FBI investigating phony applications

A day after John McCain charged that the liberal-leaning voter registration group ACORN “may be perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history,” it was disclosed Thursday that the FBI is investigating whether the group coordinated the filing of phony applications.

Details of the inquiry weren't readily available. McClatchy Newspapers confirmed a report disclosing the investigation and learned that the FBI was attempting to determine if ACORN systematically encouraged the creation of fake voter registrations in several states.

Executive Director Michael Slater of Project Vote, which funds ACORN and represents it in legal matters, said the group has yet to be informed of any national investigation but would cooperate. Slater said that any suggestion that ACORN was orchestrating voter fraud was “absolutely false.”

For years, ACORN has been a force in registering mostly younger, lower-income minorities to vote. So far this year, the group has registered 1.3 million new voters.

Because those new voters often support Democrats, Republicans have targeted ACORN and accused organizers of trying to undermine elections. Under former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, U.S. attorneys were encouraged to bring voter-fraud cases, mostly against Democrats, and some prosecutors who balked were fired.

Project Vote's Slater said the timing of the investigation was “highly suspicious” because it was so close to the election.

“We knew this was coming,” Slater told McClatchy. “We saw in 2004 that we were attacked by Republican interests, and law enforcement was politicized to go after us. We saw civil suits and organizations created whose specific purpose was to demonize ACORN.”