Washington, Oct.15 : Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has distanced himself from the low-income advocacy group ACORN, which has been under fire for allegations of voter fraud.
Obama, who rarely discusses the controversy surrounding the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, spoke to reporters about the issue in Oregon, Ohio, on Tuesday, just one day before he's set to square off against John McCain in the final presidential debate.
"As an elected official, I've had interactions with them. But they are not advising our campaign," Obama said.
"We've got the best voter registration and turnout and volunteer operation in politics right now, and we don't need ACORN's help," Fox News quoted him, as adding.
Obama acknowledged ACORN probably paid people who tried to get out of doing "hard work" by submitting false names in their registration forms. But he downplayed the potential consequences of this. "This isn't a situation where there's actually people who are going to try to vote because these are phony names," Obama said.
He said his relationship with the group is "pretty straightforward," referring to legal work he and two other lawyers did for the group in 1995.
"That was my relationship and is my relationship to ACORN," he said.
Obama's campaign also paid more than 800,000 dollars to a group called Citizens Services Inc., an ACORN subsidiary, to "augment" Obama's grassroots organizing efforts in the Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania primaries.
Bob Bauer, chief counsel to Obama's campaign, said GOP efforts to tie Obama to ACORN are "ludicrous."
Bauer accused Republicans of attacking Obama on registration "without the facts."
On registration efforts itself, the Obama campaign says it has registered 500,000 Democrats in Pennsylvania alone and that its efforts dwarf all other registration efforts, including ACORN's.
The McCain campaign attempted to cast doubt on Obama's statements Tuesday.
"Barack Obama can attempt to distance himself from ACORN, but the truth is Obama and his campaign have extensive ties to an organization that is currently under investigation in at least 11 states for fraudulent activities," McCain spokesman Ben Porritt said.
ACORN has registered 1.3 million young people, minorities and poor and working-class voters, the group says. But some of those registration cards have become the focus of fraud investigations in Nevada, Connecticut, Missouri and at least five other states.
Election officials in Ohio and North Carolina also recently questioned the group's voter forms.
More than 13,000 workers in 21 states recruited less-fortunate voters, who tend to be Democrats.
Meanwhile, House Republicans have also renewed their push for the Justice Department to investigate the group.
Last Friday, six GOP leaders wrote to Attorney General Michael Mukasey to urge him to make sure ballots by ineligible or fraudulent voters are not counted on November 4.