The Obama campaign has set up a voter registration effort for the next election called “Project Vote” – the same name as a voter registration organization closely associated with Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now (ACORN). The selection of this name for Obama’s effort raises serious questions about what Obama intends to do with his get out the vote campaign.
Project Vote’s connection to ACORN links it to voter registration fraud in the 2008 elections. Prior to the summer of 2008 (when an ACORN embezzlement scandal became public), Project Vote’s board was made up entirely of ACORN staff members and ACORN members, according to The New York Times. An internal report by ACORN’s lawyer Elizabeth Kingsley indicated that due to the tight relationship between Project Vote and ACORN, it was impossible to document that Project Vote’s money had been used in a nonpartisan manner as required by law. ACORN and Project Vote ran voter registration drives which were largely underwritten by Project Vote in 2008 in states Obama needed to win the White House. Former Project Vote employee and ACORN whistleblower Anita Moncrief testified to under oath in 2008 that “Project Vote is a sister organization of ACORN. When I got there, I actually thought I was working for ACORN. . . I learned there wasn’t much of a difference” between the two groups.
When reports of ACORN’s vote fraud came to the forefront, Project Vote held a joint press conference and issued statements denying that ACORN had committed any wrongdoing. Project Vote defended ACORN in a lawsuit where ACORN was accused of giving financial incentives to obtain voter registrations in violation of Pennsylvania law.
Currently, questions are being asked whether Obama’s Department of Justice has been working with Project Vote to follow a certain agenda. Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking all records of communications between the Obama’s DOJ and Estelle Rogers, Project Vote’s director of advocacy. Judicial Watch is investigating cooperation between Obama’s DOJ and Project Vote to file federal lawsuits against states for not offering registration for those on public assistance.
The objectives of Obama’s Project Vote and ACORN’s Project Vote sound suspiciously similar. In a statement, the Obama campaign declared that its “Project Vote will embark on a voter registration effort to maximize voter participation” by “engag[ing] key demographic groups, such as African Americans, Women, Youth, Latinos, LGBT, Veterans, Asian Americans and others.” An Obama for America official who spoke on condition of anonymity to Politico said that, “The big goal here it to expand the electorate.”
Perhaps President Obama nostalgically wants to link his current efforts to his past job running Project VOTE!’s Chicago chapter, but even then, there were links to the fraud-ridden ACORN. According to The New York Times, Obama said, “Even before I was an elected official, when I ran Project Vote voter registration drives in Illinois, ACORN was smack dab in the middle of it.”
If this voter registration effort is above board, why associate it or even allow it to be confused with such a questionable group? Many are scratching their heads at why the Obama campaign would choose such a moniker. University of California Irvine law professor Rick Hasen wrote at the Election Law Blog that he could not think of “a more stupid name for the initiative” and questioned why the campaign would “cause confusion, by naming its efforts Project Vote.”
Obama should publicly disavow any ties to ACORN’s Project Vote, not name his voter registration effort after it.
Heather S. Heidelbaugh is co-chair of the Republican National Lawyer’s Association.