reported the following article:
By MICHAEL POWELL
Published: April 2, 2012
Young, bearded, a bit scruffy, a young man walked into a community organizing office in East Harlem, lugging a heavy bag. A little nervous, he said that his name was Melvin Howting, and that he worked for an environmental company in New Jersey and had a few questions about how to organize a union.
He wanted to know how to get higher wages.
And, oh yes, he had another question: If he formed a union, could his fellow workers join with the employer to shake down politicians for more money?
At this point, Rhea Byer-Ettinger, an organizer for Manhattan Together, felt her internal baloney detector go on red alert. “Beep, beep, beep,” she said. “I said to him: ‘Well, that’s not how we work. Tell me, why are you asking me about that?’ ”
This is the anatomy of a political sting.
Nothing this fellow said was true. Public records reveal that his real name is John M. Howting. He is active in the conservative movement and does not want to organize a union. His company — for which he built an elaborate Web site — and its officials do not exist. Ms. Byer-Ettinger suspects that he secretly recorded their conversation.
For several years, young conservatives have made a cottage industry of going undercover and trying to goad people working at perceived liberal institutions — like Acorn, NPR and Planned Parenthood — into saying something stupid. Trained by well-financed foundations, these dirty tricksters pose as pimps, sex traffickers and Muslim activists and record conversations surreptitiously. Then they release videos that have often been heavily edited.
Conservative Congressional representatives call for investigations and try to slash financing. In the case of Acorn, some workers did, in fact, give truly stupid advice to the fake prostitutes. That organization went belly up.
Planned Parenthood and NPR made far fewer mistakes and easily survived. But the disruptions were considerable.
Of late, conservatives have set their sights on the Industrial Areas Foundation, a national organizing group founded by a hard-bitten, inventive organizer named Saul Alinsky.
“It plays with your mind. It really does,” Ms. Byer-Ettinger said. “You wonder: Did he tape me? Is he cutting and pasting a tape right now?”