The McCain camp and the RNC have held several (at least six between them) reporter conference calls this week to draw attention to instances of fraud in voter registrations collected by the group ACORN. ACORN is a community organizing group that advocates for affordable housing and leads voter registration drives, primarily in lower-income and minority (i.e. Democratic-leaning) neighborhoods. They hire contractors to register voters for them, which sometimes results in fake registrations getting turned in -- for example, recently the entire Dallas Cowboys roster supposedly registered to vote in Las Vegas through ACORN -- leading state authorities to raid the organization's office there.
Obviously Tony Romo won't be showing up at a Vegas precinct on election day, so the fraudulent registrations shouldn't effect the outcome of an election. But the bad paperwork does gum up the works at an already-busy time for election officials, especially since ACORN is required by law to file all the forms they receive -- even if they are patently fraudulent (ACORN officials say they make every effort to flag fake forms before they go to the Secretaries of State). The organization says it has registered 1.3 million new voters this year. The vast majority of those registrations are legit, but the group's registration drives are currently being investigated in at least eight states.
The McCain camp and RNC's calls, press releases, and other recent publicity efforts aim to link the Obama campaign to ACORN's troubles. Obama does have ties to ACORN -- he represented the group in a 1995 suit advocating state compliance with a voting access law, and they endorsed him during this year's Democratic primary. Obama's campaign also paid an ACORN subsidiary $800,000 to help with canvassing this spring, and initially misreported the expenditure to the FEC. But the Obama campaign wasn't involved with the registration efforts that are now under scrutiny (and indeed, ACORN itself hasn't been charged with any wrongdoing). But the GOP and the McCain camp are doing their best to tar the organization and the candidate with the same brush. Today, in addition to a conference call, the McCain camp released a web video linking Obama to ACORN and blaming the group for advocating the subprime loans that led to the housing crisis.
The Obama camp, for its part, says Obama supports voter registration efforts, but it has downplayed the candidate's ties to ACORN. In a statement today, spokesman Tommy Vietor called the McCain campaign's allegations "completely transparent and false" and said they represent "another dishonorable, shameful attempt to divert voters."