Thursday morning, a Federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of the community group ACORN and two of its affiliated organizations. The groups are, unsurprisingly enough, claiming that a recently passed provision in an appropriations bill barring federal funds from going to either ACORN or "any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, or allied organizations" violates several of their Constitutionally guaranteed rights. They're asking for a restraining order, temporary, and permanent injunction barring enforcement of the section.
Although the specific law in question is not the same as the bill that we were discussing here and on Ed Brayton's blog several weeks ago, it accomplishes the same things. The only substantial difference is that the pending bill is tied to the continuing appropriations legislation, and is set to expire whenever the continuing resolution does. It's only been in effect for a few weeks, but it's already taken a real toll on real people.
According to affidavits filed in support of the complaint (pdf), just one of the affected organizations - the ACORN Institute - has already had to lay off 17 of its 20 employees. The ACORN Institute is a separately-run organization, and has virtually no overlap between its board of directors and ACORN's own board (one ACORN Institute board member is an alternate member of ACORN's national board). The ACORN Institute has not been convicted of any crime, and none of its employees have been convicted of any crimes related to anything that they've done for the organization. The programs that the ACORN Institute carries - or, rather, carried - out are basic social services work that's entirely unrelated to the voter registration programs that caused the controversy.
The ACORN Institute has lost funding not because of anything that they've been accused -much less convicted- of actually doing, failing to do, or conspiring to do. Congress passed a law that effectively terminated their existing federal contracts, barred them from applying for any new federal contracts, and barred other organizations from subcontracting with them on anything that received federal money. Congress did this because they've been deemed to be an "affiliate" of ACORN - a group which Congress dislikes and believes has engaged in criminal conduct, but which has not yet received the benefit of any sort of judicial due process, or even Congressional hearing.
Let me say that one more time, so that it sinks in: the ACORN Institute has had contracts revoked without due process because they've been legislatively declared to be an associate of a group that Congress decided to punish for alleged but as yet unproven corporate misconduct.
It's not just a little bit wrong, it's enormously wrong, and it's obviously wrong.
At this point, I've given up on expecting the Republicans who proposed this bill to do the right thing, but they're not the ones who can be blamed for this abomination actually becoming law. They are the minority party in both Houses of Congress, and they do not hold the White House.
The blame for the anti-ACORN provision becoming law rests squarely on the shoulders of the Democrats - including the leadership of both the House and Senate, and President Obama and his advisors. They allowed it to come up for a vote, they allowed it to remain in the final bill, they signed it into law, and they have been enforcing the provision.
And they're doing it because they're cowards.
None of them want to see ads running in the next election that say, "Representative Chickenshit voted to continue Federal funding for ACORN". They're so worried about the thirty second soundbite that they won't stick out their necks even when something that's blatantly unconstitutional is being proposed. They'll punt it on to the courts, and let the courts take the heat - because unlike them, the judges don't need to get re-elected.
And while we wait for the wheels of justice to slowly grind, real people have really lost their jobs.
Because it's better that someone lose their FEMA-funded 20K per year job inspecting poor people's houses for fire hazards than a Democrat in Congress lose theirs.
After all, if the Democrats lose the Congress or the White House, the Republicans will be able to trample all over people's rights. So we really just need to be quiet and roll over when the Republicans demand to trample over people's rights so that doesn't wind up happening.