Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Please Support CounterPunch’s Annual Fund Drive
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We only ask you once a year, but when we ask we mean it. So, please, help as much as you can. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Why ACORN Won

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 QUIGLEY is a Loyola Law professor working at the Center for Constitutional Rights. Bill can be contacted at quigley77@gmail.com.

 

 

More articles by:

Bill Quigley teaches law at Loyola University New Orleans and can be reached at quigley77@gmail.com.

October 16, 2018
Gregory Elich
Diplomatic Deadlock: Can U.S.-North Korea Diplomacy Survive Maximum Pressure?
Rob Seimetz
Talking About Death While In Decadence
Kent Paterson
Fifty Years of Mexican October
Robert Fantina
Trump, Iran and Sanctions
Greg Macdougall
Indigenous Suicide in Canada
Kenneth Surin
On Reading the Diaries of Tony Benn, Britain’s Greatest Labour Politician
Thomas Knapp
Facebook Meddles in the 2018 Midterm Elections
Muhammad Othman
Khashoggi and Demetracopoulos
Gerry Brown
Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics: How the US Weaponizes Them to Accuse  China of Debt Trap Diplomacy
Christian Ingo Lenz Dunker – Peter Lehman
The Brazilian Presidential Elections and “The Rules of The Game”
Robert Fisk
What a Forgotten Shipwreck in the Irish Sea Can Tell Us About Brexit
Martin Billheimer
Here Cochise Everywhere
David Swanson
Humanitarian Bombs
Dean Baker
The Federal Reserve is Not a Church
October 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Climate Crisis is Upon Us
Conn Hallinan
Syria’s Chessboard
Patrick Cockburn
The Saudi Atrocities in Yemen are a Worse Story Than the Disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi
Sheldon Richman
Trump’s Middle East Delusions Persist
Justin T. McPhee
Uberrima Fides? Witness K, East Timor and the Economy of Espionage
Tom Gill
Spain’s Left Turn?
Jeff Cohen
Few Democrats Offer Alternatives to War-Weary Voters
Dean Baker
Corporate Debt Scares
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Affair and and the Anti-Iran Axis
Russell Mokhiber
Sarah Chayes Calls on West Virginians to Write In No More Manchins
Clark T. Scott
Acclimated Behaviorisms
Kary Love
Evolution of Religion
Colin Todhunter
From GM Potatoes to Glyphosate: Regulatory Delinquency and Toxic Agriculture
Binoy Kampmark
Evacuating Nauru: Médecins Sans Frontières and Australia’s Refugee Dilemma
Marvin Kitman
The Kitman Plan for Peace in the Middle East: Two Proposals
Weekend Edition
October 12, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Becky Grant
My History with Alexander Cockburn and The Financial Future of CounterPunch
Paul Street
For Popular Sovereignty, Beyond Absurdity
Nick Pemberton
The Colonial Pantsuit: What We Didn’t Want to Know About Africa
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Summer of No Return
Jeff Halper
Choices Made: From Zionist Settler Colonialism to Decolonization
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Incident: Trump’s Special Relationship With the Saudi Monarchy
Andrew Levine
Democrats: Boost, Knock, Enthuse
Barbara Kantz
The Deportation Crisis: Report From Long Island
Doug Johnson
Nate Silver and 538’s Measurable 3.5% Democratic Bias and the 2018 House Race
Gwen Carr
This Stops Today: Seeking Justice for My Son Eric Garner
Robert Hunziker
Peak Carbon Emissions By 2020, or Else!
Arshad Khan
Is There Hope on a World Warming at 1.5 Degrees Celsius?
David Rosen
Packing the Supreme Court in the 21stCentury
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Threats of Death and Destruction
Joel A. Harrison
The Case for a Non-Profit Single-Payer Healthcare System
Ramzy Baroud
That Single Line of Blood: Nassir al-Mosabeh and Mohammed al-Durrah
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail