Steamboat Springs Freedom Conference attendees on Saturday got to hear what drove Hannah Giles to investigate corruption at an agency that was supposed to be advocating for low-income families.
Giles was a 20-year-old aspiring journalist who had landed an internship in the Washington, D.C., area during summer 2009. While out for a jog, she ran past the housing barracks for the The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN.
“It hit me,” Giles said. “I could do an investigation. They’re right here.”
She said she had written investigative pieces that were critical of ACORN and its political ties during college, but the articles did not change the national perception of the organization.
By the time Giles had finished her jog and returned to her apartment, she said she had formulated a plan to investigate ACORN.
She joined with James O'Keefe, who along with Giles is generally described as a conservative activist. Together, at a cost of $1,500, they produced a number of undercover videos that drew national controversy and led to the organization’s downfall. One of the videos was shown at the beginning of Giles’ speech Saturday. It showed O'Keefe, posing as a pimp, and Giles posing as a prostitute. An ACORN employee was offering them advice on how to avoid paying taxes on their prostitution ring.
ACORN lost its government and private funding and declared bankruptcy in 2009.
Today, Giles helps lead investigations for the American Phoenix Foundation. According to its website, the goal of the foundation is to “recruit and train select young potential leaders to transcend the traditional media by becoming independent truth-seeking journalists who relentlessly pursue truth with courage and creativity.”
“Accountability is what we seek, courage is what we need, and content is what me must deliver,” Giles said.
At 23 years old, Giles said that she has become very cynical and that the established media has become part of the “corrupt power structure.”
“We must be in the business of reaching hearts and minds,” Giles said.
She told the crowd that journalists cannot have the mindset of saving the world. Instead, the passion and goal must be truth and justice, "not the desire to take down our foes.”
Giles said her focus with the foundation is on long-term projects.
“All I can say is be watching in the next six months,” she said.
The fourth annual, two-day Freedom Conference put on by The Steamboat Institute was highlighted Friday night with a speech and Q-and-A session with John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush. The conference concluded Saturday at The Steamboat Grand with lunch speaker Michelle Malkin.
To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com