A Small Victory for ACORN?

There was some good news yesterday for ACORN, the 40-year-old, and largest grass-roots community organization in the country, as a federal judge ruled that the House ban on issuing federal grant money to the embattled organization was unconstitutional.

The ban followed a political fallout for ACORN that spiked after video surfaced of two conservative activists, posing as a prostitute and a pimp, soliciting home buying advice from a local ACORN chapter.

While the ban passed the House by an overwhelming margin, several members voting against the measure claimed it was unconstitutional because it was a bill of attainder that presumes guilt without trial, and specifically punishes one group.

The Times quotes Eric M. Freedman, a constitutional law professor at Hofstra Law. “It says that the Congress may not act as judge, jury and executioner. That is precisely what the Congress sought to do in this case, and the district court was entirely right to enjoin it.”

The report goes on to quote Judge Nina Gershon of the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn:

[ACORN has] been singled out by Congress for punishment that directly and immediately affects their ability to continue to obtain federal funding, in the absence of any judicial, or even administrative, process adjudicating guilt.

The Justice Department is reviewing the decision, and it will be interesting to see how the largely right-wing opposition to ACORN will respond. But perhaps it will be more interesting to see how one-time friends of ACORN will react, or if they will react at all. Is there any turning of the political tide for ACORN?

Matthew Brian Hersh served as senior editor at Shelterforce from March 2008 to October 2012. He studied English at Rutgers University and has spent his professional career in journalism, policy, and politics.


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