Charles Hynes, ACORN Scandal DA, Has ACORN Ties?
When I first saw Alex Knapp’s report this morning that Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes had cleared ACORN of wrongdoing in the infamous prostitution sting operation by James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles, my natural instinct was to look into his background to see what his political motivation might be. A quick glance at his Wikipedia entry led me to conclude that he was a typical machine pol and therefore had a conflict of interest.
But Alex correctly pointed out that there’s no evidence whatsoever that Hynes has ever acted inappropriately. Indeed, he’s successfully prosecuted Democratic politicians and even showed exemplary integrity in recusing himself from a case involving a former political opponent.
The Brooklyn DA is a member of the ACORN/Working Families Party. That means he signed their pledge, and worked for their endorsement.
The WFP describes itself as, “New York’s liveliest and most progressive political party. Formed by a grassroots coalition of community organizations, neighborhood activists, and labor unions, we came together build a society that works for all of us, not just the wealthy and well-connected.” While it makes no mention of ACORN on its site, its Wikipedia entry says, “was first organized in 1998 by a coalition of labor unions, ACORN and other community organizations, members of the now-inactive national New Party, and a variety of public interest groups such as Citizen Action of New York.” Further, ACORN executive director Bertha Lewis is a co-chair.
That’s pretty thin gruel for calling Hynes “the best DA money can buy.” New York City is a political oddity in the United States, with a lot of small political parties, like WFP, and local politicians working to get on multiple party lists. And Hynes has been re-elected three times, so the idea that he’s somehow especially beholden to ACORN is hard to argue.
It is, however, confirmation of the bias that led me to question Hynes’ motives: That electing law enforcement officials (prosecutors, sheriffs, etc.) especially on party lines, naturally brings suspicion of conflict of interest regardless of whether it really exists. Hynes has no choice but to investigate cases like this that are brought before him and, to the extent that there’s a political component to the case — as there is here — there’s always going to be an appearance of conflict.
Update (Alex Knapp): I agree that this appears to be a appearance of conflict of interest, however, there’s no evidence that there’s any actual conflict of interest. As far as I can tell, Hynes’ career shows no evidence of corruption, and he has certainly been willing to prosecute Democrats (successfully).
Frankly, I think that our political culture puts far too much stock into the “appearance” of impropriety instead of focusing on actual impropriety. You know, someone should write a book about that.