ACORN Statement Regarding Reported FBI Investigation

acornWashington,DC(RushPRnews)10/20/08— One day after John McCain launched baseless attacks at ACORN in his final debate with Barack Obama, unnamed sources have leaked a story to the Associated Press claiming that a national FBI investigation is underway.  This is a right wing attempt to set the stage for a massive voter suppression operation and a gross attempt to besmirch the largest community organization of low- and- moderate income Americans. ACORN’s statement regarding the reported FBI investigation follows.

This is a right wing attempt to set the stage for a massive voter suppression operation and a gross attempt to besmirch the largest community organization of low- and- moderate income Americans. ACORN’s statement regarding the reported FBI investigation follows.

Additionally, House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers has just released a letter to U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey assailing this nakedly partisan attempt to taint the election, ACORN and the candidacy of Barack Obama. The full text of the letter is below.

Former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias also expressed his shock and concern in an interview with TPMmuckraker, text below.

Statement from ACORN Regarding Reported FBI Investigation

ACORN has not been contacted by any federal law enforcement agencies. Should any investigation be forthcoming, we are confident that we would be exonerated. We have always, and will continue to, work with any inquiry.

It is well established and documented that in 2004 the Bush Administration was involved in a scandal where Bush Administration political appointees, working in concert with the Department of Justice, pressured some U.S. Attorneys, such as David Iglesias, to pursue partisan investigations of ACORN. Given that in the last forty-eight hours we have seen a coordinated attack by the Republican Party, including a conservative think tank in Ohio connected to the well-know voter suppresser and McCain supporter Ken Blackwell, file a frivolous lawsuit that is virtually identical to the lawsuit filed in 2004 that was dismissed for lack of evidence, followed by Senator Voinovich, a supporter of Senator McCain, calling for a Justice Department investigation, followed by Senator McCain’s attack in the debate last night, we believe that dirty politics are at work.

ACORN is extremely proud of our work to register 1.3 million new voters this year. Through ACORN’s voter registration drive, Americans of all political persuasions and all walks of life are participating in our democracy. Through the course of ACORN’S voter registration drive we hired over 13,000 canvassers most of who worked to the highest standards of accuracy. ACORN has a zero tolerance policy and works closely with local elections officials to get to the bottom of any problems, as we have in this case. But let us be clear – and this is a critical fact: issues related to voter registration are not voter fraud. These are not cases where people are able to vote multiple times. Let us repeat – these are not situations involving actual votes.

LETTER FROM JOHN CONYERS TO MICHAEL B. MUKASEY

October 16, 2008

Dear Mr. Attorney General and Director Mueller:

It is with shock and disappointment that I read today’s Associated Press report that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has opened and leaked an investigation into whether ACORN, a longstanding and well regarded organization that fights for the poor and working class, is involved in nationwide voter fraud.

As an initial matter, it is simply unacceptable that such information would be leaked during the very peak of the election season. Such leaks of information about ongoing criminal investigation matters are always inappropriate, and likely violate the provisions of the U.S. Attorney manual governing release of information about ongoing investigations (and which, in any event, would require approval from the responsible U.S. Attorney or Department division before release. More significant in this case, however, they also run afoul of valuable Department traditions regarding the need for cautious and sensitive handling of election- related matters during the run up to voting (or, as here, while early voting is underway). Indeed, I note with dismay that this sort of release likely would have violated the traditional principles stated in the Department’s Election Crimes Manual, such as the requirement that prosecutors “must refrain from any conduct which has the possibility of affecting the election itself,” and that “most, if not all, investigation of an alleged election crime must await the end of the election to which the allegation relates,” but those provisions were removed by the Department in May 2007 as the U.S. Attorney controversy was unfolding and it was learned that former U.S. Attorney Brad Schlozman had apparently improperly brought enforcement action against ACORN volunteers during the run up to the 2006 national elections.

Moreover, this news is all the more troubling in light of the proven wrongdoing at the Justice Department in the United States Attorneys scandal. As you are aware, there is extensive evidence that political operatives improperly pressured United States Attorneys to investigate and prosecute spurious claims of vote fraud in close proximity to an election. When some did not, they were terminated. Thus, one must view the timing of this extraordinary leak with added suspicion, given that it comes less than 24 hours after the Republican Presidential candidate raised these allegations in a nationally televised debate.

I know that it has become a right-wing cottage industry to cry wolf over alleged “voter fraud” during an election season (only to have such claims evaporate after the election has concluded). Indeed, using superlatives that would make P.T. Barnum blush, Senator John McCain, the Republican Presidential candidate, said in the debate last night, that ACORN “is now on the verge of maybe perpetuating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.” One would hope the Justice Department and FBI would more skeptically examine such sensational accusations than some cable news outlets. And this is particularly true where the allegations, even given their fullest reading, simply do not support such alarmist and unreasonable claims.

The facts as I understand them are these. A longstanding and well regarded organization that fights for the poor and working class has come under partisan fire for its voter registration activities. This organization has registered more than one million voters. There are allegations that some paid workers essentially cheated ACORN by filling out registration forms with bogus names and incorrect information. This of course would have harmed ACORN since ACORN pays to register potential voters, not phantoms, but – critically – does not deprive any person of their own right to vote or result in any unauthorized or fraudulent votes being cast. As one expert in this field has explained, “Mickey Mouse may show up on a registration list, but he’s not likely to vote.”

Furthermore, despite a long partisan campaign to stir up fears regarding so-called “voter fraud,” they have been unable to produce any credible examples of meaningful fraudulent voting that could have a tangible impact on any election. Just this week, in fact, the Republican Governor of Florida, Charlie Crist, said – with respect to his state – that such allegations are “less than is being discussed” and ascribed these types of allegations to “some who enjoy chaos.” Similarly, the Republican Secretary of State has indicated that he does not believe that ACORN is engaged in systematic voting fraud. Indeed, such allegations repeatedly dissolve under fair scrutiny.

At the same time, numerous allegations have emerged that political operatives are engaged in suppression of eligible voters and this activity has apparently failed to receive the intense attention that the federal government is now reportedly devoting to ACORN. For example, there are reports that the chairman of the Republican Party in Macomb County, Michigan, a key swing county in a key swing state, has planned to use a list of foreclosed homes to block people from voting in the upcoming election as part of the state GOP’s effort to challenge some voters on Election Day. Additionally, the Columbus Dispatch reports that the Ohio GOP in Franklin County, “has not ruled out challenging voters before the election due to foreclosure- related address issues.”3

Accordingly, I condemn the leak of this sensitive information and remind you both of your and your agencies’ obligations to handle election-related matters in an appropriate and non-political matter as the election season proceeds. In addition, please let me know no later than Thursday, October 23, 2008, if the release of information and all other actions taken regarding this investigation are consistent with the US Attorneys Manual and the Election Crimes Manual and, if not, what action has been taken in response. Please direct your response to the Judiciary Committee Office at 2138 Rayburn House Office Building (tel: 202-225-3951, fax: 202-225-7680).

Sincerely,

____________________________
John Conyers, Jr.
Chairman

TPM INTERVIEW WITH DAVID IGLESIAS

tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2008/10/iglesias_im_astounded_by_dojs.php

Iglesias: “I’m Astounded” By DOJ’s ACORN Probe

By Zachary Roth – October 16, 2008, 6:50PM

David Iglesias says he’s shocked by the news, leaked today to the Associated Press, that the FBI is pursuing a voter-fraud investigation into ACORN just weeks before the election.

“Im astounded that this issue is being trotted out again,” Iglesias told TPMmuckraker. “Based on what I saw in 2004 and 2006, it’s a scare tactic.” In 2006, Iglesias was one of several U.S. attorneys fired thanks partly to their reluctance to pursue voter-fraud cases more as aggressively as DOJ wanted.

Iglesias, who has been the most outspoken of the fired U.S. attorneys, went on to say that the FBI’s investigation seemed design to inappropriately create a “boogeyman” out of voter fraud.

And he added that it “stands to reason” that the investigation was launched in response to GOP complaints. In recent weeks, national Republican figures — including John McCain at last night’s debate — have sought to make an issue out of ACORN’s voter-registration activities.

As we noted earlier, last year, Sen. Diane Feinstein publicly highlighted changes made to DOJ’s election crimes manual, which lowered the bar for voter-fraud prosecutions, and made it easier to bring vote-fraud cases close to the election.

Speaking today to TPMmuckraker Iglesias called such changes “extremely problematic.”

The way in which the news was revealed today — Associated Press sourced its report to two “senior law enforcement officials” who “spoke on condition of anonymity because Justice Department regulations forbid discussing ongoing investigations particularly so close to an election” — is also raising eyebrows.

Both Iglesias and Bud Cummins — another of the U.S. attorneys who, according to the recent inspector general’s report, was fired for political reasons in 2006 — told TPMmuckraker that DOJ guidelines do allow US attorneys to speak publicly about an investigation, even before bringing an indictment, if it’s to allay public concern over an issue.

But that certainly wouldn’t cover anonymous leaks. “If you can’t say it with your name on it, it’s fair to say you should not be saying it,” Cummins told TPMmuckraker.

Earlier this afternoon, House Judiciary Chair John Conyers (D-MI) released a letter he sent to Attorney General Michael Mukasey and FBI director Robert Mueller, which connected today’s news to the U.S. attorney firings, and to recent GOP efforts to stoke fears over voter fraud.

KEY FACTS

* In almost all the cases raised, it was ACORN that on its own first reported these voter registration issues to the responsible state election officials.

* ACORN has provided officials with copies and, in some cases, second copies of many of the personnel records and the ‘problem card packages’ and cover sheets with which ACORN originally identified the problem registration cards.

* ACORN is required by law in many states to turn in all voter registration forms it collects.

* ACORN, along with several other organizations, was the subject of similar accusation in the past several cycles by Republican organization, including being named in a civil RICO investigation in 2004 – none of which discovered any widespread voter fraud.

* This is not the first time that Republicans have played politics with ACORN. Republican efforts to get U.S. Attorneys such as David Iglesias to investigate ACORN in 2004 were at the center of the scandal involving the Bush Administration’s efforts to misuse U.S. Attorneys offices for partisan purposes.

o Newsweek: “There are new developments in the scandal over the Bush administration’s firing of eight U.S. Attorneys. One of the dismissed prosecutors has revealed that he was pressured by Republican officials to target the advocacy group ACORN for voter fraud. ACORN was working on a voter registration drive in low-income and largely minority neighborhoods in New Mexico. David Iglesias told Newsweek that he found no case worth bringing against ACORN. But that apparently did not please the White House. Last week Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s ex-chief of staff D. Kyle Sampson testified that during the run-up to the mid-term election White House adviser Karl Rove complained that Iglesias and two other U.S. Attorneys had not done enough to prosecute so-called voter fraud.”things like terrorism and drug smuggling.

* Problem voting registration rarely leads to voter fraud.

o [A]ccording to Lori Minnite, professor of Political Science at Barnard College, who has spent the last eight years studying the role of fraud in U.S. elections, the Republican crusade against voter fraud is a strategic ruse. Rather than protecting the election process from voter fraud – a problem that barely exists – Minnite says the true aim of Republican efforts appear to be voter suppression across the partisan divide.” (Salon, Oct 15, 2008)

o Prof. Richard Hasen, Loyola Professor of Law and election expert: “But perhaps most importantly, the idea of massive polling-place fraud (through the use of inflated voter rolls) is inherently incredible. Suppose I want to swing the Missouri election for my preferred presidential candidate. I would have to figure out who the fake, dead or missing people on the registration rolls are, then pay a lot of other individuals to go to the polling place and claim to be that person, without any return guarantee – thanks to the secret ballot – that any of them will cast a vote for my preferred candidate. Those who do show up at the polls run the risk of being detected and charged with a felony. And for what – $10? Polling-place fraud, in short, makes no sense.” (Dallas Morning News, 5/10/2007, rick.hasen(at)lls.edu)