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Obama camp calls for special prosecutor in fraud investigation

  • Story Highlights
  • Obama camp wants special prosecutor to handle federal inquiries into voter fraud
  • McCain camp: Obama's request was an attempt to "criminalize political discourse"
  • Allegations of voter registration fraud have surfaced in several states
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From Martina Stewart
CNN
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Obama campaign announced Friday that it is asking Attorney General Michael Mukasey to turn over any investigations of voter fraud or voter suppression to Special Prosecutor Nora Dannehy.

Dannehy is also the special prosecutor recently appointed to investigate the U.S. attorney firing scandal.

It's the latest salvo in an escalating war over allegations of possible voter irregularities during the upcoming presidential election.

"What they're actually about is the unprecedented effort to essentially sap the American people of confidence in the voting process," Bob Bauer, the Obama campaign's general counsel, said Friday on a conference call.

Bauer said partisan politics was behind Thursday's leak from senior governmental officials about a preliminary FBI investigation into the voter registration activities of ACORN, the embattled community organizing group that has become the focus of Republican efforts to highlight possible fraud as the election approaches. Video Watch the latest report on ACORN's voter registration efforts »

"ACORN is a tool for attacking voters," Bauer said.

"We need to have these matters removed from the day-to-day department's direct control and put into the special prosecutor's independent hands," Bauer told reporters Friday. "She should have responsibility for reviewing any and all matters involving allegations of fraud and suppression in this election."

The McCain campaign suggested that Obama and his campaign were engaging in partisan politics by requesting the special prosecutor's involvement. In a statement issued Friday night, McCain-Palin spokesman Ben Porritt called Obama's request "absurd" and said it was an attempt to "criminalize political discourse."

"Rest assured that, despite these threats, the McCain-Palin campaign will continue to address the serious issue of voter registration fraud by ACORN and other partisan groups, and compliance by states with the Help America Vote Act's requirement of matching new voter registrations with state data bases to prevent voter fraud," Porritt added.

Since ACORN's extensive voter registration drive ended recently, allegations of voter registration fraud relating to the group's activities have surfaced in several states. The McCain campaign recently targeted ACORN's ties to Obama, and Republicans in Congress called for a federal investigation of the group and an end to any federal funding going to the group. Video Watch how the GOP is trying to tie ACORN to Obama »

McCain personally called for an investigation into ACORN last week during a campaign event. At the final presidential debate, he also said ACORN "is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy."

At issue is ACORN's practice of hiring local residents to register potential voters. Some of those hired have filled out registration forms themselves and handed in forms for non-existent people. ACORN says it has fired people for that offense. Video Watch how ACORN is responding to controversy »

Voter registration fraud is not the same as voter fraud, in which individuals attempt to fraudulently cast ballots. Voter registration fraud leads to inflated voter rolls, but has little effect on voter fraud.

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The Obama campaign has said that ACORN has no role in its general election voter registration efforts, and that it has never paid ACORN to register voters. The Obama campaign hired an offshoot of ACORN during the primary to canvas neighborhoods seeking votes.

In a statement issued Thursday, ACORN said it was confident it "would be exonerated" in any federal investigation into its voter registration activities.

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