ACORN is an innocent victim of partisan politics – or so its attorneys say.
At a Las Vegas hearing on 39 felony counts pending against the group, ACORN attorney Lisa Rasmussen termed the fraud-related charges "politically motivated."
"We're a bit appalled at the political grandstanding on the part of the attorney general's office," ACORN spokesman Scott Levenson told the Las Vegas Review-Journal last month.
The charges against the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now are "frightfully absurd," Levenson said.
ACORN asserts it was victimized by a few rogue employees who violated the group's policies. "The organization that was most harmed is the organization that is being charged," Levenson said.
Nevada law holds it is illegal for canvassers to be paid based on the total number of people they register. Legislators worry such incentives could pressure workers into falsifying information in order to keep their jobs, which is precisely what happened in Nevada, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors say ACORN told workers they would lose their jobs unless they signed up 20 new voters a day. They also charge ACORN offered a "blackjack" bonus, paying employees an extra $5 per shift if they completed 21 or more registrations.
The result was predictable: Fake names and addresses submitted by workers whose primary focus was keeping their jobs. In one notorious instance, fraudulent registrations were submitted for the entire starting lineup of the Dallas Cowboys football team.
"By structuring employment and compensation around a quota system, ACORN facilitated voter registration fraud in this state," Attorney General Catherine Cortez Mast stated in a news release.
She added: "Nevada will not tolerate violations of the law by individuals, nor will it allows corporations to hide behind or place blame on their employees when its training manuals clearly detail, condone, and indeed, require, illegal acts in performing the job for the corporation."
Each count carries a possible sentence of up to four years in prison.
Matthew Vadum of the Capital Research Center reports that ACORN may have difficulty making its charges of political bias stick. ACORN operatives have a history of throwing away any Republican registrations they gather, and both Nevada's attorney general and its secretary of state are Democrats.
For that matter, so is Stephen Zappala Jr., the district attorney who filed seven more fraud-related charges against ACORN in Allegheny County, Pa.
"Maybe ACORN will cry racism now," Vadum writes. "Oh wait, Amy Bsefink and Chris Edwards, the former ACORN officials in Nevada [who are] also charged with voter registration fraud, are Caucasian…."
The case's next court date is set for July 15.
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