Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bust This Nut

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The Senate voted on Monday to deny further funding to ACORN. No doubt many have already tried to paint this as somehow a problem of the Democrats or Obama's causing, especially after the accusations of voter registration fraud during last year's election. The Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Human Services however have partnered with ACORN since 1994, hence funding has been re-appropriated for many years under Republican and Democratic-controlled Congresses. Regardless, an investigation into the legality of both the conduct of ACORN employees of the "undercover agents" in these offices is a foreseeable and appropriate consequence. This isn't the first time corruption has benefited from taxpayer money, and unfortunately it will not be the last.

UPDATE 09/18/09: On Thursday, September 17, the House joined the Senate in stripping funding from ACORN. But Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), chairman of the subcommittee on the Constitution, adds a very interesting and perhaps disconcerting twist to this story. In his speech on the House floor, Nadler argued the actions taken by the House and Senate were 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.

It may be that ACORN is guilty of various infractions, and, if so, it ought to be vetted, or maybe sanctioned, by the appropriate administrative agency or by the judiciary. Congress must not be in the business of punishing individual organizations or people without trial.

This Constitutional conundrum brings back the recent memory of the AIG bonus scandal, in which the House, in acting like a bunch of little kids rushing home to their parents to show they got on A on their homework, passed a wildly unconstitutional retroactive tax to recoup the taxpayer money, a measure that never came to a vote in the Senate. While I was not aware there existed a subcommittee on the Constitution, I'm both pleased and dismayed simultaneously upon learning of its existence; I am pleased such a subcommittee can dedicate itself to ensuring the respect and adherence to the Constitution, but dismayed that such a subcommittee would have to exist in the first place assuming members of Congress are expert lawmakers with a thorough and deep knowledge of the powers enumerated to them through that document.

Step into the rain:

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