Sen. David Vitter (R-Louisiana) tried to stand up for civil society and taxpayers last week but his effort was shot down.
Vitter tried to prevent the radical direct-action group, ACORN, and its affiliates from benefitting under the odious national service legislation known as the (proposed) GIVE Act. The bill itself would dramatically expand the feel-good liberal program, AmeriCorps, which ACORN and other groups have used to promote their own political objectives.
Vitter’s amendment to the bill known as HR1388 would have prevented ACORN from receiving funding under the legislation and from participating in any program involving the use of government-sponsored volunteers.
Vitter noted in a press release that ACORN is
currently under federal investigation, and this is simply not the sort of organization that should be funded by taxpayer dollars. Although this bill prevents the use of funds for political activities, a loophole exists that would allow volunteers sponsored by the federal government to work on behalf of ACORN, freeing up ACORN workers to engage in voter registration activities. The fact that ACORN has been caught engaging in a number of suspect activities is of even more concern. [emphasis added]
On the Senate floor March 26, Vitter explained further, saying of his amendment:
It says no money under this program could go to ACORN or any of its affiliates. Although it is about that one organization, I think the amendment goes to the heart of this debate.
A lot of us are concerned this bill could politicize and put too much Government involvement in charitable work across the country.
Some folks may like ACORN, other folks may not, but nobody can argue that ACORN isn’t at its core political and ideological. It should not get money under this program. The language in the bill that says you can’t do political activity with the money clearly isn’t good enough, because ACORN and other very political and ideological groups would simply have charitable offshoots that could accept the money and be underwritten indirectly in that way.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland), long a friend of ACORN, objected. She made a motion to kill Vitter’s amendment, saying “I think this is an amendment that has no purpose and [sic] has Draconian consequences if passed.” Senators agreed, voting 53 to 43 to kill the amendment.
The original version of HR1388 passed by the House contained an amendment offered by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-North Carolina) that prohibited organizations involved in “engaged in political or legislative advocacy” from receiving funding.
But two left-wing pressure groups distorted Foxx’s amendment and demanded its removal. “The First Amendment protects against speech restrictions such as those in [this] amendment,” said OMB Watch. The Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest said Foxx’s amendment was “anti-nonprofit” and “anti-democratic,” and added that “civic participation is the touchstone of American democracy.”
Of course, their arguments were nonsense because groups are not required to take funding from the government, but Sen. Mikulski did ACORN’s bidding, filing a substitute bill in the Senate that took out Foxx’s provisions.
The bill could be taken up again by the House at any time and be on its way to President Obama’s desk for his signature.