Blowback in the ACORN Wars

By Gorman Gorman

Sep 16, 2009 10:15am

Recent videos posted online and aired repeatedly on Fox News Channel that seem to show ACORN workers allegedly advising two 20-somethings dressed up as a pimp and prostitute on how to skirt the law, the community group has taken some major hits as of late.

On Friday the Census Bureau severed its relationship with the group for the 2010 census. On Monday the Senate overwhelmingly voted to deny Housing and Urban Development funds to the group.
And congressional Republicans in general have been asking the federal government to terminate relationships with the group and investigate various allegations of malfeasance.

ACORN officials have fired some of the employees in question, while also suggesting the videotapes are not precisely what they seem. The most recent video — from a San Bernardino ACORN office — depicts an ACORN employee claiming to have murdered her husband.

But when the Press-Enterprise newspaper caught up with ACORN employee Tresa Kaelke, she told the newspaper she was messing with the filmmakers and making it all up.

"They were clearly playing with me," she said "I decided to shock them as much as they were shocking me."

Reports the newspaper: "Since she claimed on the video to have killed her husband, two San Bernardino police homicide detectives interviewed her at the office Tuesday. Police said they have been in contact with Kaelke's former husbands and the homicide claims do not appear accurate.

"'At this point, we can't prove that there's anything to her statement,' said San Bernardino police Sgt. Dave Dillon. 'We can't show that ever happened.'

"One of her ex-husbands, Ronald Kaelke, 66, of Newberry Springs, said he was unaware of any investigation or that his ex-wife had made any claims of murder.

"The couple divorced in 1987, but attempted to reconcile and lived together from 2002 to 2005, Ronald Kaelke said in a telephone interview. In 2007, the couple traded allegations of domestic violence and received separate restraining orders against each other, he said.

"'As far as her murdering an ex-husband, that's news to me,' Ronald Kaelke said. 'She's definitely got problems and goes off the wall sometimes.'"
 
Other claims made by Tresa Kaelke did not square with the newspaper's reporting.

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Then there's the man who bills himself as "the Senate’s most outspoken critic of ACORN," Sen. David Vitter, R-Louisiana.

Vitter has introduced a bill that would deny any federal funds to the group, which bills itself as the nation's largest grassroots organization serving low-income and middle-income Americans.

"After months of beating the drum and continued news reports of criminal investigations, the president and his administration are finally starting to distance themselves from ACORN. The Census dropping ACORN as a partner is a good, common sense move. Now we must go one step further and support my simple and direct amendment, which declares that no federal funds should go ACORN,” said Vitter.

The Louisiana Democratic Party, however, points out a point of potential awkwardness for the senator — the fake prostitution ring the young conservative journalists at BigGovernment.com talked about, versus the very real ones Vitter was accused of having frequented.

Vitter, as you may recall, was named by a New Orleans bordello Madame as a client of her prostitutes. In July 2007, Vitter apologized after his telephone number showed up in the phone records of Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the alleged DC Madame.

"This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible," Vitter said.

Vitter did not vote on Monday.

“For months, David Vitter has been leading the charge to deny federal money to ACORN, but as soon as the topic of prostitution comes up, he doesn’t even show up to work,” said Louisiana Democratic Party Spokesman Kevin Franck. 

Franck suggests, per a press release, that "Vitter may have skipped the vote to avoid calling attention to his own admission that he frequented prostitutes."

Vitter spokesman Joel Digrado says the senator missed his flight because of a scheduling error.

The Louisiana Republicam phoned other senators and urged them to support the amendment, Digrado said, adding that Vitter has forced three separate Senate votes on ACORN, including an amendment to the stimulus, an amendment to the National Service Bill and the cloture vote to overturn his hold of Census Bureau director Robert Groves.

-jpt

* This post has been updated.

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