Obama cam­paign takes name of ACORN-TIED group

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY DAVE BOYER

Pres­i­dent Obama’s re-elec­tion cam­paign has ap­pro­pri­ated for its voter-regis­tra­tion op­er­a­tion the name of an ex­ist­ing group, Project Vote, that has been the tar­get of voter-fraud com­plaints tied to the much-crit­i­cized and now-de­funct ac­tivist group ACORN.

“It’s as­ton­ish­ing,” said Thomas Fit­ton, pres­i­dent of the pub­lic-in­ter­est group Ju­di­cial Watch. “Project Vote has a ter­ri­ble rep­u­ta­tion for peo­ple who care about voter fraud, but the cam­paign doesn’t care.”

Obama for Amer­ica an­nounced Aug. 25 that it is launch­ing Project Vote as an in­house ef­fort to in­crease voter regis­tra­tion and par­tic­i­pa­tion among the Demo­cratic base, in­clud­ing young vot­ers, blacks, His­pan­ics, ho­mo­sex­u­als and Amer­i­can In­di­ans.

“Project Vote will em­bark on a voter regis­tra­tion ef­fort to max­i­mize voter par­tic­i­pa­tion,” the cam­paign said in an email from its head­quar­ters in Chicago. “Project Vote will drive our cam­paign strat­egy, from paid me­dia, to dig­i­tal out­reach, to grass­roots or­ga­niz­ing and voter regis­tra­tion ef­forts, to com­mu­ni­cate with and en­gage key de­mo­graphic groups.”

But a Wash­ing­ton-based group al­ready has the name Project Vote Inc., and its of­fi­cials point out that they own the name.

“We’re al­ways happy to see can­di­dates take an in­ter­est in voter regis­tra­tion,” Project Vote Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Michael Slater said in a state­ment. “How­ever, while we wish them good luck in their regis­tra­tion ef­forts, Project Vote Inc. holds the trade­mark for that name, and has been con­duct­ing voter regis­tra­tion ac­tiv­i­ties us­ing that name con­tin­u­ously since 1994.”

Mr. Slater said his or­ga­ni­za­tion has con­tacted lawyers rep- team of lawyers rep­re­sent­ing ACORN in a law­suit.

Project Vote’s mis­sion has in­volved reg­is­ter­ing and en­cour­ag­ing low-in­come and mi­nor­ity vot­ers. In 2008, the group paired with ACORN (As­so­ci­a­tion of Com­mu­nity Or­ga­ni­za­tions for Re­form Now) on a regis­tra­tion drive in 21 bat­tle­ground states that Mr. Obama needed to win the White House.

Although Project Vote is of­fi­cially non­par­ti­san, the fo­cus of the ACORN/Project Vote drive

“It’s as­ton­ish­ing,” said Thomas Fit­ton, pres­i­dent of the pub­lic-in­ter­est group Ju­di­cial Watch. “Project Vote has a ter­ri­ble rep­u­ta­tion for peo­ple who care about voter fraud, but the cam­paign doesn’t care.”

re­sent­ing Obama for Amer­ica, “and we have been as­sured that this mat­ter will be re­solved quickly and am­i­ca­bly.”

A spokesman for the cam­paign did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment about the trade­mark is­sue.

The group’s name evokes Mr. Obama’s past as a com­mu­nity or­ga­nizer.

In 1992, Mr. Obama served as di­rec­tor of Project Vote in Chicago, help­ing to regis­ter thou­sands of vot­ers on the city’s South Side. In 1995, he was on a was on groups lean­ing Demo­cratic: blacks, His­pan­ics, young adults and low-in­come res­i­dents. ACORN at the time was the largest grass-roots com­mu­nity or­ga­niz­ing group in the U.S.

The ACORN/Project Vote pair­ing sub­se­quently came un­der fire for voter fraud.

In April, ACORN pleaded guilty to charges stem­ming from a scheme to pay il­le­gal cash bonuses to its voter regis­tra­tion can­vassers for reg­is­ter­ing vot­ers in Ne­vada.

Se­nior ACORN

ex­ec­u­tive Amy Busefink pleaded no con­test in Novem­ber to two counts of con­spir­acy to com­mit the crime of com­pen­sa­tion for regis­tra­tion of vot­ers. She was sen­tenced in Jan­uary to one year of pro­ba­tion and fined $4,000.

ACORN is now in bank­ruptcy, partly a re­sult of the no­to­ri­ety gained when two con­ser­va­tive ac­tivists posed as a pimp and pros­ti­tute seek­ing le­gal and fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance from ACORN af­fil­i­ates to open a brothel.

ACORN work­ers of­fered as- sis­tance, prompt­ing a firestorm in Congress that led to a ban on fed­eral fund­ing for the group.

Mr. Fit­ton said the Obama cam­paign’s choice of the name Project Vote, in spite of such scan­dals, is “quite pur­pose­ful.”

“I think they want to con­fuse peo­ple,” he said. “Project Vote has a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing par­ti­san, and they want to trade off of it. All they’re con­cerned about is their base.”

The cam­paign’s ef­fort also ap­pears to be aimed at coun­ter­ing moves by Repub­li­can of­fi­cials in at least a dozen states to toughen voter-regis­tra­tion laws, which some Democrats say will re­sult in dis­en­fran­chis­ing peo­ple who tend to vote for their party’s can­di­dates.

Mr. Fit­ton, whose group has been in­ves­ti­gat­ing Project Vote’s ef­fort to regis­ter peo­ple on pub­lic as­sis­tance in Colorado, said the Obama cam­paign’s use of the name amounts to a mes­sage to lib­eral groups, es­pe­cially big la­bor, to work with the re-elec­tion cam­paign on regis­tra­tion and getout-the-vote ac­tiv­i­ties.

“It’s a whis­tle to the left say­ing, ‘We are Project Vote this time,’ “ Mr. Fit­ton said. “It’s a sig­nal to the base.”

Obama ad­vis­ers have said they are con­fi­dent about the level of sup­port from tra­di­tional Demo­cratic groups head­ing into the 2012 elec­tion cam­paign. But turnout could be a con­cern, es­pe­cially if the econ­omy re­mains weak with un­em­ploy­ment above 9 per­cent na­tion­ally.

In fo­rums last month across the coun­try, for ex­am­ple, mem­bers of the Con­gres­sional Black Cau­cus have voiced frus­tra­tion with Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion poli­cies that they say have failed to pro­duce enough jobs in the black com­mu­nity.

Rep. Max­ine Waters, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat, said there is “a grow­ing frus­tra­tion in this coun­try and in mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties” over job­less­ness.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.