More ACORN stories: here • Voter-fraud stories: here
Union-backed voter fraud group blames workers for bogus cards
John McCain's presidential campaign and the Republican National Committee have added a new alleged villain as they try to raise doubts about Democratic nominee Barack Obama in the closing weeks of the race - a community organizing group accused of generating a flurry of phony voter registration cards in a number of states.
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, known as ACORN, which says it has signed up about 1.3 million voters in 18 states this year, has come under fire for irregularities in at least eight states, including Nevada, where voter cards for the starting lineup of the Dallas Cowboys were turned in to local election officials.
ACORN spokesman Brian Kettenring said that in most cases the bogus registrations were flagged by ACORN supervisors during a review, brought to the attention of the local officials when they were submitted, and ACORN fired "probably a couple of dozen" employees who fabricated them. Under most state laws, the organization must submit every card an employee collects, he said.
The Republican National Committee has held five separate conference calls for reporters on the subject this week after a string of news reports in different states, and McCain's campaign has also been trumpeting links between the organization and Obama dating back 13 years.
In 1995, as a lawyer in private practice, Obama and two other lawyers from his firm represented ACORN in a successful suit that forced the state of Illinois to comply with a federal law that made it easier to register to vote. The group's political arm endorsed Obama this February and an ACORN-affiliated group was paid about $800,000 for get-out-the-vote operations in four states during the primaries. The Obama campaign flatly denied Republican assertions that Obama once trained ACORN employees.
Yesterday, RNC chief counsel Sean Cairncross called ACORN "a quasi-criminal organization" engaged in "a systematic effort to undermine the integrity of the election process nationwide." He said the organization's voter registration activities are under investigation in Nevada, New Mexico, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Indiana, North Carolina, and Missouri.
McCain spokesman Ben Porritt later added ACORN to the list of other Chicago figures with links to Obama. "Whether voters consider Barack Obama's relationship with William Ayers, Tony Rezko, or ACORN, he has a litany of concerning associations that should be fully examined," he said, referring to a 1960s radical who helped start a group responsible for a series of domestic bombings and a former Obama fund-raiser convicted earlier this year of fraud and bribery.
Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt fired back with this statement: "McCain advisers said this week that he would lose the campaign if they talked about the economy, and so . . . they are concocting outlandish conspiracy theories and looking for any attempt to distract from the serious challenges facing our nation that we will continue to address."
McCain raised the issue of voter registration fraud yesterday, telling a rally in Wisconsin: "You've seen the allegations, the multiple registrations under the same name, the more registered voters than the population. These are serious allegations, my friends, and they must be investigated, and they must be investigated immediately and they must be stopped before November the fourth."
Allegations of fraudulent registration forms are not new to ACORN, a 38-year-old organization that advocates for lower-income people on housing, access to credit, education, and other issues. Employees in Ohio, Colorado, Missouri, and the state of Washington have been accused of submitting false registration forms since 2004.
There is no evidence that anyone has actually voted as a result of the bogus registrations, which in some cases involve names being listed multiple times at fake addresses.
But Cairncross of the RNC said the bad registrations constitute fraud and tie up local election officials and law enforcement agencies.
"What's going on here is a fair amount of partisan behavior on the part of local election officials," said Kettenring of ACORN. Noting that ACORN had flagged problematic registration cards to local authorities, he added, "They're politicizing cards that we identified ourselves and marked as such."
The organization is working with law enforcement agencies in four states, and in five other states contacted law enforcement agencies with information about activities by specific ACORN employees, he said.
"These are former workers who defrauded us and we would like them brought to justice," Kettenring said.