NEW YORK – The government has asked a federal judge to let it cut ACORN’s funding, saying a report commissioned by the embattled community activist reinforces Congress’ concern about misuse of federal funds.
In papers filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, government lawyers sought a reversal of Judge Nina Gershon’s ruling last week that the government’s cutoff of ACORN funding was unconstitutional.
Gershon said ACORN was punished by Congress without “judicial, or even administrative, process adjudicating guilt.”
ACORN, or the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, describes itself as an advocate for low-income and minority homebuyers and residents.
Critics of the group say it has engaged in voter-registration fraud and embezzlement and has violated the tax-exempt status of some of its affiliates by engaging in partisan political activities.
In asking Gershon to reconsider her ruling, the government cited the Dec. 7 report written by Scott Harshbarger, former attorney general for Massachusetts. It said the report “reinforces Congress’ purpose in preventing fraud, waste and abuse” by describing ACORN’s long-standing management problems.
The report concluded that ACORN leadership at every level was thin, the government noted.
Meanwhile, ACORN lawyers filed an amended lawsuit Thursday and said they will ask Gershon to make sure the government knows that the judge’s ruling applies to a budget bill signed this week.
Bill Quigley, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said the bill contains the same language Gershon found unconstitutional.
“We are asking that she just make it absolutely clear that new budget or old budget, you can’t violate the Constitution in this way,” said Quigley, who is representing ACORN in its court fight.
Quigley said he expects money will resume flowing to the group again soon but that permanent damage has been done by slander.
“Congress essentially said: `We are going to convict you of fraud and mismanagement and turn off all your funds because of complaints we have received. We don’t have time to give you a trial, due process, or a chance to defend yourself,’” he said.
The judge scheduled a hearing for Tuesday to address the government’s motion to reconsider her ruling and to discuss ACORN’s updated lawsuit.