- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 28, 2011

President Obama’s re-election campaign has appropriated for its voter-registration operation the name of an existing group, Project Vote, that has been the target of voter-fraud complaints tied to the much-criticized and now-defunct activist group ACORN.

“It’s astonishing,” said Thomas Fitton, president of the public-interest group Judicial Watch. “Project Vote has a terrible reputation for people who care about voter fraud, but the campaign doesn’t care.”

Obama for America announced Thursday that is launching Project Vote as an in-house effort to increase voter registration and participation among the Democratic base, including young voters, blacks, Hispanics, gays and American Indians.

Project Vote will embark on a voter registration effort to maximize voter participation,” the campaign said in an email from its headquarters in Chicago. “Project Vote will drive our campaign strategy — from paid media, to digital outreach, to grassroots organizing and voter registration efforts — to communicate with and engage key demographic groups.”

But a Washington-based group already has the name Project Vote Inc., and its officials point out that they own the name.

“We’re always happy to see candidates take an interest in voter registration,” Project Vote Executive Director Michael Slater said in a statement. “However, while we wish them good luck in their registration efforts, Project Vote Inc. holds the trademark for that name, and has been conducting voter registration activities using that name continuously since 1994.”

Mr. Slater said his organization has contacted lawyers representing Obama for America, “and we have been assured that this matter will be resolved quickly and amicably.”

A spokesman for the campaign did not respond to a request for comment about the trademark issue.

The group’s name evokes Mr. Obama’s past as a community organizer.

In 1992, Mr. Obama served as director of Project Vote in Chicago, helping to register thousands of voters on the city’s South Side. In 1995, he was on a team of lawyers representing ACORN in a lawsuit.

Project Vote’s mission has involved registering and encouraging low-income and minority voters. In 2008, the group paired with ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) on a registration drive in 21 battleground states that Mr. Obama needed to win the White House.

Although Project Vote is officially nonpartisan, the focus of the ACORN/Project Vote drive was on groups leaning Democratic: blacks, Hispanics, young adults and low-income residents. ACORN at the time was the largest grass-roots community organizing group in the U.S.

The ACORN/Project Vote pairing subsequently came under fire for voter fraud.

In April, ACORN pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a scheme to pay illegal cash bonuses to its voter registration canvassers for registering voters in Nevada.

Senior ACORN executive Amy Busefink pleaded no contest in November to two counts of conspiracy to commit the crime of compensation for registration of voters. She was sentenced in January to one year of probation and fined $4,000.

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