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Bad Camper?

Critics spark “Camp Obama” controversy

Since June, Barack Obama’s presidential campaign has been gathering volunteers for its two-day “Camp Obama” seminars, where supporters learn techniques for phone banking, door-to-door canvassing, and other nuts-and-bolts campaign activities. The sessions are taught by campaign staffers, as well as by top Democratic operatives. One Camp Obama instructor has drawn partisan criticism, however. Robert Creamer, the former director of the state’s largest consumer advocacy organization, Citizen Action of Illinois, who in 2005 was sentenced to five months in prison after pleading guilty to bank fraud and withholding taxes while heading the group, has run sessions for Obama’s campers. Creamer’s role came to light after his “information-packed presentation” was described in a Vermont-based volunteer’s blog on Obama’s Web site.

An Obama campaign official says the campaign welcomed Creamer’s expertise because he is one of the most experienced organizers in Illinois. (Creamer’s wife, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, is also a longtime Obama booster.) But conservative columnist and radio host Tom Roeser and other bloggers have argued that Creamer’s involvement undercuts Obama’s clean-cut, reform-minded public image. “Creamer’s being hired by the Obama campaign to instruct interns and volunteers in political organizing, abuses of which sent him to jail, is ironic,” as Roeser put it in his blog. Calls to Creamer’s office were not returned.

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