Squirrelly on ACORN, Part II

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., last night said, "We need to know the full extent of Senator Obama's relationship with ACORN, who is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy."

Voting experts say that's a bit much.

There have been several fraudulent voter registration forms filled out by ACORN employees paid per registration, but registration fraud is quite different from voting fraud. And the notion that this is "maybe destroying the fabric of democracy" is so hyperbolic I don't even know where to begin.

In Florida, for instance, GOP Gov. Charlie Crist said, ''I think that there's probably less [fraud] than is being discussed. As we're coming into the closing days of any campaign, there are some who enjoy chaos."

Florida's Republican Secretary of State, Kurt Browning, said ACORN isn't committing systematic voter fraud, in his view, as reported in the Miami Herald.

''I have enormous confidence'' in Browning, Crist said.

But forgetting that bit of exaggeration, Obama's relationship with ACORN has been larger than he made it seem.

Obama, in response, said, "ACORN is a community organization. Apparently, what they have done is they were paying people to go out and register folks. And apparently, some of the people who were out there didn't really register people, they just filled out a bunch of names. Had nothing to do with us. We were not involved. The only involvement I've had with ACORN was I represented them alongside the U.S. Justice Department in making Illinois implement a motor voter law that helped people get registered at DMVs."

That's not the whole story.

First, McCain also said ACORN gave Obama's campaign "$832,000 for, for, quote, 'lighting and site selection.'"

That's a reference to the Obama campaign's contract with Citizens' Services Inc., for Get-Out-the-Vote field services during the Democratic primaries. CSI subcontracted with some ACORN staff for a short period to help supervise door-to-door canvassing, for which ACORN was paid $80,000.

The Obama campaign initially listed the more than $800,000 payment to CSI for "staging, sound, lighting" from Feb. 25 to May 17, but later amended the FEC filing to reflect that the work was canvassing.

Obama has, in addition:

* associated himself with ACORN's work on occasions;* received the group's PAC endorsement;* worked, in 1992, for Project Vote, to register 150,000 voters; ACORN provided about 5,000 of them;* voluntarily conducted two leadership training sessions of roughly an hour each for ACORN's Chicago affiliate over a three-year period in the late 1990s. * And was on the board of The Woods Fund, which gave several grants to ACORN.

We covered more on this story HERE.

-- Jake Tapper and Ariane DeVogue

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