(CNN) - The Roman Catholic Church is cutting off funds to the community organizing group ACORN, citing complaints over its voter registration drives in the November 4 election as part of the reason.
The Catholic Campaign for Human Development froze its contributions to the group in June amid allegations that Dale Rathke, the brother of ACORN founder Wade Rathke, had embezzled nearly $1 million.
This week, as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops met in Baltimore, Maryland, the campaign's chairman said it was cutting all ties with the group.
"We simply had too many questions and concerns to permit further CCHD funding of ACORN groups," Roger Morin, the auxiliary bishop of New Orleans, Louisiana, told his colleagues in a letter to the conference.
The CCHD has donated more than $7.3 million to ACORN-related projects over the past decade, including $40,000 to an ACORN chapter in Las Vegas, Nevada, that was raided before the election in an investigation into fraudulent voter registration forms. Among other questionable documents, the ACORN chapter submitted registration forms for members of the Dallas Cowboys football team.
ACORN contends it has tried to help head off election fraud.
(CNN) - So today I got a letter sent to all Catholic Bishops in the U.S. announcing that due to serious problems at the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), the Catholic Campaign for Human Development is suspending all funds to ACORN.
It’s significant because the Catholic Church in the U.S. has given $7.3 million dollars to ACORN projects over the past decade. Just last year, U.S. Catholics gave more than a million dollars to ACORN. And it appears some of that money filtered down to the ACORN office in Las Vegas that made headlines trying to register the Dallas Cowboys football team to vote in Nevada.
The problem for the Catholics is two fold:
1. The Catholic Church is concerned about its own tax exempt status being involved in a group that is now so deeply involved in political support of one candidate.
2. The Catholic Church says questions have arisen about ACORNS financial management, fiscal transparency and accountability.
So, of course, I immediately called ACORN’s spokesperson Scott Levenson, one of many public relations specialists brought on by ACORN to fight all this bad press. And here is Scott’s response to the question about the Catholic bishop’s freezing ACORN funding:
“The facts are wrong and we will no longer participate in a Drew Griffin hatchet job against ACORN.”
Less than an hour later, after our editorial director made a call to ACORN asking if this really was their response, we got this from another public relations specialist ACORN brought on to fight the bad publicity:
“ACORN is grateful to have received CCHD funding for many years, and proud that CCHD has enabled us to help our low income constituency achieve the American Dream. We know that CCHD is reviewing their current funding, and we are in discussions with them about continuing their support.” Steve Kest, ACORN Executive Director
The tension over at ACORN must be so thick you could cut it with a …well, I guess a hatchet.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A Pennsylvania judge rejected state Republican party demands to obtain lists of voters registered by the community group known as ACORN.
The state GOP accuses ACORN of widespread fraud in helping register some 140,000 voters in Pennsylvania.
ACORN welcomed the ruling against the Pennsylvania state Republican party, spokeswoman Ali Kronley told CNN Friday, turning the GOP charges back against the party.
"This kind of manufactured crisis is masking their own efforts to keep voters from voting," she said.
The top lawyer representing the Pennsylvania Republicans said they were "disappointed."
But, Heather Heidelbaugh added, the wording of the court order indicates the judge thinks ACORN has problems.
The judge said he would favor "expedited discovery" should someone want to pursue "evidence that in Pennsylvania practices of ACORN Outreach Workers can encourage duplicate voter registration."
The case hinges on allegations that ACORN canvassers are not trained properly, leading to improper voter registrations.
(CNN) - Community organization ACORN is fighting back after allegations that it is trying to register voters fraudulently and to swing the presidential election for Democrat Barack Obama.
The group this week released a 30-second TV ad calling on Republican candidate John McCain to stop "attempts at voter suppression across the country."
It also said it was filing several lawsuits around the country to halt the alleged suppression.
Republicans have "challenged election officials and they've filed lawsuits in an effort to thwart these new voters - our citizens - from casting their votes on Tuesday. This effort must be stopped," Delaware ACORN board member Hugh Alleyne said during a news conference Wednesday.
ACORN contends it tried to help authorities head off election fraud.
"In nearly every case that has been reported, it was ACORN that discovered the bad forms and called them to the attention of election authorities, putting the forms in a package that identified them in writing as suspicious, encouraging election officials to investigate, and offering to help with prosecutions," ACORN said in an October 9 release.
(CNN) - Embattled community organizing group ACORN is taking the offensive with a new ad targeting Sen. John McCain and the Republican Party, accusing the GOP presidential nominee and his party of attempting to intimidate voters.
The new ad, entitled “Not This Time,” is shot in black-and-white and features an African-American man who ages before viewers’ eyes. “It happened to him in 1960, 1965, and again in 2000. He was intimidated so he wouldn’t vote,” an announcer says as a traditional Southern hymn plays. “Tell John McCain: not this time,” the announcer says as the ad ends, and the phone number of McCain’s Capitol Hill Senate office appears on screen.
“Senator McCain needs to instruct his operatives and supporters to cease and desist. Nothing is more important to the fabric of our democracy than protecting the rights of American voters,” said Steve Kest, ACORN’s executive director, at a Wednesday press conference where the ad was released.
In a statement issued Wednesday about lawsuits recently filed in New Mexico, Sean Cairncross, the Republican National Committee’s Chief Counsel, said the only voter suppression has been that directed at false voter registrations.
The McCain campaign also swiftly responded to the allegations of suppression in the new ad. “I am not sure how any allegation relating to what might have happened 48 years ago has any relevance to the McCain campaign,” former GOP senator John Danforth, the co-chair of the McCain campaign’s Honest and Open Election Committee, said on a conference call with reporters. “Our response is that any kind of intimidation or suppression is illegal, it’s reprehensible, it is condemned by the McCain campaign, it has been condemned specifically by Sen. McCain himself.”
ACORN says the new ad will air 48 times on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News Channel in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. The group said it is hoping to raise enough money to continue to air the ad through Election Day.
(CNN) - Indiana's secretary of state has requested a criminal investigation into the embattled community organizing group ACORN, which is accused of submitting hundreds of bogus voter registration forms in northern Lake County.
The request is based on Secretary of State Todd Rokita's preliminary examination and analysis of 1,438 questionable voter registration applications ACORN submitted in the county, which includes the city of Gary. Rokita, a Republican, has concluded there is "significant, credible evidence" that ACORN violated Indiana and federal law.
"This is a fraud perpetrated on all of the people of Indiana, because fraudulent registrations are the first step in diluting the voice of honest voters and rendering an inaccurate tally on Election Day," Rokita wrote in his request to state and federal law enforcement officials.
In response, ACORN said, "We believe the law requires us to turn in every card."
The group, which is the target of intense GOP attacks, says it flagged questionable registration forms collected by its canvassers. The group has been criticized for submitting phony forms in several states - many of which are considered battlegrounds in next week's presidential election.
But Rokita said ACORN should have turned the documents over to law enforcement, not registrars.
"Complying with the law to submit legitimate applications does not allow ACORN officials to evade the law against knowingly submitting fraudulent applications," Rokita wrote.
ACORN said Rokita "appears to have changed his opinion on this question two weeks before the election."
The group said it detailed its quality control procedures and said that election officials in Lake County had refused the group's documentation flagging applications the group considered questionable and refused to meet with ACORN to discuss how to handle the applications ACORN had flagged. It also said it looked forward to cooperating with Indiana authorities in prosecuting employees "who have defrauded us" by filing faked forms.
(CNN) - Obama campaign general counsel Bob Bauer called Monday for a government investigation into whether the White House is working with John McCain’s campaign to raise allegations of voter fraud, telling reporters attorney general Michael Mukasey needed to step in to ensure investigators are "not misused for partisan purposes."
A special prosecutor is investigating similar charges against the Justice Department over the controversial dismissals of several U.S. attorneys, including David Yglesias, who said he was fired for resisting pressure to prosecute ACORN, the embattled community group at the center of a sustained Republican campaign alleging voter fraud among supporters of Barack Obama.
Bauer spoke with reporters on a Monday conference call days after news broke that the FBI is taking a closer look at ACORN. Last week, he said the special prosecutor’s mandate should be expanded to include the rising government scrutiny of the community group.
Listen: Obama lawyer calls for an internal DOJ investigation
On Monday, he sent a letter to Mukasey saying said that the inspector general needed to investigate, because the prosecutor didn’t have the jurisdiction needed to look into the department’s activities - whether it complied with its own policies.
ACORN has said it registered roughly 1.3 million voters this year, but has come under fire because some of the registrations turned in by contract workers hired by the group have contained false information.
(CNN) – The Obama campaign announced Friday that it is asking Attorney General Michael Mukasey to turn over any investigations of voter fraud or voter suppression to Special Prosecutor Nora Dannehy, the same special prosecutor recently appointed to investigate the U.S. attorney firing scandal.
It’s the latest salvo in an escalating war over allegations of possible voter irregularities during the upcoming presidential election.
“What they’re actually about is the unprecedented effort to essentially sap the American people of confidence in the voting process,” Bob Bauer, the Obama campaign’s general counsel, said Friday on a conference call.
Listen: Obama camp's general counsel explains the request
Bauer said partisan politics was behind Thursday’s leak from senior governmental officials about a preliminary FBI investigation into the voter registration activities of ACORN, the embattled community organizing group that has become the focus of Republican efforts to highlight voter fraud as the election approaches.
“ACORN is a tool for attacking voters,” Bauer also said.
“We need to have these matters removed from the day-to-day department’s direct control and put into the special prosecutor’s independent hands,” Bauer told reporters Friday. “She should have responsibility for reviewing any and all matters involving allegations of fraud and suppression in this election,” said Bauer.
The McCain campaign responded suggesting that it was Sen. Obama and his campaign who were engaging in partisan politics by requesting the special prosecutor's involvement. In a statement issued Friday night, McCain-Palin spokesman Ben Porritt called Obama's request "absurd" and said it was an attempt to "criminalize political discourse."
"Rest assured that, despite these threats, the McCain-Palin campaign will continue to address the serious issue of voter registration fraud by ACORN and other partisan groups, and compliance by states with the Help America Vote Act's requirement of matching new voter registrations with state data bases to prevent voter fraud," Porritt added.
Listen: McCain campaign manager Rick Davis discusses ACORN Friday
WEST CHESTER, Ohio (CNN) - Sarah Palin questioned Barack Obama’s ties to ACORN in her most forceful and comprehensive language to date, and demanded that the Democratic presidential nominee turn over all communication between the campaign and the progressive organization, which claims to have registered 1.3 million voters nationwide.
“As for ACORN and voter fraud, now they're under federal investigation, and John and are calling on the Obama campaign to release communications it has had with this group and to do so immediately,” Palin told an audience, with House Minority Leader John Boehner applauding on stage behind her.
The FBI confirmed Tuesday that they have begun preliminary a investigation of ACORN’s registration efforts. Palin accused the group of “rampant voter fraud,” although technically they are being accused of voter registration fraud.
“You deserve to know, Palin said. “You deserve to know because we do need to know more clearly about the choices that we have on Nov. 4. In this election, especially here in Ohio, you’re going to be asked to choose between a candidate who will not disavow a group committing voter fraud and a leader who will not tolerate it.”
Obama’s relationship with the community organizing group has been highlighted by Republicans ever since it was accused of submitting fraudulent voter applications in various states, including Ohio. Obama helped train ACORN organizers in Chicago after law school and later represented the group in a 1995 motor voter case that, in Obama’s words, “helped people get registered at DMVs.”
(CNN) – In the wake of an Associated Press report that the FBI is reviewing the results of several state inquiries into the conduct of ACORN, Sen. John McCain’s campaign called Thursday for Sen. Barack Obama to release additional information about the relationship between the embattled community organizing group and the Obama campaign.
“Barack Obama’s campaign must fully disclose the nature of his association with ACORN,” McCain campaign manager Rick Davis said in a statement Thursday.
The Obama campaign took issue with the McCain campaign's request. "ACORN never performed any voter registration work for the Obama campaign and Senator McCain’s campaign knows this," the Obama campaign said in an e-mail to CNN. "The real question is why they continue to assert something that isn’t true, and why they believe that attacking a group that Senator McCain himself praised as 'what makes America special' helps their campaign."
CNN has been unable to confirm a report by the Associated Press that the FBI is investigating whether ACORN helped foster voter registration fraud across the country as the presidential election approaches. Instead, several government sources have told CNN that the FBI and the Justice Department are reviewing documents provided by state investigations into ACORN to determine whether there is a basis to open a federal criminal investigation.
These developments at the federal level come nearly a week after six Republicans in the House of Representatives sent a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey requesting a federal investigation into ACORN’s voter registration activities. All of the House members who signed the letter to Mukasey had previously administered elections as Secretaries of States.
In a statement Thursday, ACORN said that it has not been contacted by any federal law enforcement agencies. "Should any investigation be forthcoming, we are confident that we would be exonerated," the group said. "We have always, and will continue to, work with any inquiry."
Watch: ACORN counters fraud charges