Census Bureau Cuts Its Ties With Acorn

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Census Bureau on Friday dropped Acorn as a partner for the 2010 Census after two separate hidden-camera videos captured four employees of the community organization giving tax advice on running a brothel to a man posing as an aspiring politician and a woman posing as his girlfriend and a prostitute.

The Census Bureau earlier this year signed up the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, one of the nation's largest community groups, as a national partner for the decennial census, a role that entails helping to publicize the importance of the count and encouraging people to participate.

In a letter to Acorn President Maude Hurd, Census Director Robert Groves said Acorn had become a distraction.

Acorn's deputy national director, Brian Kettenring, said the organization won't stop promoting the 2010 Census. "We will continue to do what we've said we'll do, which is encourage people in communities to participate fully in the census," he said.

News reports have identified the filmmaker as 25-year-old James O'Keefe, an activist for conservative issues. His identity couldn't be independently verified. In the videos, posted on YouTube, he posed as an aspiring politician and told the Acorn workers that he planned to use his girlfriend's prostitution income to fund future campaigns. One video was filmed at the community organization's Baltimore office, and another, a day later, in Washington, D.C.

The workers, who Acorn said were fired after it learned of the videos, instructed the couple to set up a company to prove they had enough income for a house that would serve as a brothel and home for teenage prostitutes. The couple purported to be seeking help to obtain a housing loan.

Acorn released a statement earlier Friday saying that the videos were made to "misinform the public about Acorn housing."

"All Acorn housing staff members undergo rigorous training and are expected to comply with high standards for ethical behavior and compliance with the law," said president of Acorn Housing Alton Bennett and Executive Director Mike Shea.

Write to Jake Sherman at Jacob.Sherman@wsj.com

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A4

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