Friday, November 13, 2009

ACORN to Sue US Government

More power to them.

acorn Remember that whole 'separation of powers' dealio? Congress writes the laws, and the courts punish those who break 'em. Neat system; worked OK so far.

If Congress passes a law punishing someone for doing something it thinks wrong, it's usurping the role of the courts, and the Constitution frowns on it! Legislators aren't empowered to punish wrong-doers, both because the "Founders" appreciated the value of a good trial and because they understood that politicians are often motivated by considerations other than the rule of law (shocking, I know!).

So they prohibited the passage of "bills of attainder" -- laws singling out specific groups or individuals for retribution. Which is double-plus good today, when our Congress includes frothing-mad right-wingers shouldering massive grievances and not a few members who are dumb-as-the-proverbial-box-of-rocks.

Speaking of which, you'll recall that the GOP pushed hard back in September to pass a bill that prohibited any federal funding from going to ACORN, the right-wing bogeyman-of-the-day. Perhaps sensitive to the Constitutional issue, they wrote the law so broadly that it could apply to just about any contractor, and some suggested at the time that in theory it could, if applied consistently, lead to the entire military-industrial-complex being "defunded." Proponents said it passed Constitutional muster because it applied to everyone.

But here's the thing. If you're going to thread that Constitutional needle by writing a bill that applies to all contractors -- and therefore in theory doesn't target ACORN specifically -- it's probably best not to title it the Defund ACORN Act. And it's probably not wise to have a wingnut like Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns introduce the bill by saying: "Somebody has to go after ACORN. Well, I suggest today, on the floor of the Senate, that 'somebody' is each and every U.S. Senator."

Just sayin!

Anyway, ACORN is suing. TPM reports:

The complaint, brought on behalf of ACORN by the Center for Constitutional Rights, also mounts a broader push-back against ACORN's conservative critics. According to a draft version examined by TPMmuckraker, it claims that the law to defund ACORN was passed thanks to "a public relations campaign orchestrated by political forces" that are hostile to its work registering low-income voters. And it charges that ACORN "earned the animosity of political forces who are dedicated to the proposition that the fewer poor people who vote the better."

"It is outrageous to see Congress violating the Constitution for purposes of political grandstanding," said Bill Quigley of the Center for Constitutional Rights. "Congress bowed to FOX News and joined in the scapegoating of an organization that helps average Americans going through hard times to get homes, pay their taxes, and vote. Shame on them."…

Inserted from <Alternet>

From where I sit, it looks like they have an excellent case.


Holte Ender said...

Ignoring the Constitution should be against the law. Bypassing the legal system is a rocky road, if they get away with it, pretty soon trial by jury will be regarded as cumbersome, time consuming and unnecessary.

ivan said...

To my mind, this works sort of backwards in Canada. The courts run the congress, the Parliament, and they interpret the Constitution, which is so general and open-ended as to be almost unwritten. To get an interpretation of the Constitution here, you have to go to the Constitution Committee. They will interpret.
It is the congress, or the Parliament whose hands seem tied. Activist judges.

Kevin Kelley said...

For these right-wingers, this is not a violation of the constitution because ACORN is bad, but I am sure the GOP would scream foul if you try to touch their beloved military funding.

I doubt this suit would go very far, considering some of the conservative judicial appointments made by Bush...

Not sure if that would impact this case, but I am sure there will be great political pressure placed on any judge handling the matter, considering any ruling for ACORN would be seen as Obama intervening, at least in the mind of nut jobs like Glenn Beck...

TomCat said...

Holte, trial by jury already is according to the so-called PATRIOT Act.

Ivan, here the courts are pretty good at protecting their turf. It just takes them a while to do so.

Kevin, while the judicial branch is currently skewed way to the right, some things are just too obvious. In addition, even right wing judges protect judicial prerogatives.

Lisa G. said...

It probably wasn't wise to call it the Defund Acorn Act. Chalk it up to the party of stupid and no ideas. Seriously, they couldn't think of any other name? Really?

Lisa G. said...

Did you see the CSPAN where Grayson (D-FL) was quizzing the Republican rep about bills of attanider? That was some fine work and he made the Republican look like a complete ass - not that that is hard!

Oso said...

acorn and the SEIU seem to be very effective targets. They have little to no lobbying $ behind them, and they represent two of the seven deadly sins, poor and minority. So ClusterFox and their viewers intrinsically hate them.

TomCat said...

Lisa, they are more interested in spewing hate than making sense. I did see it. I may have even posted it. It was great.

Oso, when you combine thise two sins, their minions bleach their sheets and starch their hoods.