The massive new appropriations bill unveiled Monday night includes four provisions that block funding to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, an anti-poverty activist group better known as ACORN.
The bicameral, bipartisan appropriations bill is the product of last year's budget deal between Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), filling in the details of the blueprint they agreed upon.
ACORN, however, no longer exists.
The group dissolved in 2010, penniless, after Congress cut off its funding in 2009 based on a selectively edited video released by conservative provocateur James O'Keefe. O'Keefe manipulated the footage to give the impression that ACORN workers were encouraging tax avoidance related to prostitution and child smuggling, but multiple subsequent investigations cleared the group of any wrongdoing.
Nevertheless, the House GOP has voted 13 times since the organization disbanded to block its funding. House Appropriations Committee spokesperson Jennifer Hing, who was not immediately available to comment, has repeatedly described the ACORN funding language as a standard provision included in appropriations bills.
Not every appropriations bill carries such a provision, however, and while the legislative language tends to be boilerplate, it takes multiple forms. The current appropriations bill contains three distinct versions of the ban on government money to ACORN, each with a minor difference. One of the versions shows up twice.
The first shows up the Department of Defense section:
None of the funds made available underthis Act may be distributed to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) or its subsidiaries.
The next appears in the part of the bill dealing with funding for the Department of Homeland Security:
None of the funds made available under this Act or any prior appropriations Act may be providedto the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, or allied organizations.
The Veterans Affairs funding section contains this language:
None of the funds made available in this Act may be distributed to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) or its subsidiaries or successors.
And a section on Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development contains an ACORN passage identical to the DHS version.
ACORN, of course, has no affiliates or subsidiaries, because it does not exist anymore. And while the bill does not define the term "successors," the 2009 legislation to dismantle ACORN defines them as, "Any State chapter of ACORN registered with the Secretary of State's office in that State," "any organization that shares directors, employees, or independent contractors with ACORN," and any organization that "employs" someone "indicted" for violations that ACORN was initially charged with. Most of those characteristics, of course, are irrelevant now that ACORN does not exist, and nobody has been indicted for the offenses the group did not commit.