Prosecutors: ACORN 2008 Milwaukee Voter Drive "Marred by Fraud"

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A voter registration drive that the community organizing group ACORN conducted in Milwaukee before the 2008 presidential election was marred by fraud and corruption, prosecutors said Monday.

Two former ACORN employees, Maria Miles and Kevin Clancy, were criminally charged Monday. The complaint accuses them of repeatedly trying to register the same voters more than once to meet a 20-signature-per-day quota imposed by ACORN, the embattled group that advocates for low-income people.

ACORN stands for the Association of Community Organizations for

Read the criminal complaints:
Kevin Clancy and Maria Miles
Herbert and Suzanne Gunka
Michael Henderson
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"Miles stated they were 'all hoodlums' working for ACORN and they all had criminal histories, and that they were going to 'do whatever they had to do' to be able to gain their money at the end of each day," Assistant Attorney General David W. Maas and special agent Peter Thelen wrote in the complaint filed in Milwaukee County.

ACORN has been devastated by a political and media firestorm created last year when conservative activists released video showing workers advising a woman posing as a prostitute how to launder earnings. Congress voted to cut federal funding for the group, which has also been dogged by allegations of voter-registration fraud.

Miles, 36, acknowledged to investigators that she tried to register Clancy's brother, a co-worker and another man at least twice each. Clancy, 26, said he signed his brother up twice, his mother four or five times and would go to the same park every day to sign up the same people so he could meet his quota, according to the complaint.

Another worker who said she was fired for not reaching the quota said she saw workers signing one another's forms, putting down names twice and "getting names out of the phone book," the complaint said.

Miles told investigators she didn't register any voters at least one day per week, and instead spent that time at the home of a co-worker who was romantically involved with their supervisor. The complaint said the supervisor would approve the workers' pay despite their lack of work.

Phone numbers were not listed for Miles and Clancy, and a spokesman for the prosecutor's office said they did not yet have attorneys. Each is charged with falsely procuring voter registration as a party to the crime, a felony that carries up to 3 1/2 years in prison.

The complaint said both worked on the drive for weeks during the summer of 2008.

Another former ACORN worker, Latoya Lewis, was sentenced last year to three years' probation for trying to register some people more than once to meet her quota.

Carolyn Castore, a former ACORN political organizer who ran the voter registration drive, said Miles and Clancy were fired after the group uncovered the fraud on its own. She called their actions "a victimless crime" since they did not lead to illegal voting. She said the supervisor would have been fired "in a nanosecond" had she been aware of his behavior.

ACORN released a statement saying records show Clancy was fired after only about two weeks of employment.

Castore acknowledged to investigators that an increase in fraud occurred when workers at an annual Juneteenth celebration in 2008 submitted bogus names. The workers had been promised the rest of the week off if they each registered at least 40 voters.

Castore told investigators that another fraud spike came in May 2008 after another group, the Community Voters Project, began signing up voters and the area became saturated with registration activity.

In a statement, ACORN spokesman Kevin Whelan said the drive helped thousands of Wisconsin citizens register to vote, and that ACORN staff verified information on each card and flagged duplicates.

"The small number of instances in which an employee has submitted duplicate or fraudulent voter registration cards are an example of workers attempting to defraud ACORN by passing off bad work as good work -- and the organization supports their prosecution," Whelan said.

In separate cases Monday, a Milwaukee husband and wife were charged with illegally voting twice, and a Milwaukee felon was accused of voting despite not being eligible.

Department of Justice spokesman Bill Cosh said the work of a multi-agency task force that investigates voter fraud in Milwaukee County has led to 13 residents facing criminal charges related to the 2008 election, including Monday's cases.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran a front-page column Monday quoting a Milwaukee County prosecutor criticizing Milwaukee police for dragging their feet on voter fraud investigations and largely ignoring some cases. A police spokeswoman defended the department's investigative work.

Cosh said the timing of Monday's charges was unrelated to the newspaper column.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)