Caught in the ACORN net

CAUGHT IN THE ACORN NET…. It no doubt seemed like a good idea at the time. Republican lawmakers intended to stop federal funds that might go to ACORN, wrote a measure that blocked expenditures for “any organization that has filed a fraudulent form with any Federal or State regulatory agency.”

Because ACORN has experienced problems with voter-registration efforts, proponents found it an easy way to block funding for the group without being explicit about the intended target. The problem, as Ryan Grim reports, is that the provision also applies to entities Republican lawmakers want to give federal funds to.

The congressional legislation intended to defund ACORN, passed with broad bipartisan support, is written so broadly that it applies to “any organization” that has been charged with breaking federal or state election laws, lobbying disclosure laws, campaign finance laws or filing fraudulent paperwork with any federal or state agency. It also applies to any of the employees, contractors or other folks affiliated with a group charged with any of those things.

In other words, the bill could plausibly defund the entire military-industrial complex. Whoops.

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) picked up on the legislative overreach and asked the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) to sift through its database to find which contractors might be caught in the ACORN net.

Lockheed Martin and Northrop Gumman both popped up quickly, with 20 fraud cases between them, and the longer list is a Who’s Who of weapons manufacturers and defense contractors.

Oops.

The next question, of course, is why ACORN’s problems with voter-registration materials are extremely important, while Lockheed Martin’s and Northrop Gumman’s bad habits are not only considered uninteresting — to conservatives, to lawmakers, to news outlets — but largely verboten as a topic of conversation.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.