Ohio Right Wingers Resurrect Failed 2004 RICO Suit Against ACORN

A right-wing Ohio think tank filed a lawsuit on Wednesday accusing ACORN, the low-income advocacy group that has conducted massive voter drives in 2008, of violating voting rights law under the state's anti-racketeering laws. The group, whose staff includes Ohio's former Republican Secretary of State and Bush-Cheney '04 re-election campaign co-chair, J. Kenneth Blackwell, is skating on the thinnest of legal ice.

Why? Because the same tactic was tried in 2004 by some of the same GOP-connected election lawyers -- who were forced to withdraw their suit -- and because ACORN did not even register voters in the Ohio county where the suit was filed on Wednesday, Warren County, according to ACORN officials.

Warren County is notable because in 2004 county officials lied to the media and public and declared a homeland security emergency on Election Night, causing the county to take all ballots to a warehouse to be counted away from any public observers. The FBI denied it ever issued such a security alert. Moreover, subsequent reporting by the Cincinnati Enquirer found county officials had been planning to announce the alert days before the election.

But that was 2004. On Wednesday, the Columbus-based Buckeye Institute, filed the state RICO suit. While ACORN spokespeople said they would vigorously fight this suit in court, a more telling response comes from looking at what happened the last time GOP partisans used this same tactic -- in 2004.

Here's what Ohio election lawyer Bob Fitrakis wrote about that litigation for FreePress.org in 2005.

As the Free Press reported in 2005, (American Center for Voting Rights founder Thor) Hearne, with the help of Republican attorney Alex Vogel, concocted a story that the main problem with the 2004 elections in Ohio was that the NAACP was paying people with crack cocaine to register voters. Based on scant evidence and an incident of a volunteer being linked to crack use, Hearne pushed a version of voter fraud in Ohio that directly attacked not only the NAACP, but ACORN, the AFL-CIO and ACT-Ohio. By attacking this combination of groups, Rove and Hearne were targeting the leading forces for registering blacks, poor, union workers and young people in Ohio - those most likely to vote Democratic.


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