By Ernest A. Canning on 1/27/2010, 8:16am PT  

Guest blogged by Ernest A. Canning

As the community group ACORN, which is accused of no federal felonies, awaits a decision on the release of federal funds that they were unconstitutionally barred from receiving, according to a federal judge, the man who apparently videotaped some of their employees illegally and then released highly edited and misleading versions of those illegally obtained tapes now faces federal felony charges related to wiretapping a U.S. Senator....

On Nov. 12, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court alleging that separate House and Senate Resolutions to bar all funds to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) were unconstitutional Bills of Attainder.

We initially covered the ACORN lawsuit in "ACORN Sues Congress Over Defunding Legislation." The lawsuit directly pertained to House and Senate Appropriations Resolutions which singled out ACORN for a cut-off of federal funds. These were passed after James O'Keefe's illicitly taped videos emerged, purporting to depict some ACORN employees giving advice to individuals posing as a prostitute and a pimp.

As Brad Friedman noted in "ACORN Cleared YET AGAIN of Wrongdoing," former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger issued an independent report following the release of the tapes, finding incidents of mismanagement by ACORN but "no criminal wrongdoing." CCR noted that Harshbarger, who reviewed the "complete transcripts," concluded that "the infamous videotapes had been doctored and fully misrepresented the actions of the workers shown."

On Dec. 11, U.S. District Judge Nina Gershon granted ACORN's motion for a preliminary injunction [PDF], ruling that it was likely ACORN would prevail on the merits of its claim that the House and Senate Appropriations Resolutions were unconstitutional Bills of Attainder.

Although no doubt fully aware of ACORN's pending lawsuit, on Dec. 10 & Dec. 13 the House and Senate enacted the "FY 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act," an amalgam of six separate bills which the President signed into law on Dec. 16. The Act contains a provision which is virtually identical to the earlier resolutions passed, cutting off ACORN from federal funds.

In response, ACORN filed a motion [PDF] to expand the previous preliminary injunction to the "FY 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act."

As of this posting, we are still awaiting word from CCR on the fate of ACORN's pending motion.

Meanwhile, in New Orleans, James O'Keefe, who posed as the pimp in the ACORN sting video, along with three others, was arrested and "charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony," in relation to an alleged plot to tamper with the telephone system in the office of Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA).

Despite repeated, often whiffed attacks by Republican partisans and operatives, ACORN has been instrumental in helping millions of low and middle-income American citizens to legally excercise their franchise to vote, as well as helping them take steps toward living the American dream by owning their own homes.

It remains unclear as to what O'Keefe and friends have done, other than to have harmed a voter-friendly organization unfairly and now having allegedly committed a federal felony offense.


Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968).