Rubio to Crist: Denounce and Investigate ACORN
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio on Thursday made a new attempt to paint Gov. Charlie Crist as too liberal, urging his GOP primary rival to investigate the group ACORN in a veiled attempt to link Crist to the group, a favored boogieman of conservatives.
ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, has come under scrutiny with arrest warrants being issued for 11 former employees in Miami for falsifying voter registration forms. Additionally, undercover video filmed by a conservative Florida International University student showed ACORN employees giving visitors advice on prostitution and tax evasion.
Citing a decision by the Census Bureau to distance itself from ACORN and investigations launched by other state chief executives such as California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Rubio said Crist should also come out against the organization.
“Based on the mounting evidence against ACORN and the serious questions surrounding this organization, I respectfully ask that you follow the lead of the other elected officials…and take immediate steps to initiate a thorough investigation into ACORN's activities in Florida, including a detailed accounting of what state funds, if any, ACORN may be receiving,” Rubio wrote to Crist. “If it is discovered that they are receiving state funds, I believe further steps should be taken to cut off any taxpayer funding of ACORN.”
Late Thursday, the political fallout from ACORN employees appearing to condone illegal activity continued as the U.S. House voted overwhelming to cut off all federal funding for the group.
Mindful of Crist’s sometimes precarious relationship with the hard-line conservatives who form the Republican Party’s base and will form the majority of the electorate in the party’s closed primary next year, Rubio also issued a reminder of Crist’s work with ACORN in the past. The charismatic former speaker mentioned recent newspaper reports that Crist cooperated with ACORN on restoring civil rights to ex-felons during his first year in office.
“If you partnered with ACORN, I have no reason to doubt you did so unaware of ACORN's propensity for questionable activity, and with what you believed at the time to be the best interests of Floridians at heart,” Rubio said. “However, given the recent revelations about ACORN, I believe it is now in the best interest of all Floridians for your office to provide a thorough accounting of its relationship with ACORN and what, if any, influence ACORN may have had in any actions you have taken on behalf of the people of Florida.”
Rubio also hit Crist for defending the organization against conservative criticism that it was a front for President Barack Obama’s campaign during last year’s election, which he called a “prescient chorus.”
“In light of the recent allegations against ACORN, I suggest you reconsider your position, demand a full investigation of ACORN's election-related activities, and take whatever steps available to you to prevent ACORN from engaging in voter registration and other election-related activities until the questions surrounding this organization are resolved,” he said.
Crist’s office did not respond for requests for comment from the News Service Thursday, but University of Central Florida political scientist Aubrey Jewett said it was smart politics for Rubio to raise the ACORN issue.
“Republicans have never liked ACORN because they try to register more minority voters and those voters typically vote Democrat,” he said. “For Rubio to have a chance, he’s got to continue to paint Crist as too moderate for the Republican base and too willing to work with Democratic groups. He has to continue to hit that theme over and over again.”
It is a tactic Rubio has tried repeatedly, most prominently with Crist’s support of President Obama’s economic stimulus package, which was roundly rejected by Republicans in Congress. But Jewett said national coverage of the ACORN controversy could make it even more effective for Rubio.
“Republicans are always glad to go after ACORN, but for Rubio in the primary it fits into the overall theme, which is that he’s the true conservative,” Jewett said. “The added benefit is that because this is getting national attention, unlike some attacks Rubio might try, voters in Florida may have heard about ACORN because it has been in the news.”
It remains to be seen if the attacks on ACORN can change the overall dynamics of the Crist-Rubio primary, which are decidedly in the self-proclaimed “people’s governor’s” favor. A poll last month from Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University’s polling institute showed Crist leading Rubio 55 - 26 percent for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate. Crist also has the backing of most of the party’s establishment and a massive fundraising advantage over Rubio.