A Constitutional Right to Public Funds
Published: November 13, 2009 Publication: Spectator By Matthew Vadum Activist group and organized crime syndicate ACORN has a constitutional right to defraud the people of the United States it claims in a federal lawsuit. Actually, the lawsuit, filed with the assistance of the allegedly terrorist-funded Center for Constitutional Rights, doesn’t use the word fraud, but that’s what it amounts to because ACORN argues in the document that it has a right to taxpayer dollars. I kid you not. In the action filed in U.S. District Court ACORN plays the victim — as always. ACORN claims the congressionally approved cutoff of federal funding that expires Dec. 18 violates the Constitution’s prohibition on bills of attainder, along with ACORN’s free speech and due process rights. Of course, due process is a rather specific legal concept that applies to judicial proceedings, rather than the lawmaking process. A bill of attainder singles out an individual or group for punishment without trial. Is it punishment for ACORN to be denied public funds? That implies the group has the right to receive those funds. Legal scholar Hans A. von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation flatly rejects the argument that the Constitution prevents Congress from doing the right thing. “The bill of attainder clause has never been read to prevent Congress from defunding an organization or a corporation whose employees engage in criminal conduct, and it has rarely been invoked by the modern Supreme Court,” he writes. According to ACORN the cutoff happened not because hidden-camera videos showed Americans the corruption-plagued group’s predilection for crime but because a vast right-wing conspiracy hoodwinked lawmakers. The legislation “was passed in large part due to a public relations campaign orchestrated by political forces that have persistently attacked and defamed the Plaintiff ACORN, its members, affiliates and allies (other Plaintiffs herein),” according to the legal complaint. ACORN’s villainous tormentors, it continues, are “motivated by their hostility toward the Plaintiffs’ tireless commitment to registering voters, particularly those poor and working Americans who have been consistently disenfranchised and excluded from the American political system.” We’ve heard all this before from ACORN’s veracity-challenged CEO Bertha Lewis and from outspoken ACORN defender Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.). Lewis deserved to receive an Academy Award nomination for her virtuoso performance last month. In a widely publicized speech, she not only depicted ACORN as an innocent victim but also as a whistleblower that tried to nip the subprime mortgage crisis — that it had a role in creating — in the bud. With Congressman Nadler, conflicts abound. As chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on the Constitution, civil rights, and civil liberties, he may have to investigate ACORN in the not-too-distant future, yet he came up with the novel bill of attainder argument within days of the undercover prostitution sting videos surfacing in September. After he tried to associate the funding suspension with a McCarthy-era witch hunt, Nadler said, “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.” Needless to say, Nadler never explained how failing to appropriate funds for a notorious group involved in racketeering violates American liberties. In recent weeks Nadler’s spokesman, Ilan Kayatsky, has refused to respond to my requests for comment. Nadler is a longtime ACORN ally and financial contributor who recently urged ACORN’s New York-based lawyer Arthur Z. Schwartz of Schwartz, Lichten & Bright to initiate this lawsuit. Schwartz apparently took his advice because he’s listed as one of five co-counsel representing ACORN in the new action. ACORN’s selection of the Greenwich Village-based Center for Constitutional Rights to represent it in the lawsuit is revealing. Like ACORN, CCR lawyers agree with the Marxist critique of American society and both groups were founded by 1960s radicals. Both groups are funded by radical philanthropist George Soros through his Open Society Institute. It’s a perfect match. CCR wants to help terrorists overthrow the U.S. government while ACORN hopes to spend the system into oblivion. Wade Rathke, who worked as a paid agitator for Students for a Democratic Society, created ACORN in 1970. Like his fellow SDS militants, Rathke doesn’t object to political assassinations. Rathke didn’t have a problem with domestic terrorists trying to kill delegates at the Republican Party’s national convention in 2008, according to former radical community organizer Brandon Darby. CCR emerged from the “New Left” movement and was founded in 1966 by labor lawyer Morton Stavis, radical legal scholar Arthur Kinoy, and attorneys Ben Smith and William Kunstler, all admirers of Fidel Castro. For more than four decades the ultra-leftist public interest law firm has protected the supposed constitutional rights of those who would destroy the United States. From its founding in the tumultuous 1960s, CCR has used what it calls “innovative impact litigation” to aggressively attack U.S. anti-Communist policy, the war on Islamist terror, and American businesses. The group was also involved in key Supreme Court cases in recent years that gave America’s terrorist enemies access to the civilian legal system. The Center has a long history of anti-American activism. When the Soviet Union was pointing nuclear missiles at U.S. cities during the Cold War, CCR was trying to sabotage U.S. foreign policy. During the Vietnam War, the Center fought military draft policies in court. CCR claims to have inspired legal activists when it applied for an injunction against President Richard Nixon in 1972 to block the U.S. bombing of enemy targets. The Center opposed Operation Babylift in 1975 in which the U.S. rescued more than 2,000 children from South Vietnam before North Vietnamese Communist forces swamped that country. When I first began studying CCR three years ago its website absurdly referred to the victory of Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Cong as a “victory of the Vietnamese people.” In the Reagan era, the Center sued the Nicaraguan anti-Communist force known as the contras and to block deployment of U.S. military advisers to El Salvador to help train soldiers to fight against the local Communist insurgency. CCR sued in 1983 to block U.S. nuclear weapons from the United Kingdom. The suit failed but it helped the unilateral disarmament movement, a leftist crusade that sought to disarm the U.S. while leaving the USSR’s nuclear missiles intact. In 1991 the Center filed suit to halt the deployment of troops to the Persian Gulf to drive Iraqi forces from occupied Kuwait. Years later challenged in court President George W. Bush’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Groups suspected of ties to Islamic terrorists fund CCR. Two organizations in Virginia, Safa Trust Inc. and the International Institute of Islamic Thought, each gave CCR donations of up to $99,999 in 2005. The Ohio branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), gave CCR up to $2,499 in 2005. At least five of the Wahhabist group’s employees and board members have been arrested, convicted, deported, or otherwise tied to terrorism-related charges and activities, according to analysts Daniel Pipes and Sharon Chadha. In 2005 CAIR gave Michael Ratner, the president of CCR, its Civil Rights Award. CCR uses the courts to pick the deep pockets of corporations in order to advance its foreign policy agenda, something ACORN does in order to push its domestic policy agenda. In one civil action that might vie for the title of MostTransparently Vexatious Lawsuit In American History, CCR sued heavy machinery maker Caterpillar, Inc., after the death of Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old American protester who was run over by an Israeli military Caterpillar D9 bulldozer on a mission in the “no man’s land” near the Egyptian border in 2003. Corrie put her body in the path of the bulldozer, hoping to obstruct its progress. The Israeli government claimed the tragic event was an accident. But even if the Israelis were covering up their own wrongdoing, how would that make Caterpillar responsible for Corrie’s death? CCR doesn’t care. CCR has also sued private contractors CACI International Inc. and Titan International for their alleged connection to the 2004 prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison. More recently CCR has been hunting Blackwater, now known as Xe Services LLC, arguing in court that the company is an organized crime syndicate. But CCR’s president Michael Ratner is picky about the organized crime syndicates he chooses to support. He’s a Che Guevara admirer who has both a political and a financial interest in the success of his far-left friends at ACORN. In 2005, ACORN signed an agreement with Forest City Ratner Companies, LLC, a megabucks real estate development firm, pledging its support for the ambitious Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, New York, that would become the new home of the money-losing New Jersey Nets basketball team. ACORN had originally opposed the project. In exchange for its backing, ACORN was bought off with for a $1 million loan and $500,000 in donations from the firm, which is run by Ratner’s brother Bruce who is also principal owner of the Nets. Michael Ratner is also an investor in the basketball team that would relocate to Atlantic Yards. He has a personal interest in getting Uncle Sam to bail out ACORN so it can continue to support the project. If ACORN continues its backing of the Atlantic Yards project and it gets built, the Mercedes Marxist will make money as the Nets migrate to a profitable venue. That’s why ACORN is Michael Ratner’s favorite organized crime syndicate.