An ACORN community organizer received a death threat and the liberal-leaning voter registration group's Boston and Seattle offices were vandalized Thursday, reflecting mounting tensions over its role in registering 1.3 million mostly poor and minority Americans to vote next month.
Attorneys for the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now were notifying the FBI and the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division of the incidents, said Brian Kettenring, a Florida-based spokesman for the group.
Republicans, including presidential candidate John McCain, have criticized the group repeatedly in recent days, alleging a widespread vote-fraud scheme, although they've provided little proof. It was disclosed Thursday that the FBI is examining whether thousands of fraudulent voter-registration applications submitted by some ACORN workers were part of a systematic effort or isolated incidents in a number of states, including North Carolina.
Kettenring said that a senior ACORN staffer in Cleveland, after appearing on TV this week, got an e-mail that said she “is going to have her life ended.”
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A female staffer in Providence, R.I., got a threatening call from someone who said words to the effect of “We know you get off work at 9,” then uttered racial epithets, he said.
Separately, vandals broke into the group's Boston and Seattle offices and stole computers, Kettenring said.
The incidents came the day after McCain charged in the final presidential debate that ACORN's voter-registration drive “may be perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history” and may be “destroying the fabric of democracy.”
McCain's comments provoked a response from ACORN.
“I would not say that Sen. McCain is inciting violence,” Kettenring said, “but I would say that his statements about the role of this manufactured scandal were totally outlandish. We would call on Sen. McCain to tamp down the fringe elements in his party.”
McCain's campaign didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.
Kettenring said that ACORN had received growing amounts of hate mail in recent weeks, but “the campaign debate sort of tipped it over to a scary point.” The Associated Press contributed.