORN Deputy Political Director Kevin Whelan said, “I think it kind of speaks for itself.”
UPDATE: I may have jumped the gun as far as federal law is concerned, as the report seems far less ambiguous about whether the one-party consent exemption applies later in the report, stating: "the one-party consent provision of section 2511(2)(d) seems to negate any prospect of liability under sections 2511 (1)(a)(b)(c) or any other chapter 119 section for the purported ACORN recordings--unless it can be shown that they were recorded for criminal or tortious purposes."
-- A. Serwer
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