ACORN Pushes Back on Voter Fraud Allegations, Being Fodder for McCain

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) says it's been the target of partisan attacks over the past few days, and that recent allegations of voter fraud are scare tactics aimed at promoting an agenda that would suppress voter turnout among low- and middle-income Americans.

The group has come under accusations of voter fraud from election officials and conservative activists recently for reported irregular voter registration cards submitted to election boards in at least seven states. Today, the group became the latest political football in the presidential race, as John McCain's campaign released a web ad implying that Barack Obama had shady connections with the group in his early days of community organizing in Chicago.

ACORN pushed back today in a conference call with reporters.

"There's an attempt here to politicize the act of getting people involved in the process," ACORN Spokesman Brian Kettenring said.

Kettenring accused ACORN's critics of seeking "to create, to manufacture a so-called crisis of voter fraud" for the purposes of promoting policies, such as voter ID requirements, "that are about narrowing the electote, constricting the electorate."

Conservatives have pounced on reports of faulty voter registration cards submitted to election officials by ACORN in Pennylvania, Nevada, Indiana, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Ohio and New Mexico as part a massive registration drive, undertaken by ACORN and nonpartisan registration group Project Vote, which according to the groups has registered 1.3 million voters. A Las Vegas ACORN office was raided Tuesday by Nevada authorities in connection with the reportedly fauly registration cards.

A group of House Republicans today wrote a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, asking the Department of Justice to investigate ACORN's voter registration activities. The group included Reps. Roy Blunt (Mo.), Tom Cole (Okla.), Vernon Ehlers (Mich.), Dean Heller (Nev.), Candice Miller (Mich.), and Lamar Smith (Texas)--all former secretaries of state, and thus all formerly responsible for overseeing elections.

But ACORN says that, in most cases, it is required to submit every voter registration card it receives, and that it flags faulty or suspect cards to alert authorities, but is required to submit them anyway.

It's possible that all the faulty cards that led to recent investigations and criticism, ACORN said, were flagged as faulty to help authorities sift through them.

"When they have contacted us, it has been following up on applications we identified," ACORN Spokesman Scott Levenson said. "It seems to be, from what we know, a one to one relationship."

ACORN also is taking issue with the McCain camp's attack on Obama for his alleged association with the group--particularly the McCain campaign's insinuation that, by pushing for banks to be friendlier to homebuyers, ACORN helped spawn the nation's current financial crisis.

Conservative bloggers have made that case as well, blaming both ACORN and the Community Reinvestment Act for encouraging banks to lend to people who could not pay them back.

"There's an incredible line of argument that has been put out by the right in America that lending to minorities is the cause of the financial crisis," Kettenrging said on the conference call. "It's a disgusting argument and it's just not true."

Kettenring denied that Obama had worked for ACORN, and said that ACORN's borrower advocacy was limited to pressuring banks to stop red-lining (refusing to lend in certain geographical areas) and using predatory lending practices, meaning ACORN's advocacy could not have worked to create the subprime crisis.

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