ACCORN gets court to apply the U.S. Constitution

A federal court has ruled that Congress’ bill cutting off funds to ACCORN violated the U.S. Constitution.  And I applaud the ruling.  

First, as if I must reaffirm my bona fides to my regular readers, I hate ACCORN.  And I know, the group representing ACCORN appears to be a liberal group.  And I despise liberal judges, and I know that the judge is a Clinton appointee (that’s enough reason to find her suspect in my eyes).  And yes, I thought the reasons why Congress tried to cut off funding for ACCORN were laudable. 

 But I also wrote at the time the bill was passed that it appeared to violate the Constitution as a Bill of Attainder. Congress is prevented from directing legislation at a single individual or a small, identifiable group of individuals, without a damn good reason.    Sadly, soon after writing the comment I saw that I was in the minority of conservatives who commented on the bill and I deleted the post, like a little girl.  At least I did not delete an article where I took the same principled position against conservative Eric Cantor for him voting to cut the bonuses (that they had already earned) of AIG executives. 

But reading this court’s ruling, I still think that this is a great day for Americans. Whenever the Constitution is interpreted as it was originally intended to be interpreted, that is a great day for America.   A purpose of the clause forbidding Bills of Attainder was to forbid Congress from punishing their political enemies. 

You might hate ACCORN and want them punished, but what if next time it is somebody you support that is punished? What if, for instance,  next time Congress enacts a bill that takes away the FCC license of every radio station that airs Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck? What if next time Congress takes away money specifically from some conservative group, because Democrats control Congress?   The Constitution is meant to protect those in the minority from having their rights trampled by those in power. 

Now, I’m all for prosecuting ACCORN if its employees broke the law. I’m all for cutting off funds to all such groups, but not just ACCORN.   If those people want to raise private money to do whatever the hell they do, let them. Just don’t use taxpayer money to support them.  If Congress were allowed to just cut off funding to ACCORN, some other group as corrupt or more would just rise up to take their place.  MY POSITION IS NO FEDERAL MONEY FOR ANY SUCH GROUP, whether they are liberal or conservative or somewhere in between!  

The time to stand up and support the Constitution is when it happens to protect the rights of your enemies.  If you only stand up for the Constitution when you are the minority being attacked, it will likely be too late.

p.s. I’m ALWAYS leery of going against the grain, against having an opinion which is the opposite of those whom I respect. ” The Boss” seems to come down hard against my position, as does Ace, and Robert Stacy McCain. All are persons whom I greatly admire.  But Congress just can’t go around saying, hey, we are going to give money to everybody and his brother, but just not to ACCORN.  IF they broke a campaign law, or any other law, then prosecute them.  Yes, they are apparently corrupt and run by crooks. Well, do something about it, like investigating them and punishing them. 

[Disclaimer: I’m no Constitutional law scholar. I may be wrong in this case.  I’ve forgotten most of what I learned in Con Law I and II well over twenty years ago.   But that is a plus–most of what I learned in Con Law was how liberal judges have spent the past 200 years re-writing the Constitution to make it support their own political agenda.  I have no illusions.  I realize that the judge in this case is doing just that–furthering her own political agenda.  But when a decision is correct, even if arrived at for the wrong reasons, I still rejoice.]

UPDATE:  The Supreme Court in U.S. v. Lovett, 328 U.S. 303, 316 and 317 (1946) , interpreting prior Supreme Court precedent, declared: 

“They (prior decisions) stand for the proposition that legislative acts, no matter what their form, that apply either to named individuals or to easily ascertainable members of a group in such a way as to inflict punishment on them without a judicial trial are bills of attainder prohibited by the Constitution. [p316] Adherence to this principle requires invalidation of § 304. We do adhere to it.” 

That decision invalidated a great law, too.  The legislation was aimed at preventing three alleged communists from ever being employed by the Federal Government.  But it also amounted to a trial without a jury by the Congress.  Congress is suppposed to enact general laws which apply to all citizens equally. If it wanted to pass laws forbidding communism, then it could have. But it then would be up to the court system to determine if particular persons were guilty of being communists, and to punish them. It is not up to Congress to find them guilty without a fair trial.  That is exactly what happened in the ACORN case.   

I know, I know, ACORN does not have a right to taxpayer money, it is privilege rather than a right. But who can argue that Congress’  taking away millions of dollars is not a punishment?  What about the ACCORN employees who were not guilty of sin (I assume, perhaps without reason, that a few such employees exist).  Was the Congress “correct” to take it away in this case? You betcha!  But sorry, they did not have the power to take it away once it was already given, without violating the Constitution.  Ours is a system of limited, delegated power to the federal government. Every time the Court reigns in the Congress, it is usually a good thing.

5 responses to “ACCORN gets court to apply the U.S. Constitution

  1. I forgotten about that clause. With that in mind, your position sort of makes sense. It is bothersome enough that we are giving money over to any these groups (Where is the justification for that in the Constitution?). We sure don’t need to compound the problem.

  2. My position “sort of makes sense”–faint praise that, Citizen Tom. But, unfortunately, your characterization of my position “sort of making sense” is probably dead-on accurate.

  3. “But who can argue that Congress’ taking away millions of dollars is not a punishment?”

    This seems to be what everything hinges on – if Congress is taking away money from ACORN, then you’re right. But if Congress is merely declining to direct *future* funding to ACORN, then I don’t see any justification for the injunction – that falls under Congress’ normal prerogative of where to direct federal funding.

    I may be wrong, but I was under the impression that the controversy was about the latter.

  4. Calvin, yer thinking like a lawyer already! Here’s the thing: first, the new law applies to agencies that “have already determined that funds should be awarded to ACORN, but not yet [entered] binding agreement” [between the agencies and ACORN]. In other words, certain government agencies had already determined that ACORN met all the conditions to receive the funds, but then Congress came along and punished them by not awarding them the money. The questions are, Did Congress single out ACORN? Yes, obviously.

    The remaining question is Did the legislation punish ACORN? I’d say yes, obviously. They were all set to receive money that certain government agencies thought they were entitled, but in steps Congress to cut off the money.

    It would be similar to Congress steppiing in and cutting off your grandparents’ Medicare because they did something that was taped and played on national T.V. Sure, Congress has the right to cut everybody’s Medicare, but they can’t just cut the Freiburger’s Medicare without a proper trial in a court of law.

    And a concern that I’ve seen, that suddenly people will be suing Congress whenever future benefits are cut off is not really a concern, so long as Congress treats all similarly situated persons equally. Don’t forget, THIS PROTECTS we conservatives who are in the minority. Congress can’t say, only those who support the Democratic party can receive Medicare, or Social Security. They can cut EVERYBODY’s Social Security, but they can’t just cut that of the Freiburgers, or that of the Doe’s, or that of people who work for General Motors, etc.

  5. I see. Good points, and I’ll have to chew on ’em a while… 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s