INDIANAPOLIS | Democrat Barack Obama's presidential campaign on Monday denounced the latest call for an investigation into hundreds of potentially fraudulent Lake County voter registrations as a "fear campaign" coordinated by Republicans.
Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita, a Republican, sent federal, state and local authorities as letter last week requesting a criminal investigation into more than 1,400 voter registration forms submitted in Lake County by ACORN, a nonprofit group that has endorsed Obama.
Bob Bauer, general counsel to the Obama campaign, accused Rokita, Indiana's chief elections official, of attempting to cast doubt on the election in a coordinated effort to aid GOP presidential nominee John McCain and running mate Sarah Palin.
"We have seen an orchestrated effort on the part of Republican officials across the country to work with the McCain-Palin ticket and the Republican National Committee to disseminate this message of fraud," Bauer said in an afternoon conference call with Indiana reporters. 'It's a fear campaign.'
A call to Rokita seeking comment was not immediately returned. In a letter dated Wednesday, the secretary of state said after more than 100 hours of investigative work, his office has uncovered 1,438 Lake County registrations forms that were either missing information, contained data that did not match state motor vehicle records or showed indications of forgery or fraud.
"Unfortunately, this seems to be partisan attack on minority voter registration activities," ACORN spokesman Brian Kettenring said Monday. "We would point out that we have brought to attention approximately 2,100 cards that we ourselves have identified as problematic, including the Jimmy John card. What seems to have happened here is the process has been politicized and our own quality control procedures are being turn against us."
ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, has blamed the bulk of the invalid registration on a handful of unscrupulous canvassers, who were paid $8 to register voters. Kettenring said state law requires the group to turn in every application collected, so it segregated the sketchy forms before submitting them to Lake County officials.
Rokita argues ACORN knowingly submitted fraudulent applications, which he said is illegal.
"Simply put, complying with the law to submit legitimate applications does not allow ACORN officials to evade the law against knowingly submitting fraudulent applications," Rokita wrote.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney David Capp in Hammond said the office had no comment Monday on Rokita's letter. Law enforcement sources last week told the Associated Press the FBI raided ACORN headquarters in several states as part of national investigation.
Rokita's letter, also addressed to the Indiana attorney general, Lake County prosecutor's office and the Indianapolis office of the FBI, alleges potential misdemeanor and felony charges tied to the group's Lake County registration drive.