ACORN denied receiving an Obama donor list and dismissed the voter fraud investigations are part of a Republican voter suppression plot.
The Obama campaign, which paid an ACORN-related group more than $800,000 for get-out-the-vote work during the primaries, said it has not paid the group to work in the general election and never paid ACORN to register voters.
Next, top McCain advisers called for fresh scrutiny of Mr. Obama’s financial relationship with Rezko, who helped the senator from Illinois buy a $1.6 million Chicago mansion and worked as a fundraiser for Mr. Obama’s past races. He was convicted in June of corruption charges related to a kickback scheme for state government contracts.
Rezko helped Mr. Obama buy the mansion by purchasing the adjacent lot, which the owner of both properties insisted on selling together. Rezko paid $650,000 for the lot the same day that Mr. Obama purchased the mansion. About six month later, Mr. Obama expanded his yard by paying Rezko $104,500 for a strip of the adjoining land.
“It was a mistake to have been engaged with him at all in this or any other personal business dealing that would allow him, or anyone else, to believe that he had done me a favor,” said Mr. Obama, adding that he “misgauged” the perception that the transaction would create and noted he paid above the appraised value for the land.
Both sides say their attacks are aboveboard and wholly deserved but dismiss the rival’s as cheap shots.
Obama campaign staff privately acknowledge that fusing Mr. McCain to Mr. Bush is “the basis of the campaign” and the gist of nearly all its TV and radio ads. But they say it is a fair critique because Mr. McCain did vote with Mr. Bush 90 percent of the time.
Mr. McCain has voted with the president about 90 percent of the time since Mr. Bush took office. His lowest scores for siding with Mr. Bush were 77 percent in 2005 and 89 percent in 2006. He scored between 90 percent and 92 percent the rest of the years, according to Congressional Quarterly.
“That’s not guilt by association; that’s an actual association,” an Obama aide said.
Likewise, the McCain campaign says Mr. Obama’s association with unsavory Chicago characters shows poor judgment and underscores the Democrat’s reluctance to come clean with voters.
“They speak to his judgment because these are relationships that he is deliberately deceiving the American people about,” McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds said. He noted that Mr. Obama at first described Mr. Ayers as “someone in the neighborhood,” but the campaign eventually acknowledged that the men had a long-standing professional and “casual relationship.”
Mr. Ayers, who is a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, co-founded the radical leftist Weather Underground that bombed the New York City Police Headquarters in 1970, the Capitol in 1971 and the Pentagon in 1972. He escaped jail time because the federal case against him was dropped because of prosecutorial misconduct.
As for the relationship with Mr. Obama, a meet-and-greet at the home of Mr. Ayers and his wife, fellow Weather Underground terrorist Bernardine Dohrn, launched Mr. Obama’s 1995 Illinois state Senate run.
Mr. Obama and Mr. Ayers also served together from 1995 to 1999 distributing education grants on the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, which Mr. Ayers co-founded and Mr. Obama chaired. The two also served together on the board of the anti-poverty Woods Fund of Chicago from 1999 to 2002. The men appeared together on an academic-conference panel, and Mr. Obama praised a book by Mr. Ayers on juvenile justice in a Chicago Tribune blurb.
“His dishonesty about his associations are directly related to his dishonesty about his policies and his proposals,” Mr. Bounds said. “When he says he wants to support middle-class tax relief, he refuses to admit that he is also proposing serious tax increases on other Americans.”