ACORN intensifies outreach to counter GOP accusations

NEW YORK: The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) said it created a communications "war room" to counter GOP accusations that the group seeks to register phony voters for Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama.

NEW YORK: The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) said it created a communications “war room” to counter GOP accusations that the group seeks to register phony voters for Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama.

With the aid of PR consultants including The Advance Group, ACORN says it's aggressively reaching out to the media, as well as Democratic activists, to fight a viral marketing effort launched by the Republican National Committee (RNC) this week that aims to highlight Obama's ties to the group. It features a squirrel mascot that is traveling the country, visiting Times Square and other locales; a dedicated blog; and social networking, among other tactics.

The RNC claims that fake registrations submitted by ACORN workers in various states point to a plot by the grassroots organization to sway the election in Obama's favor. ACORN counters that the GOP targeted it in 2004 and 2006 as part of a larger effort at “suppressing” a group of voters that typically vote Democratic. As part of its message, ACORN notes its own internal audits showed that some contract workers submitted false registrations simply to boost their commissions, but that voting authorities are able to easily weed out false registrations.

“They're trying to manufacture this so-called ‘voter fraud' crisis in the eyes of the public,” said Brian Kettenring, ACORN's head organizer in Florida.

Alex Conant, press secretary of RNC, countered that ACORN was launching a “preemptive strike where no vote suppression exists.”

In its response, ACORN has sought to address RNC claims both online and with the mainstream media, as well as enlist third parties to argue the case on its behalf, according to Scott Levenson, president of Advance.

“Our initial response had to fight several fronts at the same time,” Levenson said. “We had to beat back the increasingly viral nature of the outreach. It festered about 48 hours before we had developed our case and talking points.”

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