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Former ACORN staffer testifies

| Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2008

HARRISBURG -- A former staffer for an affiliate of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now testified today that the organization was provided a "donor list" from the presidential campaign of Barack Obama in late 2007 for fundraising efforts.

Anita Moncrief, a former Washington, D.C. staffer for Project Vote, which she described as a sister organization of ACORN, said her supervisor told her the list of campaign contributors came from the Obama campaign. Moncrief 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.

Project Vote national spokesman Michael McDunnah denied that the list came from Obama's campaign, according to The Associated Press. Donor lists for candidates are public information and can be downloaded from the Federal Election Commission's Web site. The lists include how much individuals have given. ACORN officials have said Moncrief was fired from Project Vote and that she is not a credible witness. Moncrief testified that ACORN and Project Vote were virtually identical.

The Obama campaign said it wasn't involved in ACORN registration drives .

"Our campaign has not coordinated with ACORN whatsoever on any voter registration activities," said Obama spokesman Sean Smith.

A Republican lawyer submitted a computer disk of the Obama database to Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson.

Moncrief, whom Project Vote fired earlier this year, testified for more than two hours during a hearing on a Pennsylvania Republican Party lawsuit aimed at curbing voter fraud in Tuesday's general election.

An Obama campaign spokeswoman last week had said the campaign has "no ties" to ACORN.

Moncrief, 29, who now lives in Virginia, also said that she had taken a call from an Obama campaign worker inquiring whether it was the same organization Obama had worked with in the 1990's.

Moncrief said she had received repeated warnings to "back off" from testifying today by people she knows at ACORN.

"I thought it was powerful testimony. She took a great personal risk," said Heather Heidelbaugh, an attorney representing the state GOP.

On cross-examination, Moncrief admitted that she had no personal knowledge of how Pennsylvania ACORN registered voters.

Moncrief said she was fired because she put personal expenses on the organization's credit card. She said she repaid about half of the money. "I am really sorry," she said.

An ACORN spokeswoman said the group sets aside problematic voter registration forms and turns them over to authorities.

The spokeswoman, Carol Hemmingway of Philadelphia, called the lawsuit "an attempt to suppress voters."

Hemmingway said Moncrief was not part of "senior management" at ACORN and can't speak for them.

The lawsuit against ACORN and its affiliates, as well as Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro Cortes, asks the court for a preliminary injunction. GOP lawyers want the court to force ACORN to make its voter database available and require voter education efforts. The Republicans also want the Department of State to make its voter registration database more readily available to counties. A Department of State lawyer has said Pennsylvania is already doing so.

Moncrief said she does not have a vendetta against ACORN.

"I do not think it is a bad organization," she said. Moncrief said she came forward and contacted Heidelbaugh because she believes low-income vote canvassers were not trained and then were "thrown under the bus"-- facing criminal prosecution -- for frauduent registrations. She said there were quotas of voter registration forms for workers and that some were fired for not meeting them.

"The (voter) cards are tied to money. The more cards you get the more money you get," Moncrief said.

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