Two staff members of the Baltimore office of ACORN were fired Thursday after they were captured on hidden camera appearing to give advice on evading tax laws to a man and woman posing as a pimp and a prostitute.
The video depicts a man and a scantily dressed female partner visiting the Charles Village office of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, where they appear to ask two employees about how to shield their work from state and federal tax requirements. The supposed pimp also appears to ask the employees how to conceal underage girls from El Salvador brought into the country illegally to work for him.
FOR THE RECORD - An article in Friday's editions misstated the Web site on which a video depicting employees at the Baltimore office of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) first appeared. The footage made its debut at BigGovernment.com.
The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.
"If they don't have Social Security numbers, you don't have to worry about them," the employee says.
Stuart Katzenberg, lead organizer for ACORN's Maryland chapter, said ACORN is questioning the validity of the video but had fired the employees who appeared in it because their handling of the situation "did not meet ACORN's standards of professionalism."
"Our work historically speaks for itself - fighting for working-class families across the country and in Baltimore," Katzenberg said.
ACORN, which provides services to the needy, emerged as a target of Republicans during the 2008 presidential campaign, when it was accused of submitting fraudulent voter registration cards in several states. Although officially nonpartisan, the organization tends to serve poor and minority communities that traditionally vote Democratic.
Posted online Thursday, the video made waves, particularly in conservative circles. Although it first appeared on a Web site called Big Hollywood, Katzenberg said it was part of a "coordinated" campaign by FOX News to damage ACORN. He could not offer evidence to support his claim, and a spokeswoman for FOX News said the allegations were without merit.
Katzenberg said ACORN offices in New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles had received visits under similar scenarios, but those people were turned away.
He said the Baltimore employees did not know they were being videotaped. He said Hannah Giles and James O'Keefe, the supposed prostitute and pimp, consistently misrepresented their intentions. He said the ACORN employees, a part-time receptionist and a part-time tax preparer, filed no tax returns and provided no assistance. ACORN now is trying to determine whether the videotaping broke any laws, Katzenberg said.
Giles, a 20-year-old student, told FOX News host Glenn Beck that she came up with the idea for the video and funded the project herself. "I saw them as a thug organization getting my tax dollars," Giles told Beck, who said he first viewed the video Saturday.
The ACORN employees appear to show no hesitation in helping Giles and O'Keefe, a 25-year-old filmmaker. In the video, O'Keefe introduces himself as a Johns Hopkins graduate student with aspirations of running for Congress. He and Giles describe their work as an "off-the-books" business catering to "male clients" several times before making clear that they are discussing prostitution.
One employee appears to discuss ways that the pair might justify the business ("Let's see - independent artists, you could be that," she says), and the other tells them to "train" their prostitutes to "keep their mouth shut." The four extensively discuss the issue of underage foreigners living in a home that Giles says she is trying to buy.
In telling the pair about a coming conference, which was held in August, the employees also encourage them to purchase a membership to ACORN