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McClatchy Newspapers

Death Threat, Vandalism Hit ACORN After Accusations

Greg Gordon


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

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

Republicans, including presidential candidate John McCain,
have verbally attacked 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.

Kettenring said that a senior ACORN staffer in Cleveland, after
appearing on television this week, got an e-mail that said she "is
going to have her life ended."

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.

McClatchy Newspapers is withholding the women's names because of the threats.

Separately, vandals broke into the group's Boston and Seattle offices and stole computers, Kettenring said.

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.

would not say that Senator 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 Senator
McCain to tamp down the fringe elements in his party."

McCain's campaign didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

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, where raising allegations of voter fraud went from a cynical
campaign ploy to really inciting racial violence."

Since McCain's
remarks, ACORN's 87 offices across the country have received hundreds
of hostile e-mails, many of them containing racial slurs, Kettenring
said. "We believe that these are specifically McCain supporters"
sending the messages, he said.

The e-mail to the Cleveland
employee was traced to a Facebook Web page in the name of a Baltimore
man. It featured a photo of a McCain-Palin sign.

Kettenring said
that the bulk of the e-mails had been either "flat-out racist" or had
racial overtones. Most of the group's 400 members and about 80 percent
of the 13,000 voter-registration canvassers are African-American or

It's unclear whether the alleged threats violated federal
law, but Jonah Goldman, the director of the National Campaign for Fair
Elections at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a
nonpartisan, nonprofit legal organization that battles discrimination,
argued that the Voting Rights Act should apply.

"A real concern
is the impact that these terrible acts have on the people who
registered through these registration drives," Goldman said.
"Legitimate, eligible voters who sign up through these registration
drives may be understandably intimidated and choose not to show up at
the polls, and the Voting Rights Act prevents voter intimidation."


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