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ACORN Watch, Pt II: Obama hid $800,000 payment to ACORN through “Citizen Services, Inc.”

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By Michelle Malkin  •  August 22, 2008 11:46 AM

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There’s much more to the story of Obama’s amended campaign finance reports than what Obama and the Obamedia will tell you. I will fill you in on what’s missing in a moment. What we have here, essentially, is Obama using a non-profit group called Citizens Services Inc. as a front to funnel payments to ACORN for campaign advance work. Obama officials say it’s no big deal. Nothing to see here. Move along. But where there’s left-wing laundering smoke, there’s fire. CSI has been the subject of a little-noticed complaint to the FEC by a Democrat who smelled something rotten going on between CSI, ACORN, and a left-wing 527, Communities Voting Together.

But first, the headline:

Obama to amend report on $800,000 in spending

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has details:

U.S. Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign paid more than $800,000 to an offshoot of the liberal Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now for services the Democrat’s campaign says it mistakenly misrepresented in federal reports.

An Obama spokesman said Federal Election Commission reports would be amended to show Citizens Services Inc. — a subsidiary of ACORN — worked in “get-out-the-vote” projects, instead of activities such as polling, advance work and staging major events as stated in FEC finance reports filed during the primary.

FEC spokeswoman Mary Brandenberger said it is not unusual for campaigns to amend reports, even regarding large sums of money.

But, said Blair Latoff, spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee: “Barack Obama’s failure to accurately report his campaign’s financial records is an incredibly suspicious situation that appears to be an attempt to hide his campaign’s interaction with a left-wing organization previously convicted of voter fraud. For a candidate who claims to be practicing ‘new’ politics, his FEC reports look an awful lot like the ‘old-style’ Chicago politics of yesterday.”

The suspicions are well-placed, as I’ve been detailing ever since starting ACORN Watch.

Jim Terry, spokesman for a group that tracks ACORN, said Citizens Services Inc.’s involvement in the Obama campaign raises bigger questions.

“All of this just seems like an awful lot of money and time spent on political campaigning for an organization that purports to exist to help low-income consumers,” said Terry, chief public advocate for Consumers Rights League, a Washington, D.C., advocacy outfit with a libertarian outlook.

“ACORN has a long and sordid history of employing convoluted Enron-style accounting to illegally use taxpayer funds for their own political gain,” Terry claimed. “Now it looks like ACORN is using the same type of convoluted accounting scheme for Obama’s political gain.”

Are your alarm bells ringing yet?

The Ohio primary was March 4. According to FEC records, the Obama campaign paid Citizens Services Inc. $832,598.29, from Feb. 25 to May 17.

A Trib analysis of campaign finance reports showed Obama paid CSI for services that stood out as unusual. For example, CSI received payments of $63,000 and $75,000 for advance work. Excluding the large payments to CSI, the average amount the Obama campaign spent with other organizations was $558.82 per check on more than 1,200 entries classified as advance work.

Citizens Services Inc. is headquartered at the same address as ACORN’s national headquarters in New Orleans. Citizens Services was established in December 2004 to “assist persons and organizations who advance the interests of low- and moderate-income people,” according to paperwork filed in Louisiana. In a 2006 ACORN publication, Citizen Services Inc. is described as “ACORN’s campaign services entity.”

Separate? Bull:

Regarding CSI’s nonprofit status, Robinson said: “We are organized specifically not to make money, but we make money. There are no profits. We have a staff of 60 people around the country, and that eats up our entire profit. We’re not a for-profit corporation, but we are not a group like a United Way.”

CSI is a “separate organization entirely” from ACORN, he said.

“ACORN is a client of ours,” Robinson said. “ACORN has a lot of different partner organizations. We are a partner, but we are separate.”

Robinson is listed on several Web sites as national deputy political director for campaigns and elections at ACORN. He is also listed as political director at the nonprofit Communities Voting Together and as a consultant at Project Vote. He did not return phone calls or an e-mail request for a follow-up interview.

Money flows back and forth between ACORN, Citizens Services Inc., Project Vote and Communities Voting Together. ACORN posts job ads for Citizens Services and Project Vote. Communities Voting Together contributed $60,000 to Citizens Services Inc., for example, in November 2005, according to a posting on CampaignMoney.com. Project Vote has hired ACORN and CSI as its highest paid contractors, paying ACORN $4,649,037 in 2006 and CSI $779,016 in 2006, according to Terry of the Consumers Rights League.


Photoshop: Blind Mule

And now, let’s dig deeper.

FEC reports show that from February-May 2008, Obama paid $832,598.29 to CSI.

The payments were for:

$310,441.20 25-FEB-08 STAGING, SOUND, LIGHTING
$160,689.40 27-FEB-08 STAGING, SOUND, LIGHTING
$98,451.20 29-FEB-08 TRAVEL/LODGING
$74,578.01 13-MAR-08 STAGING, SOUND, LIGHTING
$18,417.00 28-MAR-08 POLLING
$18,633.60 29-APR-08 STAGING, SOUND, LIGHTING
$63,000.00 29-APR-08 ADVANCE WORK
$105.84 02-MAY-08 LICENSE FEES
$105.84 02-MAY-08 LICENSE FEES
$75,000.00 17-MAY-08 ADVANCE WORK
$13,176.20 17-MAY-08 PER DIEM

Interesting services and payments for a nonprofit that supposedly does simple canvassing work on behalf of low-income people. And now, the Obama campaign is going to wave its magic wand and change those services to get-out-the-vote work? What the…?

For your information: The New Orleans building that houses CSI also houses multiple chapters of ACORN and the SEIU– as well as the 527 group Communities Voting Together.

And for your information: A tipster points to shady business by CSI -detected by Maryland Democrat Al Wynn, of all people. His team, which filed an FEC complaint over the matter, linked several suspicious outfits used by his primary opponent to one address: 1024 Elysian Fields in New Orleans. That’s the address of CSI and ACORN.

In a letter to the FEC, Lori Sherwood, the congressman’s campaign manager, wrote, “Based on my examination of various records and documents I believe the Donna Edwards for Congress Committee has received substantial assistance by way of unreported, in-kind contributions from organizations who profess to have operated independently of the Edwards Campaign.”

In a lengthy complaint, Sherwood claimed that as executive director of the social justice organization the Arca Foundation, Edwards was “responsible for administering and overseeing grants that are awarded and distributed” by the group – grants that go to some of her campaign’s biggest supporters.

“By way of example and not limitation, the Arca Foundation contributed $100,000.00 in grants to the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) from 2004-2006,” Sherwood said.

“That after having been intimately involved in the award of an Arca grant to the LCV, Donna Edwards was appointed to the Board of Directors of the League of Conservation Voters,” she continued. “After receipt of grant money from Ms. Edward’s group and her appointment to the LCV Board, LCV endorsed Donna Edwards for Congress in 2006 and 2008.”

Sherwood goes on to allege that the “LCV and its principals contributed over $15,000.00 to the Edwards campaign through its board members, employees, and the LCV PAC.”

Tip of the iceberg:

Sherwood said the 527 group Communities Voting Together(CTV), which is located at 1024 Elysian Fields in New Orleans, was also the address for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 100, and theaddress of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN),along with the Elysian Fields Corporation.

“Wade Rathke, President of Elysian Fields Corporation is also the chief organizer for SEIU Local 100, founder of ACORN, and a member of the Board of Directors of Tides Center and Tides Foundation,” Sherwood said while alleging that Tides, a social justice network, “received $245,000 ingrant money” from the Arca Foundation from 2002-2006.

She continued, saying, “Donna Pharr is the Custodian of Record for Communities Voting Together, the Assistant Treasurer for ACORN, andDeputy Treasurer for the American Institute for Social Justice and Voting forAmerica, Inc. Both of these organizations received a combined total of $230,000 in grants from Arca between 2003 and 2006.”

Sherwood also said members of the CTV “printed and distributed thousands of handouts attacking Congressman Wynn,” while they also attempted “to hire canvassers to assist the Edwards campaign.”

She continued, saying, “Donna Pharr is the Custodian of Record for Communities Voting Together, the Assistant Treasurer for ACORN, and Deputy Treasurer for the American Institute for Social Justice and Voting for America, Inc. Both of these organizations received a combined total of $230,000 in grants from Arca between 2003 and 2006.”

Sherwood also said members of the CTV “printed and distributed thousands of handouts attacking Congressman Wynn,” while they also attempted “to hire canvassers to assist the Edwards campaign.”

In addition, Sherwood said she also learned of a relationship between the Edwards [campaign] and another not for profit, Citizens Services, Inc., a Louisiana corporation also claiming the address 1024 Elysian Fields in New Orleans.

“I learned that Citizens Services, Inc. qualified to do business in Maryland as a foreign corporation and gave a registered agent address of 11 East Chase St., in Baltimore,” Sherwood said.

“In checking to verify the address, I learned that there is no record of Citizen Services, Inc. actually having an office in Baltimore,” she added. “According to recent records from the Maryland State Department of Taxation and Assessments Citizens Services, Inc.’s ability to do business in Maryland was forfeited less than 2 months after the 2006 primary.”

Sherwood alleged that the Edwards campaign paid Citizens Services a total of $76,866.80 in three separate payments in a door to door get out the vote effort.

There is at least one other example of suspiciously large payments to Citizens Services, Inc. that call into question what kind of work this non-partisan, non-profit is doing.

See here, where liberal group Ohio Citizen Action notes a $907,808 payment to Citizens Services for canvassing and $590,526.10 for “campaign consulting.” That’s some gold-plated get-out-the-vote and consulting services right there.

The scheme has all the appearances of another left-wing slush fund for Democrat satellites exploiting their non-profit status and skirting campaign finance laws.

The more things Change…

***

Stanley Kurtz has much more on Senator Stealth’s ACORN ties.

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