Monday, December 16, 2013

HuffPo: House Republicans Attempt to De-Fund Defunct ACORN.. Again

by Nomad

Trying to decide the "dumbest" thing that the House of Representatives has done lately is a real challenge, But that mission appears to have certainly gotten a whole lot easier. Recently House Republicans decided to include a provision in spending bills which would forbid all requested government aid from being used for an organization that ceased to exist over three years ago.

Zach Carter, writing for Huffington Post, supplies the details of this legislative lunacy brought to you by the ever- impressive Texas Republicans. Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) and Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) both sponsored bills which included a provision that not one cent of these government funds would go to the activist group known as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) "or its subsidiaries or successors."
  Rep. John Culberson

Rep. John Carter 
The bills, which have nothing to do with ACORN were introduced on May 28/29 and will be voted on this week.
The Culberson bill makes budget appropriations of $73.3 billion for military construction and for veteran affairs "to support the military and their families and to provide for the benefits and medical care for our nation’s veterans."
Similarly, the Carter bill which makes $38.9 billion in discretionary spending for the Department of Homeland Security, carries the same prohibitions against ACORN.
If you happen to be a Tea Party person and are mathematically challenged you might want to know that between those bills, (whatever their merits), the requests total over $113 billion from the budget.
Call it a budget sequestration backtracking.
In any case, as Huffington Post noted, similar provisions in both bill declare that:
None of the funds made available in this Act may be distributed to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) or its subsidiaries or successors.
Has nobody informed either of them that Congress had already banned federal funding for ACORN back in the fall of 2009?
Long Gone ACORN
That ban, as you might recall, came after conservative muckraker (and all-around mischievous imp) James O'Keefe released a series of carefully-edited videos claiming to show impropriety, specially involving staff allegedly offering tax avoidance advice to pimps. Under a cloud of shame, ACORN was immediately disbanded. However as, the article points out,
Independent investigations by the California attorney general, the Massachusetts attorney general and the Brooklyn, N.Y., district attorney would later clear ACORN of criminal wrongdoing, and an investigation by the Government Accountability Office would clear ACORN of charges that it mishandled federal funds.
That came a little to late. Nevertheless, still  the GOP consider closing ACORN to be a proud triumph.
Although Congress' target was ACORN, as the article explains, the broad language used in the 2009 legislation could be applied to "any organization,"
that had been charged with breaking federal or state election laws, lobbying disclosure laws or campaign finance laws or with filing fraudulent paperwork with any federal or state agency. The funding ban also extended to any employees, contractors or others affiliated with any group so charged. 
Despite this all-inclusive language and despite a large number of claims of voter law violations in the last elections, no other group, besides ACORN, has been treated with the same degree of diligence. And, importantly, when ACORN was defunded, it was only suspected of breaking federal laws. 
The sad ACORN affair is a subject I have written about pretty extensively in the past. (Here is a list of the posts.)

Pointing out the absurdity of the recent House bills, Florida Democrat Alan Grayson asked the other members:
"Is it too late to defund Saddam Hussein?"
Procedural Formality or Diversion for the Folks Back Home?
In fairness, Republicans routinely reference past provisions from earlier legislation, perhaps in an effort to remember their former "glories." Defenders say that it is a procedural formality.
Or  perhaps it is just a diversion for their Tea Party supporters in the Texas heartland. Both Culberson and Carter have run on platforms strictly reducing government spending. Culberson writes:
I voted against most of these wasteful spending programs... because common sense tells us that you don’t pay for borrowed money with borrowed money.
The best way to stimulate the economy is to cut taxes and spending drastically. It is time to start trusting and empowering individual Americans instead of the federal government.
On his own website, Carter is unexpectedly honest with voters about ear-mark spending. (He even cites Palin as a negative example and that earns my begrudging respect!)
Over the years the word “earmark” has received a bad wrap, and rightfully so. We all remember the news reports concerning the “Bridge to Nowhere.”
FYI: The Gravina Island Bridge was a $398 million project that Palin first wholly supported and then later claimed to have stopped- after the details became subject for public criticism.
While I do believe that earmarks are, and have been misused, in order to guide secret funds to frivolous projects and lobbyists, I also believe they can be used as a powerful and necessary tool for our district. Contrary to popular belief, an earmark is not extra funding tagged onto a bill at the last minute. It is, in fact, directed spending of funds already being spent.
He goes on to explain why taking federal funds is sometimes necessary depending on the needs of his own district. See, folks, there are always exceptions on a local level.
Unfortunately that's exactly the kind of sensible approach to legislation that infuriates the government-hating Tea Party.
Rep. Carter also adds:
I have a policy to never request anything that I wouldn’t be proud to see on the front page of any of our newspapers.
Well, good on you. But, Mr. Carter, you might want to leave out the bits about ACORN from now on.