Dear Madame Speaker:
I oppose the final version of the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill, which includes language that would ban funding for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). While ACORN has fallen under media scrutiny for actions reported by the media, no criminal charges have been filed against ACORN, no indictment has been reached against ACORN, and no trial by jury has taken place regarding ACORN.
I support an investigation of ACORN, and ACORN has already moved forward with an objective, unbiased investigation of these allegations. Instead of acting on factual data, Congress is reacting based on media reports of alleged wrongdoing. All Americans have the presumption of innocence. With this vote, Congress has ignored this presumption, and the Constitution, as well. This vote against ACORN—or any liberal, conservative, or independent organization without merit—is wrong. In these economically and socially difficult times, Congress must utilize leadership, reason, sense, and sanity. This vote is not sound leadership, and it is not what the American people expect or need.âª
Congress should not, and must not, start punishing individuals, businesses, or groups without a fair trial. Congress must not assume guilt based on media reports, Internet chat rooms, or anything less than a complete and full investigation of the facts by the appropriate law enforcement agency. Some Members of Congress have even questioned the Constitutionality of Congress’ refusing funds to inflict punishment on individuals without a fair trial. While I am not an expert on the Constitution, I do know that we must protect the rights of all individuals. The language in this bill, which would ban federal funds for ACORN for the length of any Continuing Budget Resolution, is wrong. It is wrong to punish organizations or individuals without trial, and it is wrong because it totally obscures the good work that groups like ACORN have done for years. It is wrong because Congress must lead and not follow.âª
ACORN has operated for almost 20 years fighting for poor people. The organization has registered voters and attained housing for low income individuals and families.
This vote sets a very chilling precedent of acting first and asking questions or investigating later. I do not know the merits, or lack thereof, of ACORN’s alleged wrongdoing. I do know that when Congress acts without the complete set of facts and does not consider the ramifications that this precedent sets, it hurts all Americans.