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blackwell mccainOctober 14, 2008

The Buckeye Institute, a neoliberal think tank featuring Ohio’s notorious vote suppressor, J. Kenneth Blackwell, today filed a state RICO action against the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) on behalf of two Warren County, Ohio voters.  Reviving an unsuccessful tactic employed against the organization in 2004, the allegations recycle discredited claims from 2004, and attempt to link unsubstantiated stories to ACORN, raising sensational news stories and patently false and unattributed “congressional testimony.” 

Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) laws were passed to combat organized crime.  They allow for civil and criminal prosecution. 

“This filing appears to be nothing more than a cut-and-paste recycling of the 2004 filing, which was dismissed for lack of any evidence,” ACORN spokesperson Catherine Gall advised.

“This is an election season stunt, pure and simple,” said Mary Keith, Ohio ACORN board member.  “We’ve seen the Republican playbook used on us before.  They cry foul right up through Election Day, then all the accusations melt away.”

Gall said they were unaware of the suit until contacted by the media.  “We’ll file a counterclaim and demand they provide us with emails, letters or other documents indicating any and all contact with John McCain’s campaign or any other Republican Party operatives.” 

ACORN will also demand they answer those questions under oath, and looks forward to “a discovery process that will specifically examine the nature of the Buckeye Institute’s and Commissar Blackwell’s relationships to Republican apparatchiks in the context of the Buckeye Institute’s 501(c)(3) non-profit status.”  Nonprofit organizations enjoy tax exemption if they remain nonpartisan.

If the Buckeye Institute gets its marching orders from the McCain campaign, in violation of nonpartisan laws for a 501-(c)(3), it may also know and can explain why John McCain formerly supported ACORN’s efforts, before he was against them.

mccain acorn 2006 x ACORN Why is this man smiling? John McCain in March of 2006 sitting beside
Florida Rep. Kendrick Meek at an event ACORN co-sponsored in Florida.
(Image, ACORN)

ACORN recently sent Politico this photo of John McCain in March of 2006 sitting beside Florida Rep. Kendrick Meek at an event ACORN co-sponsored in Florida:

“The immigration event, which other photos show was packed with red-shirted Acorn members, was co-sponsored by the local Catholic Archdiocese, the SEIU, and other groups.  McCain, still spiting much of his party on immigration at the time, was the headliner.

“Bertha Lewis, Acorn’s chief organizer, said in a statement that came with the photo, ‘It has deeply saddened us to see Senator McCain abandon his historic support for ACORN and our efforts to support the goals of low-income Americans.  We are sure that the extremists he is trying to get into a froth will be even more excited to learn that John McCain stood shoulder to shoulder with ACORN, at an ACORN co-sponsored event, to promote immigration reform,’ she said.”

ACORN, along with Project Vote, recently completed a wildly successful voter registration campaign in twenty-one states, logging 1.3 million new voters.  Project Vote reports, “The goal of the nonpartisan voter registration drive-estimated to cost $18 million-was to help close the existing gaps in the American electorate, particularly among low-income Americans, minorities, and youth, all of whom have historically been underrepresented at the polls.” 

That’s exactly who Blackwell and the Republicans target in their vote suppression tactics, as these groups tend to vote Democrat. 

Blackwell whined about the recent Ohio Supreme Court decision allowing same day registration and absentee voting, complaining that:

“So now the Obama campaign is using buses to take thousands of people to go register and cast same-day votes.  Some media reports say that the Obama camp hopes to get tens of thousands of votes this way.”

He later calls ACORN “extremist,” even though his organization, Buckeye Institute, still pushes for deregulation and privatization, despite that global finance is collapsing under these features of the neoliberal economic plan. 

ACORN’s Voter Registration Efforts in 2004 tied to GOP Attorney Firings

In 2004,  ACORN organized a massive grassroots effort to register voters in New Mexico.  The GOP then called for an investigation into voter fraud.  US Attorney David Iglesias launched an investigation, but after two years, could not find any prosecutable cases.  He was fired.

In a report issued last month covering an internal Dept. of Justice investigation into the wrongful firing of nine US Attorneys, the Office of Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility found: 

“The most serious allegations that arose were that the U.S. Attorneys were removed based on improper political factors, including to affect the way they handled certain voter fraud or public corruption investigations and prosecutions.  Our investigation found significant evidence that political partisan considerations were an important factor in the removal of several of  the U.S. Attorneys. (emphasis added)

“The most troubling example was David Iglesias, the U.S. Attorney in New Mexico. We concluded that complaints from New Mexico Republican politicians and party activists about Iglesias’s handling of voter fraud and public corruption cases caused his removal, and that the Department removed Iglesias without any inquiry into his handling of the cases.”

The Online Journal reports that Iglesias “fully expected to uncover instances of voter fraud based on numerous stories that appeared in New Mexico media that said minors received voter registration forms and that ‘a large number’ of voter registration forms turned up during the course of a drug raid.

David Iglesias US Atty“‘Due to the high volume of suspected criminal activity, I believed there to be a strong likelihood of uncovering prosecutable cases,’ Iglesias said. ‘I also reviewed the hard copy file from the last voter fraud case my office had prosecuted which dated back to 1992. 

“‘My intention was to file prosecutions in order to send a message that voter fraud or election fraud would not be tolerated in the District of New Mexico. After examining the evidence, and in conjunction with the Justice Department Election Crimes Unit and the FBI, I could not find any cases I could prosecute beyond a reasonable doubt,’ Iglesias said in an interview.

“‘Accordingly, I did not authorize any voter fraud related prosecutions.'” 

Blackwell’s Infamous Vote Suppression Tactics

While Secretary of State of Ohio in 2004, Blackwell required all new voter registrations be filed on 80-pound cardstock.  The Rolling Stones advises that, “Blackwell’s directive clearly violated the Voting Rights Act, which stipulates that no one may be denied the right to vote because of a registration error that ‘is not material in determining whether such individual is qualified under state law to vote.’ 

In an attempt to circumvent the use of provisional votes in 2004, “Blackwell illegally decreed that poll workers should make on-the-spot judgments as to whether or not a voter lived in the precinct, and provide provisional ballots only to those deemed eligible,” the Rolling Stones reports

“When the ruling was challenged in federal court, Judge James Carr could barely contain his anger.  The very purpose of the Help America Vote Act, he ruled, was to make provisional ballots available to voters told by precinct workers that they were ineligible: ‘By not even mentioning this group — the primary beneficiaries of HAVA’s provisional-voting provisions — Blackwell apparently seeks to accomplish the same result in Ohio in 2004 that occurred in Florida in 2000.'”

The list goes on, from depriving heavily Democratic precincts of enough machines to Warren County’s fraudulent claim that a Homeland Security Level 10 Alert had been issued, so that it could remove the ballot count from public scrutiny.  No one in Warren has ever been charged for that crime under Blackwell, or since.

Regarding Blackwell’s obsessive attempts to stop new voters from registering, ACORN notes:

“Such a legal filing by the right wing Buckeye Institute, an organization that features the well-known voter suppression Commissar Ken Blackwell who sought to block Ohio voters from access to the ballot in 2004, has about as much credibility as if they had announced that it was Al Capone who was behind the lawsuit.”

Posted at Scoop.

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