[News] Why ACORN Won

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Sun Dec 13 07:47:52 EST 2009


December, 13 2009By Bill Quigley

On December 11, 2009, a federal judge ruled that Congress had 
unconstitutionally cut off all federal funds to ACORN.  The judge 
issued an injunction stopping federal authorities from continuing to 
cut off past, present and future federal funds to the community organization.

ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) and its 
allies in 75 cities will again have access to millions of federal 
dollars to counsel people facing foreclosure, seeking IRS tax 
refunds, and looking for affordable low cost housing.  ACORN, which 
has received about $54 million in government grants since 1994, will 
be able to apply for new federal programs just like any other organization.

The court ruled that Congress violated the U.S. Constitution "by 
singling out ACORN and its affiliates for severe sweeping 
restrictions" and that such action constitutes illegal punishment or 
a "bill of attainder."

What is a bill of attainder?  Even most lawyers have no idea.  Bills 
of attainder are acts of congress which unilaterally punish an 
individual or organization.  Essentially Congress acts as prosecutor, 
judge, jury and executioner.

The U.S. Constitution has prohibited bills of attainder since 
1787.  U.S. founders objected to bills of attainder because in 
England Parliament passed many such bills against political enemies, 
used them to throw people in prison and even execute them without trial.

Congress punished ACORN without even trying to figure out if any laws 
had been broken or allowing the 500,000 member organization to defend itself.

What about protecting the taxpayers against fraud?  As the court 
pointed out, there are many legal ways for the government to 
investigate and terminate federal contractors which have been proven 
to engage in fraud or illegal activity.

But Congress did not want to wait for trials or proof or to allow 
ACORN due process.

Conservatives developed a voting majority and imposed punishment 
without a hearing or anything.

ACORN has been a target of right-wing politicians for 
years.  Conservatives hate ACORN primarily because it registered over 
two million people to vote since 2003 and because it has an 
overwhelming African American, working class, democratic-voting, membership.

Fox News is obsessed with ACORN.   Google Fox News and ACORN and you 
will see over two million hits.  Google Glenn Beck and ACORN and you 
get over a million hits, six hundred thousand for Rush, and three 
hundred thousand for Michelle Malkin.  Right wing members of Congress 
accused ACORN of being a "shell game" using millions of taxpayer 
dollars "to advertise for a political candidate" and which "helped 
President Obama get elected."

After a highly dubious right-wing sting operation in September, the 
conservative media machine overran Congress members, including, 
sadly, many democrats, and passed the bill of attainder cutting off 
all federal funds to ACORN and any affiliates, subsidiaries and allies.

Most Congress reps knew full well this was an illegal bill of 
attainder as it was pointed out in the debates and even by the 
Congressional Research Office, but voted to let it go through 
anyway.  Representatives Nadler and Grayson and Senator Leahy, among 
others, repeatedly pointed out that this was 
unconstitutional.  Democrats who voted for the bill of attainder 
included many who had sought and received help from ACORN members in 
the past.  They have some explaining to do.

Progressives who remained silent while the nation's largest low 
income African American community organization was under attack also 
should re-think their lack of support.  Did anyone think that if the 
right-wingers took down Van Jones and ACORN they would stop 
there?  What is ahead?  Surely the conservative opponents of ACORN 
will continue to bloviate and continue to try to put ACORN out of 
business.  There will likely be fights galore.  But with this ruling 
the fights will be a little fairer.

ACORN won this case.  The U.S. Supreme Court has called the 
prohibition of congressional bills of attainder a "bulwark against 
tyranny."   Here the bulwark against tyranny worked to stop the 
right-wing smear machine.

But the rule of law won too.  And all of us and Congress have again 
been taught a valuable lesson - there are no shortcuts when it comes 
to following the Constitution.

Bill is legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and 
one of the team who represented ACORN in their successful federal 
constitutional challenge.  You can read the opinion at 
<http://www.crrjustice.org>www.crrjustice.org or contact Bill at 
<mailto:quigley77 at gmail.com>quigley77 at gmail.com

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