Is the Justice Department Partnering with Scandal-plagued Project Vote ?
Washington, DC — August 24, 2011
Judicial Watch, the organization that investigates and fights government corruption, announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit
on August 19, 2011, against the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to obtain records related to the agency’s communications with Estelle Rogers, a former ACORN attorney currently serving as Director of Advocacy for the ACORN-connected organization Project Vote, President Obama’s former employer (Judicial Watch v. Department of Justice
(No. 11-1497)). Judicial Watch is investigating the extent to which the DOJ and Project Vote are partnering on a national campaign to use the National Voting Rights Act (NVRA) to register more individuals on public assistance, widely considered a key voting demographic for the Obama 2012 campaign.
Pursuant to a Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed on June 23, 2011, Judicial Watch seeks the following: “All records of communications between the Department of Justice and Estelle Rogers, Director of Advocacy for Project Vote. The timeframe for this request is January 2, 2009, to June 23, 2011.”According to federal law, the DOJ was required to respond to Judicial Watch’s June 23, 2011, FOIA request within 30 working days, or by August 5, 2011. U.S. Postal Service records indicate the DOJ received Judicial Watch’s request on June 28, 2011. As of the lawsuit’s filing, the DOJ has failed to produce the records requested or respond with a date they will be forthcoming.
As Director of Advocacy for Project Vote, Estelle Rogers – a former attorney for ACORN, which was besieged with charges of corruption before declaring bankruptcy in November 2010 – is a primary contact person on policy matters at Project Vote on both state and federal levels and has been actively involved in voter registration issues. By threatening lawsuits under Section 7 of the NVRA, Project Vote has aggressively sought to force election officials in various states to increase the registration of people receiving public assistance. (Under Section 7, states are required to offer voter registration services at all public assistance agencies, including unemployment offices and food stamp offices.)
On August 4, 2011, Judicial Watch released documents
obtained from the Colorado Department of State showing that ACORN and Project Vote successfully pressured Colorado officials into implementing new policies for increasing the registration of public assistance recipients during the 2008 and 2010 election seasons. Following the policy changes, the percentage of invalid voter registration forms from Colorado public assistance agencies was four times the national average. Project Vote also sought a “legislative fix” to allow people without a driver’s license or state identification to register to vote online.
Project Vote and the “community organization” ACORN have both been linked to serious incidents of voter registration fraud. In fact, Project Vote’s “Field Director,” Amy Busefink, who handled the online registration campaign for Colorado, entered an Alford plea to two gross misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to commit the crime of compensation for registration of voters in Nevada while working for ACORN. (An Alford plea is a guilty plea, where the defendant does not admit the act or assert innocence, but admits that sufficient evidence exists with which the prosecution could likely convince a judge or jury to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.)
In addition to pursuing public agency registration cases in Missouri, Ohio, Indiana, Georgia and New Mexico, Project Vote also filed a lawsuit on April 19, 2011, in partnership with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), against the State of Louisiana alleging violations of the NVRA. Less than three months later, on July 12, the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division/Voting Section sued Louisiana on the same grounds, claiming that “Louisiana officials have not routinely offered voter registration forms, assistance and services to the state’s eligible citizens who apply, recertify or provide a change address for public assistance or disability services.”
The DOJ sued the State of Rhode Island on March 11, 2011, alleging violations of the NVRA. The lawsuit led to policy changes intended to increase the number of voter registration applications processed by “public assistance and disability service officers.” These two lawsuits, filed within five months of each other, are the first such lawsuits filed by the DOJ since 2007.Barack Obama has deep connections to Project Vote. He served as the Illinois Executive Director of Project Vote in 1992. His campaign paid more than $800,000 to an ACORN organization to help “get out the vote” in his successful primary campaign against then-Sen. Hillary Clinton.
“Judicial Watch is convinced that Project Vote’s activities remain a threat to the integrity of our elections. The fact that Project Vote is bullying states to attack election security reforms in order to register Obama’s ‘Food Stamp Army’ comes as no surprise. But it appears that the Obama Justice Department is using the same playbook as Project Vote – to the detriment of clean elections. The American people deserve to know if the nation’s highest law enforcement agency has become nothing more than a political tool to help this scandalous ACORN-front group re-elect Barack Obama. Again, this Justice Department can’t seem to be bothered to comply with basic open records FOIA law,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.