ACORN has a lot of work to do if it wants to restore its image, regain credibility and continue receiving public funding in the wake of the latest public scandal that has tarnished the liberal-leaning advocacy group.
ACORN short for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, has received $54 million in federal funds since 1994. But the funding is in jeopardy after a highly publicized and damaging video surfaced.

Hidden cameras captured ACORN workers assisting a pair of conservative filmmakers posing as a pimp and prostitute on how to obtain fraudulent loans to operate a brothel, evade taxes, and smuggle underage illegal immigrants from El Salvador to engage in prostitution.

The group’s leaders initially claimed the videos were doctored, and accused right-wing critics of a smear. But last week, its CEO acknowledged “the indefensible action of a handful of our employees” and announced an independent investigation.

That was the sensible thing to do, and ACORN shouldn’t qualify for more public money until it cleans up its act. Congress also should hold a full-scale investigation to determine if ACORN still deserves federal funding.

The disparaging video has put the organization in the cross-hairs of an increasingly damaging and perhaps fatal public relations quagmire and, more importantly, a legal crisis. There are too many strikes against this organization to keep ignoring what must be done.

One might dismiss the videos as an isolated problem. But it’s only the latest of many troubling incidents. Last week, 11 ACORN workers in Florida were charged with falsifying 888 voter registration forms.

A month ago, an election official in Las Vegas said nearly half of voter registration forms turned in by ACORN were clearly fraudulent.

During last year’s presidential campaign, ACORN was at the center of a scandal involving fraudulent voter registration forms.

Founded in Arkansas in 1970, ACORN’s primary mission at the time was to merge varied interests of the economically disenfranchised, from welfare mothers to work people in need, regardless of race.

In the wake of the latest scandal, ACORN chief executive officer Bertha Lewis has pledged to do whatever is necessary to “re-establish the public trust.”

If the advocacy group wants to regain public trust and quell public criticism, it must get back to its roots of helping people in need instead of hurting itself and its public image, to the benefit of those who would prefer that ACORN falls to the ground and rots away.

Editor’s Note: The editorial printed above appeared in the Pensacola News Journal on Sept. 22, 2009. It was reprinted here with permission from The Associated Press. The views expressed in the editorial do not necessarily represent those of the South Florida Times.