Lawsuit questions Obama’s eligibility for office

Citizenship claim at issue

Pennsylvania’s former deputy attorney general and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton supporter Philip J. Berg has filed a lawsuit in federal court in Pennsylvania accusing presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama of lying about his U.S. citizenship, which would make him ineligible to be president.

Mr. Berg is one of a faction of Clinton supporters who haven’t heeded the party’s call for unity, filing the suit just days before the opening of the Democratic National Convention, which will nominate Mr. Obama as the party’s presidential candidate.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia last week, also names the Democratic National Committee and the Federal Election Commission and says Mr. Obama´s mother went to Kenya late in her pregnancy and ended up giving birth there. It also claims that later in life, Mr. Obama declared himself a citizen of Indonesia.

The Obama campaign has firmly said the Illinois Democrat is a natural-born citizen. Last month, the campaign posted on Mr. Obama’s Web site a copy of his “certification of live birth.” It says he was born in Honolulu on Aug. 4, 1961, two years after Hawaii was named the 50th state.

Mr. Berg said he was contacted about filing the lawsuit by a member or associate of the group PUMA, which was formed to support Mrs. Clinton shortly after she withdrew from the race. Its mission includes denouncing the Democratic Party and Mr. Obama’s nomination.

“I really do not believe he is a natural-born citizen,” said Mr. Berg, adding that he is not connected with Mrs. Clinton or her campaign.

Just over one-quarter of Clinton supporters say they’re now backing Mr. McCain, up from 16 percent in late June, according to a CNN poll conducted after Mr. Obama announced Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., of Delaware, as his running mate. Two-thirds of Clinton supporters are now backing Mr. Obama.

Mrs. Clinton, for her part, encouraged her supporters this week to back Mr. Obama.

“Whether you voted for me, or voted for Barack, the time is now to unite as a single party with a single purpose. We are on the same team, and none of us can sit on the sidelines,” she said during her address to the convention Tuesday.

Mr. Berg, who says he donated about $200 to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, may represent the fringe of the pro-Hillary faction that hasn’t warmed to Mr. Obama.

He has filed suits for clients against President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, claiming they knew about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks before they happened. He also publicly asked Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Sandra Day O’Connor to disbar themselves for their decision in the controversial 2001 case Bush v. Gore.

Mr. Berg has posted documents on his Web site,, he says back up his claims. But he said he doesn’t know where they originated.

Backers of the idea that Mr. Obama isn’t a natural-born citizen say Mr. Obama’s certification of live birth doesn’t quell the issue. They say a certification can be obtained after birth.

But the Hawaii State Department of Health said Monday that there is no difference between a certificate and a certification of live birth in the eyes of the state. For instance, either can be used to confirm U.S. citizenship to obtain a passport or state ID, said Alvin Onaka, a research and statistics officer at the Department of Health.

In Hawaii, only the person named on the certificate or his family can request the certificate of live birth.

Several fact-checking groups, such as and have determined that the certification posted on Mr. Obama’s Web site is authentic.

Mr. Obama’s opponent, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, has faced questions about his qualification as a “natural-born citizen” as well.

Mr. McCain was born on a military installation in the Panama Canal Zone, where his father, a Navy officer, was stationed.

Theodore Olson, a former solicitor general who is advising the McCain campaign, said in February that he’s confident Mr. McCain meets the constitutional requirement. Legal scholars say there is no precedent on the subject because all previous presidents have been born within the 50 states or territories that became states.

Jennifer Haberkorn
Thursday, August 28, 2008


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