Mr. Obama took great pains to act as if he barely knew about Acorn. In fact, his association goes back almost 20 years. In 1991, he took time off from his law firm to run a voter-registration drive for Project Vote, an Acorn partner that was soon fully absorbed under the Acorn umbrella. The drive registered 135,000 voters and was considered a major factor in the upset victory of Democrat Carol Moseley Braun over incumbent Democratic Senator Alan Dixon in the 1992 Democratic Senate primary.
Mr. Obama's success made him a hot commodity on the community organizing circuit. He became a top trainer at Acorn's Chicago conferences. In 1995, he became Acorn's attorney, participating in a landmark case to force the state of Illinois to implement the federal Motor Voter Law. That law's loose voter registration requirements would later be exploited by Acorn employees in an effort to flood voter rolls with fake names.
In 1996, Mr. Obama filled out a questionnaire listing key supporters for his campaign for the Illinois Senate. He put Acorn first (it was not an alphabetical list). In the U.S. Senate, Mr. Obama became the leading critic of Voter ID laws, whose overturn was a top Acorn priority. In 2007, in a speech to Acorn's leaders prior to their political arm's endorsement of his presidential campaign, Mr. Obama was effusive: "I've been fighting alongside of Acorn on issues you care about my entire career. Even before I was an elected official, when I ran Project Vote in Illinois, Acorn was smack dab in the middle of it, and we appreciate your work."
But the Obama campaign didn't appear eager to discuss the candidate's ties to Acorn. Its press operation vividly denied Mr. Obama had been an Acorn trainer until the New York Times uncovered records demonstrating that he had been. The Obama campaign also gave Citizens Consulting, Inc., an Acorn subsidiary, $832,000 for get-out-the-vote activities in key primary states. In filings with the Federal Election Commission, the Obama campaign listed the payments as "staging, sound, lighting," only correcting the filings after the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review revealed their true nature.
Given his longstanding ties with Acorn, President Obama's protestations of ignorance or disinterest in the group's latest scandal seem preposterous. Here's hoping White House reporters will press the president to clarify just how much he really knows about Acorn and when he knew it.