Campaign Crawlers

Church, Rendell Find Ways to Boost Obama

When it comes to electing Obama, ACORN, Ed Rendell, and the United Church of Christ all sing from the same hymnal.

By 10.31.08

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They are the same.

So says Anita Moncrief, a former Washington staffer of Project Vote, of the relationship between ACORN, Project Vote -- the latter a controversial voter registration group accused of falsely presenting itself as nonpartisan -- and the presidential campaign of Barack Obama.

Should the United Church of Christ, Obama's religious denomination, be added to that list?

In a lawsuit filed against ACORN by the Pennsylvania Republican Party, heard in a state court on Wednesday, "Moncrief's testimony shed light on the inner workings of ACORN and their fraudulent voter registration practices, and substantiates the concerns our Party has raised in our lawsuit," Chairman Robert Gleason said. "Her testimony makes it clear that the Obama Campaign, Project Vote and ACORN are all working in direct coordination to help elect Barack Obama."

The United Church of Christ is the parent denomination of the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright's Trinity UCC. Wright is Obama's now former pastor. While Obama has broken with Wright, he is still a member of the UCC. Earlier this year the UCC was the subject of an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service over an appearance by Obama at the denomination's General Synod in 2007. Obama's appearance drew a formal complaint the church had violated its tax exempt status by giving a forum to the declared presidential candidate. The church was cleared of any wrongdoing. Yet its left-leaning national leadership persists in putting the denomination, which counts as many as 41% of its members as self-identified conservatives (as opposed to 40% moderates and 19% liberals), in the danger zone with legal authorities by its continued and quite open flirtation with Obama in violation of its tax exempt status.

In this case the UCC website lists Project Vote, which Moncrief identified as an ACORN affiliate, as one of "the organizations and websites that staff of the UCC refer to when we receive election-related information requests from our members." The church then supplies a "Helpful Link" to Project Vote. Project Vote, according to a source involved directly with the Pennsylvania lawsuit, was identified by Ms. Moncrief as having received a donor list from the Obama campaign through Project Vote development director Karyn Gillette. Project Vote has denied the charge, but a copy of the Obama list has been obtained by The American Spectator.

According to a story in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "Moncrief also said she has a copy of a 'development plan' that outlines how Obama contributors who had 'maxed out' under federal contribution limits would be targeted to give to Project Vote, and that it was her job to identify such contributors."

The link to Project Vote on the UCC website takes the viewer immediately to a number of current news stories featured on the Project Vote site, one of which proudly describes Project Vote and ACORN as "working" together on registration efforts in the battleground state of Missouri.

ACORN is under federal investigation in a number of states for voter fraud, the subject of the lawsuit in Pennsylvania's Commonwealth Court. The suit alleges fraud in four Pennsylvania counties -- Philadelphia, Allegheny, Dauphin and Delaware. Moncrief, who has been fired by Project Vote and claims she has been subjected to intimidation efforts designed to get her to "back off," testified for two hours on Wednesday.

Once again this puts the United Church of Christ smack in the middle of another controversy related to Obama. There is a world of difference between Project Vote and, say, the Federal Election Commission or the League of Women Voters, both also linked on the UCC website. As a church, one can only marvel at the idea the church leadership promotes any kind of a relationship with people associated with accusations of deliberately violating election law and intimidating a witness. Attorney Heather Heidelbaugh, representing the Pennsylvania Republican Party in the suit, said the 29-year-old Moncrief, an African-American, had testified at "great personal risk."

Hey, no big deal to the UCC.

ON A SECOND, related front in Pennsylvania, it develops that the Pennsylvania Department of State has been making thousands of taxpayer funded "robo-calls" to new registrants around the state reminding them to "be prepared for Election Day." Here's the excerpt from an October 21st memo sent to "All County Contacts for Elections" from Chet Harhut, the head of Pennsylvania's Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation. The memo refers to a column in an extensive "Election Preparation Spreadsheet."

"Number of Robo-Calls given in District -- Found in Column L, this column represents the number of robo-calls that were made into the district for new registrants reminding them to be prepared for Election Day."

In other words, under the guise of being helpful to all those "new registrants" brought in by the likes of ACORN, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, already involved in a lawsuit over fraudulent registrants, is using taxpayer dollars now to ensure that "new registrants" are prepared for election day. This comes, of course, at the direction of Harhut's boss, Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro Cortes. Cortes in turn is an employee of Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell, an Obama supporter who is busily pulling out all the stops to carry the state for Obama. Were any Republican legislator to use taxpayer-funded resources to send "robo-calls" into his or her legislative district targeting new registrants -- instead of campaign money -- the outcry would be, deservedly so, immediate. But to date, you are reading about this only in The American Spectator.

The Harhut memo also contains this curious reference:

"Finally, please note that we've also bolded the names of those precincts in and around many college/university campuses within your county that may have seen a large spike in new registrations."

In other words, the Pennsylvania Department of State believes places like, say, State College -- the home of Penn State's 40,000 students -- are experiencing a sudden spike in new registrants. Coincidentally, retired Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Sandra Newman said the other week that there was a "massive effort" to fraudulently register college students, with efforts aimed at "multiple registrations." But don't worry. The Governor's folks have spent taxpayer dollars to ensure these new registrants get those robo-calls!

There are a lot of institutions that are going about the business of damaging their own reputations this election year.

The United Church of Christ and the Pennsylvania Department of State being but two.

(The author is a member of the UCC's Penn Central Conference Board of Directors and a UCC church Council president.)

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About the Author
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com.