Obama and ACORN: Relationship More Extensive Than Candidate Says
Twice in the last week, Barack Obama has said his relationship with ACORN — the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now — began and ended with legal work he did for the group in 1995.
The Democratic presidential candidate made his remarks in an effort to distance himself from the low-income advocacy group, which is under investigation for voter fraud in several states. But that assertion is subject to debate. Obama conducted training sessions for ACORN workers a decade ago, and his campaign also recently paid an ACORN subsidiary over $800,000 for “canvassing efforts”.
Plus his work with a group called Project Vote back in 1992 raises questions about whether he was involved with ACORN back then.
Project Vote was one of Obama’s earliest political successes. As director of Illinois Project Vote, Obama helped register 150,000 new voters in Chicago, and he was heralded for his efforts in local media. ACORN was also registering voters at that time, and its relationship with Project Vote casts some doubt on Obama’s statement that his involvement with ACORN didn’t begin until three years later.
Obama’s campaign Web site — in a section called “Fight the Smears” that is devoted to shooting down harmful rumors about his candidacy — states as “fact” that “ACORN was not part of Project Vote, the successful voter registration drive Barack ran in 1992.” The site also states, “Barack Obama never organized with ACORN.” Both statements appear to be blatant lies, at worst and at best deliberate obfuscation.
But accounts from the 1992 voter drive suggest the two groups were at least working alongside each other, if not together. A blogger for Obama’s campaign Web site in February wrote: “When Obama met with ACORN leaders in November, he reminded them of his history with ACORN and his beginnings in Illinois as a Project Vote organizer … Senator Obama said, ‘I come out of a grassroots organizing background. … Even before I was an elected official, when I ran (the) Project Vote voter registration drive in Illinois, ACORN was smack dab in the middle of it.'”
Also, Chicago ACORN organizer Toni Foulkes wrote in the 2003 edition of the journal Social Policy that the two groups were working to register voters when Obama led the effort in Illinois. She wrote that Obama and Project Vote made it possible for Carol Moseley Braun to win her Senate seat in 1992, and that “Project Vote delivered 50,000 newly registered voters in that campaign (ACORN delivered about 5,000 of them).”
But ACORN spokesman Lewis Goldberg told FOXNews.com “there was no work done between Project Vote and ACORN” during the 1992 Chicago drive. “There was no financial intermingling,” he added. Goldberg said the groups, rather, conducted “parallel” efforts to register voters. Asked about the 1992 project, the Obama campaign referred FOXNews.com to a July letter to the editor in The Wall Street Journal from Sanford Newman, who was director of Project Vote in 1992. Newman wrote that Obama worked for his organization, not ACORN, and that “it wasn’t until after Mr. Obama’s tenure had ended that it began to conduct projects more frequently with ACORN than with other community-based organizations.”
He wrote that Project Vote “remains a separate organization today.” Goldberg also told FOXNews.com the two organizations are still separate, even though they now work together on voter registration. On that issue, the two organizations seem to have maintained a close and open relationship in recent years.
Project Vote announced last week that together with ACORN they registered over 1.3 million people to vote. Project Vote is listed on the ACORN Web site as one of many “allied organizations.” The two organizations also share an office address in Arkansas and Washington, D.C. According to ACORN, the office-sharing is a cost-saving move done for “convenience.”
But as to Obama’s statement that his ties to ACORN are contained to his legal work, it has already been widely reported that his campaign paid more than $800,000 to a group called Citizens Services Inc., an ACORN subsidiary, to “augment” Obama’s grassroots organizing efforts in the Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania primaries.
His campaign maintains those efforts were for getting voters to the polls and not for voter registration, which is the sticking point of ongoing ACORN probes.
Goldberg also confirmed to FOXNews.com that Obama gave two training sessions over the course of three years in the late ’90s. He said each session lasted an hour or less.
Republicans say Obama can’t deny his relationship with ACORN. “[Obama’s] relationship with ACORN is well-established,” said Republican National Committee spokesman Danny Diaz. “His comment is a fabrication.”
But Obama’s carefully worded statement regarding ACORN training on his “Fight the Smears” site appears to be true, as far as it goes. The statement says ACORN never “hired” Obama “as a trainer, organizer or any type of employee.” And Goldberg said that, in fact, “Barack was not paid.” Diaz noted that Obama changed his Web site to reflect the training sessions — it previously said the Illinois senator was never an ACORN trainer. The word, “hired,” was added later, bringing to mind Bill Clinton’s torturous parsing as to what the word “is” is…..
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