“We’ve got the best voter registration and turnout and volunteer operation in politics right now, and we don’t need ACORN’s help,” he told reporters at the secluded leafy resort outside Toledo where he is preparing for Wednesday’s debate.
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, which registers low-income and minority voters who tend to favor Democrats, is under siege for allegedly falsifying voter registrations, and Republicans have sought to taint Obama with the allegations.
Obama in the 1990s represented the group in a lawsuit, and on Tuesday, he said that “as an elected official, I’ve had interactions with” the Chicago branch of the group, which he said has “been active,” according to a pool report.
“But they are not advising our campaign,” stressed Obama, who himself worked as a community organizer in Chicago before attending law school.
Nevada authorities last week raided ACORN’s state headquarters after the branch submitted voter registrations with the names of celebrities including Dallas Cowboy stars Tony Romo and Terrell Owens, and other voters came forward alleging they were asked by ACORN employees to submit multiple registration forms.
Obama’s Republican rival John McCain pounced on the controversy, releasing a statement last week asserting that given “ACORN’s recent efforts to engage in voter fraud and to disrupt our political system, Obama’s affiliation with this group raises serious questions about his judgment and ability to lead this nation.”
McCain’s campaign has also called for an investigation of Obama’s ties to ACORN.
ACORN’s political action committee endorsed Obama’s campaign, which paid $832,598 to a consulting firm affiliated with ACORN for get-out-the-vote efforts, though it initially miscategorized the purpose of the payment.
“Obama has a responsibility to rein in ACORN,” said McCain running mate Sarah Palin, during an interview Tuesday with conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh.
Obama posited Tuesday that the alleged fraud likely was the result of a few bad actors, wouldn’t impact the election and shouldn’t be used by the GOP to try to bar voters from casting ballots on Election Day.
“My understanding in terms of the voter fraud — because having run a voter registration drive, I know how problems arise — this is typically a situation where ACORN probably paid people to get registrations, and these folks, not wanting to actually register people because that’s actually hard work, just went into a phone book or made up names and submitted false registrations to get paid,” he said.
“So there’s been fraud perpetrated probably on ACORN, if they paid these individuals and they actually didn’t do registrations, but this isn’t a situation where there’s actually people who are going to try to vote, ‘cause these are phony names, and it’s doubtful Tony Romo is gonna show up in Ohio to vote, so this is another one of these distractions that gets stirred up in the course of a campaign."
“But, what I want to make sure of is that this is not used as an excuse for the kind of voter suppression strategies and tactics that we’ve seen in the past. Let’s just make sure everybody is voting, everybody’s registered. Let’s make sure that everybody’s doing it in a lawful way,” he concluded.