Throwing ACORN Under The Bus

Yesterday the House of Representatives - demonstrating a reckless disregard for the United States Constitution and the very concept of the rule of law - overwhelmingly voted to ban the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now from receiving federal funding. ACORN, you might recall, is the organization that the right-wing echo chamber turned into an all-purpose bogeyman after some temporary ACORN employees were caught submitting fictitious voter applications in poorly thought out efforts to get paid for doing no actual work. More recently, a couple of ACORN employees were caught on camera apparently advising people on how to get federal stimulus funding for a house of negotiable affection.

There's no doubt that attempting to get federal funding for illegal - or potentially illegal - enterprises is wrong. And while some of the allegations made against ACORN - like the tin-foil-hat-paranoid theory that they were going to break up public teabaggings - were clearly absurd, others are serious enough to raise legitimate concerns about the organization.

But whatever legitimate concerns ACORNS actions raise, the actions of the House are much more frightening.

At the moment, the allegations made against ACORN are just that - allegations. Serious allegations, potentially well-founded allegations, but allegations nonetheless. There has been no investigation of the organization as a whole, nobody has demonstrated any proof that anyone of note in the group had any knowledge of illegal or unethical acts, and there has been no judicial finding of fact of any kind.

In the United States, proof should precede punishment. The House of Representatives, in their infinite wisdom, has chosen to turn that basic principle of justice on its head.

As Congressman Jerry Nadler pointed out, there's a very good chance that the House's action is unconstitutional:

A little while ago, the House passed an amendment to the bill that we were considering that says no contract or federal funds may ever go to ACORN, a named organization, or to any individual or organization affiliated with ACORN. Unfortunately, this was done in the spirit of the moment and nobody had the opportunity to point out that this is a flat violation of the Constitution, constituting a Bill of Attainder. The Constitution says that Congress shall never pass a Bill of Attainder. Bills of Attainder, no matter what their form, apply either to a named individual or to easily ascertainable members of a group, to inflict punishment. That's exactly what this amendment does.

There's probably room for argument (and a lengthy legal battle) as to whether or not barring a specific group from getting funds is a Bill of Attainder in the technical sense - after all, they're not taking away anything that ACORN already has, they're just saying that ACORN can't get anything else from them in the future. But practically speaking, that's exactly what is going on. The House of Representatives has - without any attempt to go through the hassle and inconvenience of gathering evidence, questioning witnesses, or giving the accused a chance to face their accusers and defend themselves - decreed that ACORN is guilty and pronounced a sentence:

"Acorn has violated serious federal laws, and today the House voted to ensure that taxpayer dollars would no longer be used to fund this corrupt organization," said Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the No. 2 House Republican.

Although I'm disappointed that Congress so easily abandoned the presumption of innocence, the need to prove allegations, and the right to confront accusers, I'm far from surprised. The "Defund ACORN Act" - which is what the Republicans named the bill - provided the Republicans with the opportunity to demonstrate to their base that they're still have the political mojo to beat the stuffing out of their strawman. The Republicans needed a victory, and this provided an easy one.

It was an easy victory for them because the right wing's efforts to demonize ACORN have made the group an embarrassment to the Democratic leadership, and it's far easier for the cowards who currently run the House to throw ACORN under the bus than it would be to stand up for basic fair play and justice, and actually investigate the charges before deciding what the appropriate response might be.

And if there is one thing that we can expect from Pelosi, and Hoyer, it's that they will almost always choose the easy wrong over the hard right.

Here's how the Democratic leadership voted on the "Defund ACORN" amendment. A "yes" is a vote to defund.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi - did not vote.

Assistant to the Speaker Chris Van Hollen - Yes

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer - Yes

Majority Whip Jim Clyburn - No

Senior Chief Deputy Majority Whip John Lewis - No

Chief Deputy Majority Whip Maxine Waters - No

Chief Deputy Majority Whip John S. Tanner - did not vote

Chief Deputy Majority Whip Ed Pastor -Yes

Chief Deputy Majority Whip Jan Schakowsky - No

Chief Deputy Majority Whip Joseph Crowley -No

Chief Deputy Majority Whip Diana DeGette -No

Chief Deputy Majority Whip GK Butterfield - No

Chief Deputy Majority Whip Debbie Wasserman Schultz - Yes

Democratic Caucus Chairman John B. Larson - Yes

Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra - No

Steering/Policy Committee Co-Chair George Miller - Yes

Steering/Policy Committee Co-Chair Rosa DeLauro - Yes

Organization, Study, and Review Chairman Michael Capuano - No


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They didn't defund Halliburton, Blackwater, the various investment banks that WERE flouting US laws, and convicted for it !? They didn't defund the government-funded abstinence courses that didn't work, but

they are de-funding a community and voters registration organization over an entrapment clip illegally taped by ... FOX News ??????


Presumption of innocence and rules and laws and the constitution only apply to right wing hate mongers. Seeing Van Hollen on the Yes list means I'll be writing him tonight, I guess.

They're already proven guilty... many times now. The recent undercover videos have made the guilty verdicts much more visible.

Well, ACORN doesn't just give advise. They have all the appropriate forms for people seeking housing to fill out, and they offer assistance in doing so. O'Keefe and Giles don't really have the goods unless they produce some kind of physical evidence beyond the video footage. They haven't produced any paperwork that would suggest that they were actually assisted by ACORN employees.

The ACORN employees have stated that they knew from the start the two youths were not a pimp and a prostitute. They claim that they played along with the two for fun. While this may sound absurd after seeing the videos, it actually holds more water than the claims of O'Keefe and Giles until the two release the recordings in their entirety and unedited, and/or produce physical evidence, such as housing/tax related paperwork, which would show that they actually received assistance from ACORN in their faux scheme.

The numerous voter fraud verdicts is enough to defund ACORN and bump them out of the census. The video tapes, true or false, serve as the smoking gun.

So NOW the Democrats are worried about adhering to Constitutional limits of power? This is bad comedy.

By Ultra-Humanite (not verified) on 18 Sep 2009 #permalink

"So NOW the Democrats are worried about adhering to Constitutional limits of power? This is bad comedy."

Well, at least one party is...

Entrapment only applies to law enforcment, which these people were not. And i don't think these video tapings were illegal in any of these states, were they? Are any of these states 2-party consent states?

The ACORN defenders are becoming as bad as 'Birthers' now: "Show us the paperwork!!!!11!1"


It's been proved many times that you rape small children. I've seen it taped by video camera on FoxNews. Or maybe not.

Anyway, it doesn't matter. You're guilty. You must be immediately locked up for life. And I'm not ruling out death penalty.

Accusation = guilt is the new thing, yes!


I remember some rumours on the internet about how glenn bek never commented on the rumours on the internet about his killing and raping a teen girl.

I wonder what Jose thinks about his failure to prove his innocence.

S - switch the topic
I - ignore the facts
N - name calling

ACORN and its affiliates are finished - hopefully Pelosi will be thrown under the bus too.

We have a system. Maybe not the best, maybe not 100% correct all the time, but it generally works to all our advantage. It begins with "Innocent until proven guilty in a court of Law".

Conviction by public opinion is one of the worst forms of tyranny. Stop it now, children.

Also check your "facts".

ACORN is not a partisan organization. ACORN the organization is not the defender in any court proceedings. Its charter is simply to build grass-roots community organizations that are committed to social and economic justice.

I do not understand what this hysteria is about, or what ACORN the organization is supposed to have done. None of the "evidence" being trotted out has any bearing on that topic, only at worst on a few bad apples, and ACORN has already demonstrated it can police itself when such are exposed, and was itself responsible for exposing the fictitious voter registration names.

And to those chanting "voter fraud" and how it "stole the election", double check your "facts" - voter fraud has zero impact on election voting. All it did was pad the responsible workers' paycheck with a few dollars for their piecework. Election fraud is a different kettle of fish altogether, and that is in the hands of our elected officials, not ACORN.

Any group of more than 100 or so has bad apples, why single out ACORN for public tyranny? "Any Group" includes Congress too. And the readers of this blog. Should we all be denied the protections afforded to us by our Constitution and the Laws of the Land as passed by Congress just because we include in our groups some bad apples?

By Gray Gaffer (not verified) on 18 Sep 2009 #permalink

1. There are more than a few bad apples.

2. The patten of corruption is too consistent between offices to be isolated incidents.

3. ACORN is *supposed* to be non partisan. The fact that they are not is enough to throw them under the bus.

4. It wasn't public opinion who fired the ACORN employees on the recent video.

I think most people are missing the entire point. Defunding doesn't have to have anything to do with punishment at all. In fact it usually doesn't. Congress can defund anything they want at any time they want for any reason they want. They do so all the time. If, for instance, congress decided it didn't want to fund research into (say) nonlinear laser pulse propagation they could do so in a heartbeat. It would be just silly for the researchers in that field to say that they were a victim of a bill of attainder.

In short, even the appearance of impropriety is a perfectly adequate justification for pulling funding. Indeed the constitution doesn't require congress to have any justification at all for anything it declines to dispense from the public purse.

In any case legally a bill of attainder is an entirely different kettle of fish. It's a declaration of criminal guilt - congress passing a law summarily ordering the leadership of ACORN to report to prison would be a bill of attainder. This ain't that.

I've already seen right wingers claiming that the 75 democratic members of congress who didn't votte to defund ACORN were SUPPORTERS OF CHILD MOLESTERS!

I don't know which is worse, that the right wing is having LSD-quality hallucinations, or that the democratic party is actually playing along with this insane bullshit.

The numerous voter fraud verdicts is enough to defund ACORN and bump them out of the census. The video tapes, true or false, serve as the smoking gun.
Posted by: Jose | September 18, 2009 4:14 PM

In other words, If Jose knew the video tapes were false, he would still accept them as evidence that ACORN deserved to be defunded.

@Matt Springer:

I think most people are missing the entire point. Defunding doesn't have to have anything to do with punishment at all. In fact it usually doesn't. Congress can defund anything they want at any time they want for any reason they want. They do so all the time. If, for instance, congress decided it didn't want to fund research into (say) nonlinear laser pulse propagation they could do so in a heartbeat. It would be just silly for the researchers in that field to say that they were a victim of a bill of attainder.

True, but that's not what's going on here.

The federal money that ACORN receives comes mostly from competitive grants administered by various executive branch agencies. To borrow your analogy, Congress is effectively saying that they're happy to let DoE fund nonlinear laser pulse propagation research, as long as it's not conducted at Yale.

It may be that Congress is well within its rights, but the precedent being set is alarming.

1. What's alarming is this scam organization ACORN has been gaming Federal money for so long.

2. The vote in Congress was a signal to the American people that they finally get it.

3. Expect some fallout of avid ACORN supporters such as bye bye to Pelosi.

Jose (and those in support of stripping ACORN of federal monies a la Bill of Attainder):

What is your stance on:

the security contractors at the Kabul embassy

These groups have all been shown (with video evidence) to have done illegal activities that have killed people or gotten people killed. However, they continue to receive federal monies. What is your stance on their continued receipt of federal monies?

(Note that ACORN was receiving orders of magnitude less money than any of the three groups listed above. ACORN have also not killed anyone or caused anyone to be killed.)

By mercurianferret (not verified) on 19 Sep 2009 #permalink

And Jose, do you even know what a Bill of Attainder is, and why its use is against the Constitution? You seem to have been unable (or unwilling) to show that you understand this...

By mercurianferret (not verified) on 19 Sep 2009 #permalink

Why do I need to prove to you I know what a Bill of Attainder is?

What I am saying is the vote in Congress was a signal to the American people that ACORN is finished.

Due process will follow.


You don't have to prove to me that you don't know what a Bill of Attainder is (even though your stated positions thus far seem to indicate that you either don't know or don't care), but you still haven't answered any of the questions given to you here. As the thread continues, I find it interesting that your tactic thus far in this forum seems to smack of what you accuse ACORN of doing:

S - switch the topic

I - ignore the facts
N - name calling

By mercurianferret (not verified) on 19 Sep 2009 #permalink

If you knew much about law you would have understood when I mentioned "due process."

A bill of attainder (also known as an act or writ of attainder) is an act of the legislature declaring a person or group of persons guilty of some crime and punishing them without benefit of a trial.

I'll put it another way and say the congressional vote was symbolic. As an amendment to a student loan bill, It was the only way to sneak it past Pelosi.

What isn't mentioned much is that initially most of the Democrats voted against defunding before they woke up and switched their votes.

There will probably be a few more checks sent to ACORN. I'll bet most of the money goes to their lawyers.

i don't remember the part of the Constitution where it says "We have to give ACORN lots and lots of money, or else the world will implode!", I think I would've seen something like that.

innocent until proven guilty?!
im sorry but ACORN does NOT have a right to TAXPAYERS money.
Congress has every right to block TAXPAYERS money to them without giving a reason.
bunch of parasites you are. you think that the American people owe you something.
ACORN is nothing but a leech.
they have no rights

So we're concerned about what is "Constitutional" all of a sudden?

That's interesting...because no one seemed worried about the Constitutionality of Bush and Obama (and McCain for that matter) doing everything in their power to make sure that oligopoly bohemoths in the banking industry were preserved with hundreds of billions in taxpayer money. It's a flagrant violation of the Constitution to cut public funding to an organization provably engaged in illegal activity...but its perfectly OK to wiretap Americans (I mean you, Clinton, Bush, and Obama) and to throw billions of taxpayer money to the same corporations who make your biggest campaign contributions?

Apparently some people will make a complete idiot of themselves to defend a clearly indefensible organization.

ACORN employees were caught on tape MULTIPLE TIMES in several different states by two 20-somethings with a video camera (NOT by Fox News or their reporters) offering aid to reprehensible and felonious criminal activity. End of story. No, this wasnt an isolated incident that some are blowing out of proportion- this was the same corruption and disregard for the law being shown in several different offices in several different states.

Welcome to the world of business, folks; when that happens, you dont have an isolated incident- you have a SERIOUS (as in, criminally serious) issue of overall company policy, conduct, corruption, and employee screening practices.

FUNDING this organization in the first place was unconstitutional.

And anyone reaching for the "youre just a conservative blahblahblah" apple can shut up in advance; yes BLACKWATER and HALLIBURTON should both be defunded and met with serious criminal charges as well. Of course Fox news and others on the right are making hay out of this story- a left-leaning organization got caught with its pants down and they get to gloat about it. None of that makes ACORN's actions any less scandalous.

It'd be nice if people grew a spine and were consistent in the standards they held their government to...not let the blue team or the red team get away with murder, theft, and fraud whenever it suits their political dogmas and agenda.

Didnt some of your mothers ever tell you that "two wrongs dont make a right?" When the left gets caught with its pants down, they point to scandalous activity on the right. When the right gets caught with its pants down, they point to scandalous activity on the left.

Relax, Republicans and Democrats...youre ALL equally worthless. Hopefully, the people will realize that someday and hold you all to a HIGHER standard rather than making excuses for you and lowering it.

Nice try switching topic. Seventy ACORN employees already had their Constitution guaranteed day in court and lost.

There is more to come.

J707, what is your alternative? Please provide one. Otherwise, your rant is just that: a rant. *yawn*

Jose, please give citations of "Seventy ACORN employees have already had their Constitution guaranteed day in court and lost." Also, you have yet to answer the questions post back in 21. (Still waiting...)

By mercurianferret (not verified) on 21 Sep 2009 #permalink

For the 70 convicted ACORN employees, click the link next to my statement. Regarding the unanswered questions, they were off topic.

Jose, I don't want to listen to as song about your grandma's marijuana habit. And if you don't see the connection of the still-unanswered questions to the topic, then you're either an idiot or you are an ass. You lose. Good-bye until next time.

By mercurianferret (not verified) on 22 Sep 2009 #permalink

S switch the topic - leave my grandma alone
I ignore the facts - ACORN is toast
N name call - how typical and expected

Jose, First off, it's your song about your grandma's marijuana habit that plays when one goes to your website. You are the one that's not leaving your grandma alone. I have no desire to do anything to anyone's grandma. Secondly, when have I ignored the facts that you have yet to provide? Your link takes a person to a song about your grandma's marijuana habit, not the so-called evidence that you were supposedly presenting me. Finally, when a person has proven that they are either an idiot (since they fail to understand a clear-cut argument) or an ass (since they choose not to consider any equivalence, even though they understand the clear-cut argument presented to them), then should I really stick around to determine if that person is actually one or the other? To what purpose would that serve me? You have proven yourself to be either an idiot or an ass, so that is what I am calling you. (Or do you not like labels?)

Oh, and two people can play your

S stupid,
I ignorant,
N nomenclature game.

You still lose. But if you want to keep going, it's your dead horse to flail.

By mercurianferret (not verified) on 22 Sep 2009 #permalink

mercurianferret, you have lost all credibility to the readers. You previously declared yourself the winner and said goodbye.

Here you are back again changing the topic, picking on Grandma and seeing how many words you can find that start with the letter 'S.'

Your revelation that I need to start a new website for every topic I post is amusing. My song is getting hundreds of plays every day.

If you were really interested in facts, which you are not, a search in Google News for acorn corruption provides plenty of facts.

Now in your frustration you are out of any arguable facts on topic of ACORN being toast and you have to resort to name calling to make yourself feel good.

If you have any affiliation with ACORN, you lose.