WASHINGTON — House Republican leader John Boehner on Wednesday urged President Bush to block all federal funds to a grass-roots community group that has been accused of voter registration fraud.
"It is evident that ACORN is incapable of using federal funds in a manner that is consistent with the law," Boehner, R-Ohio, wrote Bush, saying that funds should be blocked until all federal investigations into the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now are completed.
ACORN, a group that has led liberal causes since it was formed in 1970, this year hired more than 13,000 part-time workers to sign up voters in minority and poor neighborhoods in 21 states. Some of the 1.3 million registration cards submitted to local election officials, using the names of cartoon characters or pro football players, were obviously phony, spurring GOP charges of widespread misconduct.
ACORN has said it was its own quality-control workers who first noticed problem registration cards, flagged them and submitted them to local election officials in every state that is now investigating them.
To commit fraud, a person would have to show up on Election Day with identification bearing the fake name.
Local law enforcement agencies in about a dozen states are investigating fake registrations submitted by ACORN workers and the FBI is reviewing those cases.
Boehner said his office had determined that ACORN had received more than $31 million in direct federal funding since 1998. He said the group had likely received far more indirectly through federal block grants to states and localities. "Immediate action is necessary to ensure that no additional tax dollars are directed to ACORN while it is under investigation," he wrote Bush.
Boehner said he and other Republicans were also asking the Justice Department to investigate ACORN's connections to the home mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, saying ACORN "appears to have played a key role in the irresponsible schemes that led to the current financial meltdown."
Republican presidential candidate John McCain has asked if ACORN, which he accused of perpetuating voter registration fraud, was "destroying the fabric of democracy." ACORN and other advocacy groups have suggested that Republicans are exaggerating the issue to keep the underprivileged, who tend to vote Democratic, from casting ballots.