The community organizing group ACORN, recently walloped by conservative activists who posed as a prostitute and a pimp and tried to get employees to incriminate themselves, is suing Congress for defunding its organization.
The group has teamed with the Center for Constitutional Rights, who has filed suit on their behalf. It argues that Congress' move infringed on their Fifth Amendment right to due process, and their First Amendment right to freedom of association.
The complaint was filed this morning in the U.S. District Court of New York.
From a release issued to RAW STORY:
Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a case challenging Congress’s unconstitutional defunding of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). The case charges Congress with violating the Bill of Attainder provision in the U.S. Constitution, violating the Fifth Amendment right to due process, and infringing on the First Amendment right to freedom of association by targeting affiliated and allied organizations, as well.
CCR attorneys say members of Congress violated the Constitution by declaring an organization guilty of a crime and punishing it and its members without benefit of a trial.
Said CCR Cooperating Attorney Jules Lobel, “It's not the job of Congress to be the judge, jury, and executioner. We have due process in this country, and our Constitution forbids lawmakers from singling out a person or group for punishment without a fair investigation and trial. Congress, as well as individuals and organizations must abide by the rule of law.”
The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order to prevent the government from reallocating funds designated for the organization and its affiliates and a preliminary injunction to stop Congress from singling out a single organization for punishment without proper investigation or due process.
The plaintiffs are ACORN, the ACORN Institute, and the New York ACORN Housing Company. The suit is ACORN v. USA and was filed in federal court in the Eastern District of New York.
CCR Legal Director Bill Quigley said, “It is outrageous to see Congress violating the Constitution for purposes of political grandstanding. With all the crimes and infractions committed by banks, pharmaceutical companies, and private government contractors, they have been rewarded with bailouts, tax credits, and billions of dollars in new contracts. Congress bowed to FOX News and joined in the scapegoating of an organization that helps average Americans going through hard times to get homes, pay their taxes, and vote. Shame on them.”
Since the vote to temporarily ban all federal funds from ACORN and its affiliates, related organizations have suffered. For example, in an affidavit filed in today’s lawsuit, an ACORN affiliate wholly separate from the national organization charges it has been unfairly affected. The organization, ACORN Institute (AI), had grants pending to provide computer training, asthma education, tax preparation, and GED classes, among other programs.
The affidavit avers that no grant the organization has received and administrated “has ever even allegedly involved any misconduct, misappropriation, fraud or other illegal conduct. AI has never been indicted nor convicted of any crime, nor … has any AI employee ever been indicted or convicted of a crime in conjunction with any work they have done for AI. AI has never been denied any grant from any federal agency due to fraud or other alleged misconduct.”
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change. Visit www.ccrjustice.org.
Talking Points Memo's Zachary Roth has more. He notes that after the bill was passed, "Critics of the bill immediately argued that it was unconstitutional, thanks to the Constitution's prohibition on bills of attainder. The courts have long held unconstitutional any acts of Congress that apply either to specific individuals, or to easily ascertainable members of a group, in order to punish them without a trial."
ACORN's suit isn't Congress' only problem.
In September, RAW STORY noted that overly-broad language used by lawmakers intending to pull government funding for community organizing group ACORN could have the unintended effect of forcing the government to also pull funds from much of the military-industrial complex.
"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," wrote Huffington Post reporter Ryan Grimm.
"In other words, the bill could plausibly defund the entire military-industrial complex. Whoops."