Monday, September 14, 2009

What grows from these ACORNS?

Jay Tea at Wizbang blog has some thoughts about where ACORN stands in the wake of the recent video stings.

The whole ACORN video sting story just keeps getting better and better. It started off with Baltimore ACORN employees trying to help an admitted pimp and prostitute buy a house to turn into a brothel, complete with illegal-alien underage girls brought into the US as sex slaves. ACORN responded by saying that the stingers had tried their scam at several other offices and were turned away, and the Baltimore "rogues" were promptly fired. They also threatened to sue the filmmakers and Fox News, and Baltimore officials (staunch Democrats) muttered about bringing criminal charges.


The filmmakers won't say how many more ACORN offices they visited, or even if there are more videos. They are content to release one, then sit back and wait for ACORN to issue their pro forma repudiations, then drop another in a few days. It's simple, but brilliant strategy -- it keeps the story going, and gives ACORN plenty of rope to hang themselves with between tapes.

So, how about those legal threats?

First up, the one against Fox News is doomed. It's a clearly-established legal precedent that once the media gets its hands on something, it can run with it. Even if it was the product of a violation of the law, that doesn't matter -- it's in the public and fair game. So Fox News is in the clear.

The threats against the filmmakers, though -- by ACORN and Maryland state officials -- might have a bit more substance. Maryland has laws that forbid recording conversations without the consent of all parties being recorded, and the filmmakers quite clearly broke that one.

However, ACORN fired the employees in question. So not only do they lack standing to sue, but they've compromised their argument -- any damages done to them were the fault of the ex-employees, not the filmmakers. They should be thanking the filmmakers for uncovering these "rogue" employees before they could do even more harm.

The state's case is much cleaner. If prosecutors choose to push it, then the filmmakers could be in a bit of hot water.

But any victory by the state's Democratic machine would be purely tactical. Strategically, it's a huge loser.

First up, you KNOW these kids will have a legal defense fund set up. And you KNOW that fund will break seven or eight figures in very, very short order.

Second, it will do precisely what their "death of a thousand cuts" release strategy has been doing -- keep the story going. But it'll do it far, far better than letting the videos out in drips and drabs.

Third, it will subject ACORN to the whole "legal discovery" mess, as the filmmakers' attorneys will be going over every single document within ACORN with a fine-toothed comb.

Fourth, it will encourage the now-fired employees to turn on ACORN, as they will be hard-pressed to show that what they did was not simply them going off on their own, but following ACORN's rules -- both written and unwritten. Rules such as "don't ask too many questions" or "sealing the deal is foremost" or "we're not the police, and we're not here to judge" or the like.


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