By Robert Wallace
Thanks to the work of Hannah Giles and James O’Keefe, the spotlight of public attention swiveled to focus on ACORN back in September, and ACORN clearly couldn’t survive the heat of public scrutiny. The reaction from inside ACORN was chaos and panic – vacillating between contrition and feigned outrage – but the reaction from outside organizations was clear: ACORN had become as politically toxic as a mortgage-backed security:
After the videos were made public, ACORN’s partnership in the 2010 United States Census was terminated. The United States House and Senate voted to exclude ACORN from federal funding. The New York Attorney General announced an investigation to ensure that state grants given to ACORN were properly spent. The New York City Council suspended all ACORN grants while Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes conducted an investigation. On September 23, the Internal Revenue Service removed ACORN from its volunteer tax-assistance program. On September 28, Bank of America suspended programs with ACORN Housing pending a bank review of the organization.
It’s approaching three months since the original scandal broke, however, and even the attention of many conservatives has long since turned to other topics. So – back in the safe, cozy darkness of obscurity, how is ACORN doing these days?
For starters they aren’t going to be so hard-up for cash in the immediate future. The New York Times reports that Eric Holder’s Justice Department has ensured that ACORN will be paid for all the contracts put in place before the House and Senate ban. This decision is worse than it sounds.
On Oct. 1, President Obama signed into law a spending bill that included a provision that said no taxpayer money — including money authorized by previous legislation — could be “provided to” the group or its affiliates…
Citing dictionary and thesaurus entries, he said [Mr. Baron, the acting assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel] “provided to” could be interpreted as meaning only instances in which an official was making “discretionary choices” about whether to give the group money, rather than instances in which the transfer of money to Acorn was required to satisfy contractual obligations.
In other words, Baron cracked open a thesaurus, found synonyms for “provide” that didn’t exactly mean “provide”, and cited these as an excuse to not only pay ACORN for services already provided, but to continue to pay them in full for future services that had already been contracted but not yet performed. There’s also an argument about bills of attainder that – in my non-lawyer opinion – doesn’t hold water. In short: both Houses of Congress passed a law banning all payments to ACORN and the President signed but nothing has changed. This financial lifeline will keep ACORN afloat while their lawsuit against the federal government (to restore access to future funding) is ongoing.
Representative Darrell Issa (the top Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform) blasted the decision in a statement, but I haven’t seen any coverage outside of Drudge.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, a California ACORN office has embarked on a document-dumping spree. Except for a mention on Fox, this story is being investigated almost entirely by the folks at Andrew Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com. Despite the usual suspects leaping to defend ACORN (in this case Media Matters alleged that the 20,000 pages of documents were all irrelevant to the case), BigGovernment.com has provided recovered documents that most certainly relate to the ongoing investigation. When asked about the document-dumping, California Attorney General Jerry Brown gave a weird response in which he seems to disparage the PIs dumpster-diving, cite Supreme Court precedent that people have an expectation of privacy to their own garbage, and even brings up the fact that “52% of Republicans think that ACORN stole the election for President Obama”.
In fact, according to the Orange County Register, ACORN’s chief organizer in San Diego David Lagstein believes “the state’s top law agency is in ACORN’s corner”. The article goes on:
In a recorded speech he gave to the East [San Diego] County Democrat Club last month, Mr. Lagstein said that every bit of the communication he had with Mr. Brown’s office suggests that the fault will be found with the activists who made the videos, not the people with ACORN.
It sounds to me like another powerful friend is getting ready to step in on ACORN’s behalf. Again.
Speaking of investigations, whatever happened to that internal ACORN investigation? BigGovernment is on the case again, pointing out that the report was supposed to be released by the end of October. It’s the end of November and – so far – no report has been released.
Most Americans believed that when the House and Senate voted to stop providing funding for ACORN that the tumor had been removed. Little did they realize how deep the ties between ACORN and the government run at both the state and federal levels. Thanks to powerful friends the milk of federal funds is still flowing, and the ongoing investigations are more interested in protecting ACORN and prosecuting Giles and O’Keefe. Of course ACORN’s own investigation was a joke all along.
When you turn on the light the roaches scurry for cover, but if you just turn the lights back off then the roaches come straight back out of the walls and nothing has changed. Americans thought that cutting off funding and starting investigations meant something had been done, but they were wrong. For ACORN, it’s just business as usual.
Robert Wallace is classical liberal studying economics in graduate school. He and his wife work as business analysis consultants, and they live as undercover conservatives with their two small children in a socialist bastion of a college town. He has been writing for America’s Right since December 2008.