So for the last 45 minutes, I've been receiving -- at the rate of one every 30 seconds -- e-mailed form letters from PUMA, a group whose acronym stands for "People United Means Action."
The e-mails are all the same -- and are no doubt all being sent to newspapers across the country. They read in part as follows:
The mainstream media has been reporting rampant and widespread voter fraud by the Obama supported group ACORN. At least ten states have opened or are already pursuing criminal investigations into this system fraud. ... I insist that you instruct your Secretary of State, Pedro Cortes, to open an investigation into the serious and credible allegations of voter fraud in Philadelphia, and that have plagued the Obama-supporting ACORN in a dozen states or more.
I wrote a murkier-than-usual column about the attacks on ACORN, a grassroots organizing group most people never heard of until Republicans started blaming them for everything from the economic crisis to Obama's lead in the polls. The column will be posted on the site tomorrow, so for now, I'll say only this: The notion that faked voter-registration information can sway an election is utterly ridiculous. Imaginary voters don't affect elections unless they actually show up at the polls. Which would be hard to do because, see, they're imaginary.
God knows ACORN has its problems -- as does any group that relies on paid signature-gatherers. (Pennsylvania Green Party candidates can attest to that.) But ACORN has a strong case that: a) they're victims here too, and b) had they not turned over information they thought was faked, they could be in a lot of trouble. It's true that the law prohibits registration of non-existent voters. But law-enforcment also doesn't look kindly at people who pretend to register voters and toss away the materials. Which kind of puts ACORN in a double-bind when a dubious registration form is put before them.
But what's really interesting about all this is that these accusations about phantom voters are coming from a fairly shadowy group. PUMA, which was founded to capitalize on the resentments of aggrieved Hillary Clinton voters, is run by one Darragh Murphy. And while Murphy claims to be a staunch Democrat, her only contribution to a presidential candidate was a $500 gift made in 2000 to ... John McCain. (Check the FEC Web site and search for Murphy, Darragh in the name fields.) That's more than the $200 Murphy contributed this year to a PAC that supported Hillary Clinton herself.
That has, of course, prompted all manner of speculation that Murphy, and PUMA, are really just trying to sow seeds of dissension amongst Democrats. I'll take no position on their motivations, but I think this interview proves that if they aren't trying to wreak havoc amongst Democrats, then what they are doing makes no sense at all.
So what you've got is a group that may well have an invisible agenda attacking against another group for registering invisible voters. Welcome to the 21st century's virtual politics.