A federal judge has reaffirmed her earlier ruling blocking the congressional effort to defund the anti-poverty group ACORN. On Wednesday, Judge Nina Gershon cemented a decision from last year that such action amounted to an unconstitutional “bill of attainder.” Judge Gershon told all federal agencies to allow ACORN funding without delay:
JOHN ATLAS: I’m going to talk about that in a minute, but the first thing I want to say, that needs to be said over and over again, is that the act of defunding ACORN by Congress is a national disgrace. We should all be outraged about that. Basically what happened is Congress bowed to Fox News, Glenn Beck, the rest of the right-wing echo chamber—we’re talking about the United States Congress—and then scapegoated the most effective anti-poverty organization in the country. That’s a scandal of enormous proportions.
ACORN has a record of helping poor people in these hard times. They help them get homes. They help them stop foreclosures. They help them fight predatory lending. They help them register voters. I’m talking about minority voters, people who ordinarily don’t vote. Very hard to get that kind of voter registration work done. And in short, all other studies, including mine, have documented how effective ACORN has been and how important it’s been to low-income people, especially the working poor.
OK, now, with the significance of the decision, first people have to understand the context. This was a case in which the Congress defunded ACORN, and they claimed they had to defund ACORN to protect the taxpayers. ACORN brought a lawsuit. They brought it against the United States government, the Office of Management and Budget, the Secretary of HUD, and the Secretary of Treasury. They had to bring a lawsuit against them because these were the people who issued orders, pursuant to the vote by Congress, to not allow ACORN to get any funding that it was entitled to, but didn’t get, and they could not, in the future, apply for federal funding.
AMY GOODMAN: And remind us why they were defunded. I mean, what was the incident that precipitated this?
JOHN ATLAS: Well, as your opening said, which we can emphasize again, the immediate trigger—I’m talking about the immediate trigger—was the release of videos that appeared to show that ACORN staffers were giving advice to right-wing activists who looked like a pimp and a prostitute. And they were giving advice to them which was outrageous, which we should go into, after we talk about this case, because it turned out that that was completely misleading, that in fact he never—the guy who was posing as a pimp never showed up in this outlandish pimp outfit that we all associate with those videotapes. You know, the guy in the top hat, the cape around his shoulders, with his cane, the dark glasses, you know, he looked like a 1970s African American—you know, stereotype African American pimp. He went on TV. He said, “This is what I looked like when I was in the office.” Turned out, not true. And we should go into that, because—
AMY GOODMAN: Explain. How, then?
JOHN ATLAS: Well, it’s not true, because he edited—they took those pictures of him dressed that way, and they edited him into the tapes.
Now, before we get back into the decision, let me say this, that this reporting was done by not just the right-wing press, but every one of the mainstream press, and I’m talking about the Washington Post, the New York Times. Before I came here, I actually put together a list—I can—of times that the New York Times reported that fact, that this man was dressed like that when he was sitting in the office. And the New York Times has refused to retract this. And there’s a whole movement out there now trying to get the public editor to go on record saying the Times botched the story.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Despite the judge—