Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 22, 2009

CAUGHT IN THE ACORN NET.... It no doubt seemed like a good idea at the time. Republican lawmakers intended to stop federal funds that might go to ACORN, wrote a measure that blocked expenditures for "any organization that has filed a fraudulent form with any Federal or State regulatory agency."

Because ACORN has experienced problems with voter-registration efforts, proponents found it an easy way to block funding for the group without being explicit about the intended target. The problem, as Ryan Grim reports, is that the provision also applies to entities Republican lawmakers want to give federal funds to.

The congressional legislation intended to defund ACORN, passed with broad bipartisan support, is written so broadly that it applies to "any organization" that has been charged with breaking federal or state election laws, lobbying disclosure laws, campaign finance laws or filing fraudulent paperwork with any federal or state agency. It also applies to any of the employees, contractors or other folks affiliated with a group charged with any of those things.

In other words, the bill could plausibly defund the entire military-industrial complex. Whoops.

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) picked up on the legislative overreach and asked the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) to sift through its database to find which contractors might be caught in the ACORN net.

Lockheed Martin and Northrop Gumman both popped up quickly, with 20 fraud cases between them, and the longer list is a Who's Who of weapons manufacturers and defense contractors.

Oops.

The next question, of course, is why ACORN's problems with voter-registration materials are extremely important, while Lockheed Martin's and Northrop Gumman's bad habits are not only considered uninteresting -- to conservatives, to lawmakers, to news outlets -- but largely verboten as a topic of conversation.

Steve Benen 4:15 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (37)

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The next question, of course, is why ACORN's problems with voter-registration materials are extremely important, while Lockheed Martin's and Northrop Gumman's bad habits are not only considered uninteresting -- to conservatives, to lawmakers, to news outlets -- but largely verboten as a topic of conversation.

Because Eisenhower was right ... ?

(And would be seen as some weak-willed surrender-monkey appeaser, and a communist for not trying to lower the then-91% top marginal tax rate, if he were alive today.)

More seriously, I damn near sent Coke out my nose when I read this earlier today. Now I really, really, really hope some folks on the left use it against the GOP in so, so many ways.

Posted by: Mark D on September 22, 2009 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, another piece o this steaming pile of bullshit is that ACORN would have been breaking the law by FAILING to file any voter registration form that it collected EVEN IF it suspected or knew that form to be fraudulent.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on September 22, 2009 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

The bill provides that no federal funds in any form may be provided to "Any organization that has filed a fraudulent form with any Federal or State regulatory agency."

Is that not sufficiently broad to include companies like HCA (Bill Frist's family firm)? HCA was caught perpetrating a fraud on Medicare:

"HCA Inc. (formerly known as Columbia/HCA and HCA - The Healthcare Company) has agreed to pay the United States $631 million in civil penalties and damages arising from false claims the government alleged it submitted to Medicare and other federal health programs, the Justice Department announced today."

Does that mean no more medicare reimbursements for HCA?

Posted by: dwight meredith on September 22, 2009 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

The Founding Fathers-(good, God Fearing Christians, all)-saw, in their infinite, God given wisdom, that ONLY Landed White Men should be entrusted with the right to vote.

Some Say/Many People Would Agree/ Everybody Knows, that it's been all downhill since then. . .

Posted by: DAY on September 22, 2009 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

Now I really, really, really hope some folks on the left use it against the GOP in so, so many ways.

I agree, but, alas, that won't happen. I used to do work for a bunch of different companies with fat military contracts, and realized early on that such companies are the true "welfare queens." But oversight is flawed or nonexistent, large companies rule the roost, and it's just un-patriotic to question those companies who "keep us safe" (snort!).

But then, what do I know? I'm a "progressive concern troll" who actually wants the country to improve and lead the world at more than "defense" spending.

Posted by: zhak on September 22, 2009 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

Welfare for engineers doing research and development is beneficial to our economic order, while welfare to poor people of color is a throwaway, or so goes the thought process of the military-industrial welfare state! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on September 22, 2009 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

Is this thing actually law yet? If not, this seems like the kind of thing that will probably kill it dead.

Posted by: John on September 22, 2009 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

Why is ACORN a bigger deal than Lockheed-Martin?

Simple, Lockheed-Martin doesn't help brown people register to vote.

Posted by: chrenson on September 22, 2009 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

ACORN does not donate money to candidates, nor employ their family and friends in make-work jobs that pay 10 times the average workers salary for sitting at home.

Also note that most of the fraud that defense contractors are caught up in funnels money into the hands of politicians or government employees whereas ACORNS fraud puts money into the hands of the poor or lower classes (I'll skip the minor differences in skin tone that differentate those involved).

Posted by: thorin-1 on September 22, 2009 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know who wrote it, but it seems almost certain that a Republican lawmaker wrote the anti-acorn bill. Correct me if I'm wrong.

How fucking incompetent do you have to be to miss something like this? Most "lawmakers" come from lawyer backgrounds and would be very aware of making a law over broad. Good god in heaven we have some doozies on the Hill. This is what happens when you run all the serious people out of town I suppose.

Posted by: wtf on September 22, 2009 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

Alan Grayson-- proof that ActBlue can make a difference. Keep an eye on this guy: first, very embarrassing questions to Bernanke about money to foreign banks, now this.

Posted by: Stan H on September 22, 2009 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

Only Republicans would be so rash and stupid to score some political points that they would rush to push through legislation that would harm their own constituents and supporters. When will they ever learn??

Posted by: Stop Right Wingers on September 22, 2009 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

I'd be willing to sacrifice a lot of ACORNS in exchange for defunding the military-industrial complex!

Posted by: Speed on September 22, 2009 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

WoW, This could be the END of WAR !!

Obama should sign it just to fuck with their heads.

Posted by: cwolf on September 22, 2009 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

unfortunatly, sticking it to defence contractors would cost jobs when we can least afford it

that said, a little foot dragging on any "technical corrections" fixes would be in order

And dems should be bringing up the "crisis" caused by the anti-Acorn bill whenever they get face time on TV

Posted by: jefft452 on September 22, 2009 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

Well there goes Bank of America too. Fraudulently suppressed material information in Federal filings, currently surviving solely on government life support... This is gonna be great.

Posted by: (K)leptocrat on September 22, 2009 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

The reason they had to write it so broad is that, IIRC, it's unConstitutional to write a piece of federal legislation rewarding/punishing a single company or organization. Again, I think that's the case (though am happy to have someone correct me if not).

Methinks this bill won't actually make it to Obama's desk, nor would he sign it if it did.

Posted by: Mark D on September 22, 2009 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

OK. So if our congresscritters are going to fall over themselves because a handful of ACORN employees committed some bad acts while receiving a relatively small amount of federal funding, why shouldn't this bill be amended to make clear that Halliburton (defrauding government of tens of millions of dollars during Iraq war effort), KBR (electical work on defense bases in Iraq so shoddy that it KILLED U.S. servicemen) and Blackwater/XE (gangster-style security that killed many innocent civilians in Iraq) also be prohibited from receiving federal funds?

The scope and effect of the actions committed by "bad actors" employed by those three contractors far exceed the impact of the actions of ACORNs employees. Perhaps the progressive community should highlight the difference for those in the media with memories too short to compare.

Posted by: drew p on September 22, 2009 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

At least congress ran Blackwater out of business, too. Although just yesterday some fool told me that it had merely changed its name, and was awarded another another huge contract by the Obama administration.

Posted by: JW on September 22, 2009 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

"it's unConstitutional to write a piece of federal legislation rewarding/punishing a single company or organization."

Spot on, Mark D.

Shortly after the House passed the Bill Representative Jerry Nadler, (D,NY) came to the floor and said the same thing.

So some Republican staffer re-wrote the bill with broader strokes of the pen- and was thereby hoist by his own petard. . .

Posted by: DAY on September 22, 2009 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

I applaud your continued defense of ACORN. Now, if you could just get the rest of the Democrats to join you.

Posted by: Mike K on September 22, 2009 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

I think it would be harder to find a company that hasn't broken federal or state election laws, lobbying disclosure laws, campaign finance laws or filing fraudulent paperwork with any federal or state agency.

FedEx, AT&T, Dailmer, GM, MIT, Government of Canada, BP, Exxon, Haliburton, and Humana are on the list.

Looks like this list is for companies with government contracts of $ 500,000,000.00.

Seriously, they have to either ignore the measure or repeal it because it would shut down the federal government. No cell phones, no gas, no business with Canada.

This is why you should never shove legislation through in a day.

Posted by: ScottW on September 22, 2009 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

If we were to defund all of the firms/organisations suggested by Steve and the commenters above, we'd have enough left over to cover everyone's healthcare for, like, maybe $100 per annum, no? I'd be perfectly wiling to give up ACORN for that...

Posted by: exlibra on September 22, 2009 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

I love to see them hoisted on their own prick-tards. And as many noted, the SCL(but corporate)M didn't give much shrift to the Gale Norton investigation. (Hell, even Drudge carried that, God occasionally bless his soul!) Nor do they note, how many employees and CEOs of various companies are caught doing everything from selling hamburgers from off the floor, to serving on a death panel deciding that a cancer patient won't be covered for treatment, etc.

Posted by: Neil B ♪ ♫ on September 22, 2009 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

Mark D, DAY: I think "bill of attainder" would be the provision you have in mind, but it could be broader/varied from that.

Posted by: Neil B ☺ on September 22, 2009 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

More evidence for the statement:
'Republican government is the problem, not the solution.'

Posted by: anomoly on September 22, 2009 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK
Although just yesterday some fool told me that it had merely changed its name, and was awarded another another huge contract by the Obama administration.

Impossible! President Hopey Changey would never do such a thing. Just as he'd never give torturers a free pass or continue Bush's spying policies. Libel, I say.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on September 22, 2009 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with those above who are willing to sacrifice ACORN in order to get rid of the military-industrial complex. No brainer.

Posted by: Disputo on September 22, 2009 at 8:23 PM | PERMALINK

ACORN has received federal grants and contracts for years. Those grants and contracts have been reviewed and audited. I bet there are bunches of audit reports at HUD about ACORN's handling of federal funds. Maybe a House Subcommittee of one kind or another should ask GAO or CBO or the HUD inspector general to summarize all the findings.

If there are any real journalists left, maybe one of them could take on this story.

Any one who imagines that no such audits and reports exist doesn't know much about the oversight of federal grants. And, if, in fact, no such audits and reports exist, the scandal is not with ACORN but with the federal agencies that failed to monitor the contracts effectively.

Posted by: jpeckjr on September 22, 2009 at 9:41 PM | PERMALINK

What a bizarre story. If there was any justice THIS would be the front-page story on every newspaper in America.

Posted by: MarkH on September 22, 2009 at 9:44 PM | PERMALINK

Uh-ohs. No monies for the weapons manufacturers and defense contractors? The Bush Family & Friends Crime Cartel is not gonna be happy about this.

Posted by: josef on September 22, 2009 at 11:44 PM | PERMALINK
I think "bill of attainder" would be the provision you have in mind, but it could be broader/varied from that.

Thanks! (Been a long, long time since I've had a class on gov't, so the memory's a tad fuzzy.)

Posted by: Mark D on September 23, 2009 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

Well, I read a lot of hate, a lot of inappropriate suggestions, and even a little racism in the comments. None of those do any good. Even if everything itn the article is perfectly true, the funding was cut with an overwhelming bipartisan vote. There were only 8 votes for not cutting the spending. The reason the focus was ACORN was for thier involvement in tax evasion, encouraging prostitution and child sex, and repeatedly not having any problem with those things (The fraud was old news). I sure as hell have a problem with those things. The ACORN representavives in question were both black and white.
Race isn't the issue, political motives aren't the issue. The issue is bipartisan stupidity by moving to quickly. Gosh people, lets put our anger and politics aside and be real about whats going on with Gov't. This hate speech going back and forth (which I see much more heavily from Liberals, but not to say conservatives are innocent) has to stop. We are Americans, we should be proud of who we are and work together to solve our problems. Please stop being hateful! It does no good!

Posted by: DrewH on September 23, 2009 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

BTW there are a few good and thoguhtful comments in there too. :)

Posted by: DrewH on September 23, 2009 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

DrewH

Hey, that's a nice way to troll you got there.
ACORN having no trouble with child sex?
Their tax evasion being old news? (indeed, it was, but it wasn't true).
And the "hate speech going back and forth", of which you claim to see more from liberals...
Ahhahahaah... who the hell are you trying to fool?

Posted by: HMDK on September 28, 2009 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK

HMDK
I don't know what your talking about trolling for. I simply wasn't. I just put facts out there and people not to fight and sling mud and be so hateful to each other. The child sex thing is related to the people who possed as a prostitue and pimp talking about bring in 13 year olds to help in there brothel and ACORN reps didn't hardly flinch when that was mentioned. You will have to watch the videos. The Tax evasion was new news associated with the prostition videos, voter fraud was the old News I was referring to. And it is true I see much more hate speech coming from the liberal side and I read blogs and articles written from both perspectives. I really try to get and understanding where each side comes from. But conservative more often refer to logic and liberals go back to name calling. It's an obeservation I have made. Sorry if that affended you. That wasn't my goal. I am not trying to fool anybody.

Posted by: DrewH on October 16, 2009 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

thats perfect info! will share with my friends and keep it to use it in the future.

Posted by: Sigilii on September 30, 2010 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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