McCain campaign manager Rick Davis held a conference call on Thursday to dish out some more press criticism and fan the flames of a new alleged ACORN-Obama campaign connection.
McCain officials and the RNC have been working for weeks now to elevate the ACORN issue, as the group faces embarrassing registration fraud investigations in over a dozen states. So far, their efforts have been without much success. A recent Time/CNN poll of voters in swing states found the Obama-ACORN link was "not resonating with most voters."
But on Thursday, Davis was back at it, citing new court testimony alleging that the Obama campaign sold a list of high-dollar donors to Project Vote, an ACORN affiliate.
Project Vote denies the claim. And the accuser, a former Project Vote employee named Anita Moncrief, was fired for charging personal items to the group's credit card, and did not witness the registration fraud being investigated.
Nevertheless, Davis bemoaned during Thursday's call, "Why do we have to constantly be learning about this [Obama's relationship with ACORN] outside the news media?"
Davis said the press had established "a pattern, followed religiously, of not asking hard questions" of Obama's ties to ACORN. "If this were a Republican organization I dare say there would be a different attitude on the part of the press," he added.
But the press did cover Moncrief's accusations about Obama and ACORN as soon as they were unveiled on Wednesday. The problem is that, in most of the accounts, the ACORN accuser came off somewhat badly.
"Moncrief acknowledged she was fired in January from Project Vote for running up more than $3,000 in personal expenses on a [company] credit card," the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported, adding: "She said she has paid half the money back, and 'I am really sorry.'"
The Philadelphia Inquirer also noted that Moncrief is currently "unemployed after short stints in two jobs since she was fired" by Project Vote in January. On cross-examination, Moncrief also acknowledged that she never worked on ACORN's voter registration in Pennsylvania -- the subject of the current court case.
Meanwhile, the AP quoted a Project Vote spokesman as saying: "The bottom line is, Ms. Moncrief was not in a position to have the facts on many of the things that she's speculating about," he said.
John Fund, a dogged columnist on the ACORN beat for the Wall Street Journal, also reported on Project Vote's denial of Moncrief's claims:
Ms. Moncrief testified that in November 2007 Project Vote development director Karyn Gillette told her she had direct contact with the Obama campaign and had obtained their donor lists. Ms. MonCrief also testified she was given a spreadsheet to use in cultivating Obama donors who had maxed out on donations to the candidate, but who could contribute to voter registration efforts. Project Vote calls the allegation "absolutely false."
A Republican lawyer who looked at the files Moncrief provided claimed that they went beyond what is publicly available through FEC disclosure forms. On the McCain conference call, Davis alleged a quid pro quo between the facts as alleged by Moncrief and the Obama campaign. "The implication is there's a direct link between the Obama campaign and a charitable organization in return for voter registration activity," Davis said, referencing the more than $800,000 paid by the Obama campaign to another ACORN affiliate, Citizen's Services, earlier this year for get-out-the-vote-operations (though the Obama camp had originally mis-labeled the purpose of the payments in its FEC reports).
Toward the close of Davis's conference call, though, it was clear that the various guilt-by-association streams trotted out by the McCain campaign were being combined into one blast. "Time and time again he has not been held accountable," Davis said, adding that "you gotta wonder" what Obama's "vision of America" might be in light of all the "various relationships" he and his campaign might have -- including Bill Ayers, Bernadine Dohrn and the "latest figure" Rashid Khalidi. "Oh boy, that's off limits," Davis mocked, impersonating what he took to be the press's disinclination to cover these figures. As the Huffington Post first reported on Tuesday, the McCain-led International Republican Institute approved hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to a Palestinian research group that counted Khalidi as a co-founder and member of its board.
Will any of Davis's last-minute effort to stir the ACORN pot once more make a difference? The only poll that matters, as they say, is only five days away.