Constitutional Defenders

ACORN Citizen Wealth Town Hall

nadlerNew Orleans Having been in Canada all week was a relief, but there was no way to come back to New Orleans and not try to get a better understanding of the political road rage that is seeking to engulf ACORN and attack governmental funding sources.  Two things interested me first.  The first was the statements by Congressman Jerrold Nadler from New York, who is the head of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, who raised the point that the anti-ACORN bills were “bills of attainer” and flatly unconstitutional.  The other was my curiosity to see which elected officials could not be herded by the mob, since those are names with honoring with some respect and thanks in my book.

Since no one much seems to be looking at this severe outbreak of McCarthyism, I’m going to paste in Nadler’s press release and let him speak for himself:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, denounced a Republican Amendment adopted by the House of Representatives to deny all federal funds to ACORN as blatantly unconstitutional and a threat to unpopular organizations everywhere. The Republican initiative, entitled the Defund ACORN Act, singles out a specific organization by name for exclusion from participating in any federal program, in direct violation of the Constitution’s prohibition against Bills of Attainder.

“Today’s Republican Amendment is in blatant violation of the Constitution’s prohibition against Bills of Attainder,” said Nadler. “Congress must not be in the business of punishing individual organizations or people without trial, and that’s what this Amendment does. Whatever one may think of an organization, the Constitution’s clear ban on Bills of Attainder is there for the protection of all of our liberties.”

The Supreme Court, in decisions dating back to the Civil War era, has held that the Constitution prohibits all legislative acts, “no matter what their form, that apply either to named individuals or to easily ascertainable members of a group in such a way as to inflict punishment on them without a judicial trial….” During the McCarthy era, for example, Congress enacted legislation prohibiting the use of funds to pay the salaries of three federal employees who Congress deemed subversive. The Supreme Court ruled this legislation unconstitutional as a Bill of Attainder.

This Amendment, in addition to being clearly unconstitutional, sets a dangerous precedent of Congress punishing politically disfavored groups without any due process.

As Chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee charged with defending the Constitution, Nadler spoke out on the House floor against the Republican Amendment, delivering the following statement:

“Thank you, Mr. Speaker. A little while ago, the House passed an amendment to the bill that we were considering that says no contract or federal funds may ever go to ACORN, a named organization, or to any individual or organization affiliated with ACORN. Unfortunately, this was done in the spirit of the moment and nobody had the opportunity to point out that this is a flat violation of the Constitution, constituting a Bill of Attainder. The Constitution says that Congress shall never pass a Bill of Attainder. Bills of Attainder, no matter what their form, apply either to a named individual or to easily ascertainable members of a group, to inflict punishment. That’s exactly what this amendment does.

“It may be that ACORN is guilty of various infractions, and, if so, it ought to be vetted, or maybe sanctioned, by the appropriate administrative agency or by the judiciary. Congress must not be in the business of punishing individual organizations or people without trial.

“That’s what this Amendment did. It is flatly prohibited by the Constitution, and once we ignore the Constitution we ignore constitutional principles. Whatever one may think of the subject matter or the organization, the Constitution and the ban on Bills of Attainder are there for the protection of all of our liberties. It is unfortunate that we passed this, and I hope it is removed in the conference committee.”

I like the fact that Congressman Nadler is looking for a way to kill this bill in conference where calmer voices with more concern for the Constitution and its protections of all of our rights, even our rights to take unpopular stands, might prevail.

He may feel lonely, but he’s not by himself in wondering how this could happen.  A blog site from Florida on politics ( added another lone voice that I couldn’t miss:

“A bill of attainder, forbidden in Article I, Section IX of the constitution, is a legislative act that imposes punishment on a specific person or group without a trial or hearing. But there’s legal precendent allowing a law that singles out an entity if “the law under challenge, viewed in terms of the type and severity of burdens imposed, reasonably can be said to further nonpunitive legislative purposes.”

UCLA law professor and blogger Eugene Volokh offers this discussion of the matter and concludes: “My rereading of the precedents leads me to confidently and unambiguously say, ‘I don’t know.’ “

The clamoring herd of sheep in Congress driven only by politics and their mood of the moment…hey, am I wrong, weren’t conservatives always the ones saying they wanted to “protect the Constitution”…is doing their wild thing, but here’s a list of Congressmen and Senators who stood up for the Constitution and therefore became ACORN’s defenders in this tar and feathering exercise.

ACORN’s defenders in the Congressional House of Representatives

Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc.
Xavier Becerra, D-Calif.
Robert Brady D-Pa.
Corrine Brown, D-Fla.
G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C.
Mike Capuano, D-Mass.
Andre Carson, D-Ind.
Kathy Castor, D-Fla.
Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo.
James Clyburn, D-S.C.
Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y.
Elijah Cummings, D-Md.
Danny Davis, D-Ill.
Diane DeGette, D-Colo.
Bill Delahunt, D-Mass.
Mike Doyle, D-Pa.
Donna Edwards, D-Md.
Keith Ellison, D-Minn.
Eliot Engel, D-N.Y.
Chaka Fattah, D-Pa.
Bob Filner, D-Calif.
Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio
Al Green, D-Tex.
Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz.
Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y.
Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii
Rush Holt, D-N.J.
Mike Honda, D-Calif.
Jesse Jackson, Jr. D-Ill.
Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Tex.
Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Tex.
Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, D-Mich.
Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio
Rick Larsen, D-Wash.
Barbara Lee, D-Calif.
John Lewis, D-Ga.
Stephen Lynch, D-Mass.
Markey, D-Mass.
Betty McCollum, D-Minn.
McDermott, D-Wash.
McGovern, D-Mass.
Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y.
Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va.
Gwen Moore, D-Wisc.
Jim Moran, D-Va.
Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.
Richard Neal, D-Mass.
John Olver, D-Mass.
Frank Pallone, D-N.J.
Bill Pascrell, D-N.J.
Donald Payne, D-N.J.
Jared Polis, D-Colo.
David Price, D-N.C.
Nick Rahall, D-W.Va.
Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y.
Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif.
Bobby Rush, D-Ill.
Linda Sánchez, D-Calif.
Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.
David Scott D-Ga.
Bobby Scott, D-Va.
Jose Serrano, D-N.Y.
Brad Sherman, D-Calif.
Albio Sires, D-N.J.
Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y.
Pete Stark, D-Calif.
Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.
Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y.
Niki Tsongas, D-Mass.
Nydia Velázquez, D-N.Y.
Maxine Waters, D-Calif.
Diane Watson, D-Calif.
Henry Waxman, D-Calif.
Robert Wexler, D-Fla.
Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif.

ACORN Defenders in the United States Senate

Roland Burris from Illinois;

Robert Casey Jr. from Pennsylvania

Richard Durbin from Illinois

Kirsten Gillibrand from New York

Patrick Leahy from Vermont

Bernie Sanders from Vermont

Whitehouse from Rhode Island.

Daniel Akaka from Hawaii

Jeff Bingamen from New Mexico

Diane Feinstein from California

Tom Harkin from Iowa