ACORN says McCain rhetoric led to racist threats
Nick Juliano
Published: Monday October 20, 2008

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Since its voter registration practices came under scrutiny this month, community organizers associated with ACORN and other groups have received an array of racist and threatening phone calls and e-mails, along with physical confrontations.

ACORN says these threats are a side effect of the explicit decision by John McCain and his Republican supporters across the country to make attacks on the group a central piece of their campaign strategy. The group is attempting to defend itself from extensive accusations of voter fraud, arguing the GOP effort is nothing but an attempt to keep poor and minority voters away from the polls.

"This is a byproduct of this voter suppression campaign," ACORN spokesman Brian Kettenring said Monday. He called the threats and smears members of his group have faced "fearsome and egregious examples of what happens when you pursue the politcs of fear as your electoral strategy."

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which typically lobbies for housing and other rights for low-income Americans, turns its sights to registering new voters before most elections. This cycle, the group says it's registered more than 1 million new voters. Acknowledging its efforts have led to a relatively small number of fraudulent voter registration forms being returned to county boards of election, ACORN says it works with local authorities to flag incorrect forms and pursue criminal charges against employees who deliberately attempt to defraud the process.

Republicans and the McCain campaign have launched an array of incendiary, spurious charges against ACORN based on the small number of inaccurate forms it gathers.

Kettenring said the campaign has a "media component, including Fox News and apparently Lou Dobbs," the CNN host. The ACORN critics take "small kernels of truth" and builds on them, creating a "nasty by-product."

That deliberate effort on the part of the GOP has coincided with confrontations from supporters in several states, including efforts to smear legitimately registered voters, racist e-mails and phone calls to organizers in several states and at least one death threat that is being investigated by the FBI.

Kettenring said an ACORN organizer in Cleveland received an e-mailed death threat traced to a man who displayed a McCain-Palin sign on his Facebook page.

The anti-ACORN campaign has reverberated beyond the group, as the GOP inflates a previous association with Democratic candidate Barack Obama into some kind of evidence of an ongoing relationship. That's led, in part, to threats to the safety of Obama supporters unaffiliated with the community organization.

A 58-year-old Obama organizer in Wisconsin said she was physically attacked when going door-to-door on behalf of her candidate.

The Obama campaign is engaged in its own effort to beat back what it calls the "sham" anti-fraud efforts the Republicans are pursuing. Noting the similarity to trumped up fraud allegations that were not pursued in 2006 by some of the US Attorneys who later ended up fired, the campaign has asked Attorney General Michael Mukasey to appoint the special prosecutor investigating that scandal to probe the current case.

Another conference call from the Obama campaign is scheduled for this afternoon to announce more efforts the campaign is making.