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The law of unintended consequences, ACORN, and the empire

Glenn Greenwald:

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) -- my guest on Salon Radio today -- yesterday pointed out that the bill passed by both the Senate and House to de-fund ACORN is written so broadly that it literally compels the de-funding not only of that group, but also the de-funding of, and denial of all government contracts to, any corporation that "has filed a fraudulent form with any Federal or State regulatory agency." By definition, that includes virtually every large defense contractor, which -- unlike ACORN -- has actually been found guilty of fraud. As The Huffington Post's Ryan Grim put it: "the bill could plausibly defund the entire military-industrial complex. Whoops."

The irony of all of this is that the Congress is attempting to accomplish an unconstitutional act: singling out and punishing ACORN, which is clearly a "bill of attainder" that the Constitution explicitly prohibits -- i.e., an act aimed at punishing a single party without a trial. The only way to overcome that problem is by pretending that the de-funding of ACORN is really about a general policy judgment (that no corrupt organizations should receive federal funding). But the broader they make the law in order to avoid the Constitutional problem, the more it encompasses the large corrupt corporations that own the Congress (and whom they obviously don't want to de-fund). The narrower they make it in order to include only ACORN, the more blatantly unconstitutional it is.


IIRC, Matt Stoller works for Grayson as a staffer. So, if Stoller had a hand in Grayson's genius move, kudos. Now, go straighten out Bowers on health care, wouldja?

UPDATE Greenwald also mentions this article on the empire by Gary Wills in the NYRB. Indeed, go read.

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MJS's picture
Submitted by MJS on

hoisted by its own petard
the monster breaks and lays in shards
towering now, a timely joke
from wee ACORNS grow mighty oaks


chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

can't some enterprising prog org get behind a fundraising effort to pay for a legal effort, and challenge the courts to apply Glenn's definition of the bill upon one of the more egregious "defense" contractors? Xe/BlackwaterPimps seems a good target.

it could be interesting, to take this logic and see how far it flies in the courts.