Government watchdogs are blasting the Obama campaign’s decision to name its 2012 voter-registration initiative “Project Vote” — the same name as a group closely linked to the discredited ACORN organization.
Members of ACORN were caught on undercover video giving two supposed clients detailed instructions on how to commit fraud, and ACORN faced a number of voter-registration fraud cases following the 2008 election.
Use of the Project Vote name by the Obama campaign is “truly astonishing,” Tom Fitton, president of the conservative Judicial Watch good-government group, tells Newsmax. “We knew President Obama was the president from ACORN. And if this isn’t an indication of it, we don’t know what is.”
ACORN-linked Project Vote is a Washington, D.C.-based 501c3 nonprofit organization that supports voter-registration drives in “historically underrepresented communities.”
But there is “no wall of separation” between Project Vote and the well-known ACORN organization, according to Matthew Vadum, the Capital Research Center editor who wrote “Subversion Inc.: How Obama’s ACORN Red Shirts Are Still Terrorizing and Ripping Off American Taxpayers.”
He calls Project Vote “the branch of ACORN that’s most notorious for voter fraud.”
Vadum wrote in an American Spectator piece on Monday: “On registration and mobilization campaigns, ACORN and Project Vote work together to the point where it is a difficult, if not impossible, to tell the difference. They share staff, office space, and money.”
As an example he cites Project Vote’s field director, listed on its website as Amy Busefink. In November, she pled no contest to two counts of conspiracy to commit the crime in Nevada of compensation for registration of voters. In January, she received a year of probation and a $4,000 fine. Vadum calls that incident “a major ACORN-approved voter fraud conspiracy.”
Vadum tells Newsmax that the use of the Project Vote name for Obama’s new voter-registration drive “says the Obama campaign is up to the same old tricks, that they’re not afraid of being called out by the media.
They know that they can continue to operate with impunity, encouraging voter fraud, and they’re not going to be held accountable.”
The decision to employ the Project Vote name was clear in a recent email from the Obama campaign: "Project Vote will embark on a voter registration effort to maximize voter participation. Project Vote will drive our campaign strategy — from paid media, to digital outreach, to grassroots organizing and voter registration efforts — to communicate with and engage key demographic groups."
Adopting a name so closely linked to ACORN, and President Obama’s political career, could hardly be an accident, says Fitton.
“It collapses the façade that there was any distinction between the Obama campaign and Project Vote in 2008.”
Fitton speculates adopting the “Project Vote” name is intended as a “dog-whistle” to the Democratic base.
He adds: “If the Obama campaign was intent on trying to disassociate itself from the criminal activity which took place with its vendor last time, which was ACORN, using the name of their partner seemingly would be the wrong way to do it.”
Obama has had well-documented ties with ACORN. In the 2008 race, his campaign paid $832,000 for voter-registration services in key primary states to Citizen Consulting Inc., an ACORN umbrella group that Fitton describes as “an ACORN front.” The money was initially reported to the Federal Election Commission as payments for “staging, sound, lighting.” The reports were corrected after their true nature was revealed by a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review expose.
In 1995, Obama helped represent the group in a lawsuit that forced Illinois to adopt a bill relaxing the standards for establishing voter eligibility, and he helped train ACORN’s staff in Chicago.
Obama’s 2008 campaign relied heavily on expanding the electorate and registering new voters. His political strategists have indicated it will be a key component of his re-election effort as well.
Fitton says the Project Vote name shows that the Obama campaign plans to continue running its 2008 campaign playbook, despite the fraud associated with voter-registration activities that cycle.
“It should alert people to the fact that Project Vote hasn’t gone away,” he says. “One of the big misconceptions has been that ACORN and Project Vote, which had been associated with voter registration issues in 2008, disappeared as a result of the scandals, as a result of the videos. And they haven’t disappeared — the state ACORN groups are still operational, and obviously Project Vote is still using the ACORN method to register voters.”
Vadum, whose book documents 54 voter-fraud convictions stemming from the 2008 elections, tells Newsmax that he expects ACORN to be just as active in the 2012 campaign as it was in 2008, although under a different brand. ACORN’s state chapters have reconstituted themselves under new names, he says, and its affordable housing arm is now receiving money from HUD under a new name.