Thursday, October 30, 2008

Is Obama's Camp Throwing ACORN Under the Bus?

I was struck by an Obama campaign spokesman's comment to the Associated Press that the ACORN-affiliated voter registration group Project Vote may have used Federal Election Commission filings posted on the Internet to solicit contributions from maxed-out Obama donors.

"Obama's Pennsylvania campaign spokesman, Sean Smith, noted that anyone could download a list of Obama's donors from the Internet," the Associated Press report said.

Yes, anyone could easily do that. But using such a list to solicit donations of any kind would be illegal under federal law. See this helpful FEC brochure, making its second appearance on this young blog. It looks to me like it could be a criminal violation, if a person used the FEC data "knowingly and willfully." (Yes, but, what if they got it from HuffPost? Seriously, is it possible to launder information?)

Anyway, a fired Project Vote staffer, Anita MonCrief, told John Fund of the Wall Street Journal the donor information was coming directly from Democratic campaigns. The Obama campaign, for the record, denies cooperating with the ACORN affiliate.

If the Obama campaign, or the Democratic National Committee, or other campaigns, gave or sold donor lists to Project Vote, that would be perfectly legal, though perhaps politically stupid.

A spokesman for Project Vote, Michael McDunnah, told the AP the group "did not receive any donor list from the Obama campaign and does not have any cooperation with the Obama campaign." McDunnah has not yet responded to my e-mail asking where the solicitation lists did come from.

So it is possible the law was broken here, though if it was, it doesn't appear to be by the Obama campaign.

That said, I tend to view this whole fraudulent registration flap to be less than the GOP makes it out to be. No one should be submitting forged or false forms of any kind to any government agency. However, this kind of fraud is a natural byproduct of the socioeconomic status of the people political groups hire to do voter registration, petition signature collection, and the like. Some of them are alcoholics, drug addicts and the homeless, or recently were. So it is no shock that some of that subgroup start making up names when they fall behind on a quota. The critical issue to me is whether these made-up or multiply registered voters end up trying to vote in the old Chicago "early and often" style. I've seen little evidence of that so far.