Obama on ACORN Controversy: "A Distraction... We Don't Need ACORN's Help"

On Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., made a statement about the latest economic developments and took questions from the reporters outside his hotel, the Maumee Bay Resort and Conference Center in Oregon, OH, not far from Toledo.

"Obviously the Treasury Department announced some refinements to the rescue package," Obama said. "I think the idea of injecting capital directly into banks is a good one, it gives taxpayers a better chance of getting their money out potentially, it also gives the Treasury some more direct mechanisms to monitor and apply some ground rules to participating banks.

"I am concerned that the way that they structure this new mechanism that we are cracking down on excessive CEO pay," said the Democratic presidential nominee, "that, I think, should be part of the deal. And I’m also concerned that taxpayer shares – that they are purchasing or they are receiving as  consequence of this injection of equity is a good deal for tax payers. I think that if tax payers are investing in Goldman Sachs, they shouldn't get a worse deal than when Warren Buffet invests in Goldman Sachs.

"I know there has also been some talk about providing guarantees to bank loans, to encourage the credit market from moving forward," said Obama. "Again, I think this could potentially be promising as a way of freeing up credit so that small business and individuals around the country can get car loans can get business loans for payroll and so forth. But it is very important that there are some regulatory requirements ultimately that go with these injections of cash. If we're just giving them money but we're not making sure that they are curbing some of the excessive risks that got us into the mess in the first place, then we are just continuing the same philosophy that has failed the American people so badly.

"So I'm going to look at details of the plan, I have had already a discussion with Secretary (Hank) Paulson about it before he announced it," concluded the lanky Illinoisan. "I want to see on paper how they are putting this thing together. And I continue to emphasize that this is just one phase of a rescue package that's needed because we still need a rescue package for the middle class. And the proposals I’ve put forward to create jobs, to make sure that families are able to ride though these difficult times, to help homeowners those are all issues that await action by congress and if we don't get it don't in the lame duck session then they’re going to be some of my top priorities when I am president."

Obama then took questions from the media.


ABC News noted that "Senator McCain today said that 'there has been voter fraud going on in the battleground states. ACORN is tampering with Americans' most precious right; there has to be a full and complete investigation.'  And he also said that you need to disclose your full relationship with ACORN. I'm wondering if you have any reaction to the reports of voter fraud and also to Sen. McCain's charge?"

Obama replied: "first of all, my relationship to ACORN is pretty straightforward.  It's probably 13 years ago when I was still practicing law, I represented ACORN and my partner in that representation was the US Justice Department in having Illinois implement what was called the 'Motor Voter' law,  to make sure that people could go to DMV’s and drivers’ license facilities to get registered.. It wasn’t being implemented. That was my relationship and is my relationship to ACORN.

"There is an ACORN organization in Chicago," Obama continued. "They have been active. As an elected official, I've had interactions with them. But they are not advising our campaign. We've got the best voter registration and turnout and volunteer operation in politics right now and we don’t need ACORN’s help.

“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," Obama 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," Obama said. "And, it's doubtful (Dallas Cowboys quarterback) Tony Romo (whose name has been fraudulently submitted) 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."

Another reporter asked Obama's reactions to the economic policy proposals put forward by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., today, in particular his proposal to significantly reduce long-term capital gains taxes so as to spur investment."Well you know I haven't reviewed all the details yet," Obama said. “You know, there are some ideas that Sen. McCain has put forward in the last couple of weeks that are very bad ideas. The idea of, for example, of purchasing homes at full prices from banks so that banks have no losses and taxpayers automatically have losses, that’s a bad idea and I think its been panned by democrats and republicans.

"He's had some good ideas," Obama continued. "I think the idea of making sure that people aren't forced to sell their 401(k) or IRA accounts at the age of 70 when the market is in the tank, I think that makes sense and in fact I acknowledged that in my speech yesterday.

"I haven't looked at all the details of his capital gains proposal. I will tell you that  nobody one really has capital gains right now – so if the idea is the cut capital gains taxes, when I don’t know anybody, even the smartest investors who right now are going to be experiencing a lot of capital gains. That probably is not going to be particularly useful in solving the financial crisis. But I will review the plan and I’m sure that Sen. McCain will have more to say about it tomorrow."

-- Jake Tapper, Andy Fies and Sunlen Miller

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