The House Judiciary Committee is backing down just as the case against the left-wing group is heating up.
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Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, the ranking Republican on the committee’s panel on the Constitution, civil rights, and civil liberties, said the Obama campaign’s alleged involvement with ACORN might violate federal election law. “ACORN has a pattern of getting in trouble for violating federal election laws,” he said.
He also slammed the Old Gray Lady herself. “If true, the New York Times is showing once again that it is a not an impartial observer of the political scene,” Sensenbrenner said. “If they want to be a mouthpiece for the Democratic Party, they should put Barack Obama approves of this in their newspaper.”
Heidelbaugh also testified that ACORN has rendered protest-for-hire services for other left-wing groups and extracted donations from the targets of demonstrations by shaking down those targets as part of its “muscle for the money” program.
Back on March 19, Conyers seemed genuinely disturbed by the claims. He pushed the chairman of the subcommittee Sensenbrenner is ranking member of, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-New York), to hold his own hearing.
A blasé Nadler said he “would certainly consider a hearing on ACORN, if I ever hear any credible allegations.” Referencing Heidelbaugh’s testimony, Conyers replied, “Whoa. Wait a minute. This is a member of the bar here that got a successful partial injunction against ACORN.”
A fortnight later Conyers reiterated his support for an ACORN probe, telling the Washington Times he still wanted to do it and he “probably will.” Conyers, whom the article called an “unlikely champion” for ACORN opponents, rejected arguments from fellow Democrats that his committee should steer clear of the issue.
“That’s our jurisdiction, the Department of Justice,” he told the newspaper. “That’s what we handle – voter fraud. Unless that’s been taken out of my jurisdiction and I didn’t know it.”
Alas, it was too good to be true. The investigative zeal of the Judiciary Committee chairman soon waned.
It was always hard to believe that the ultra-liberal Conyers, who is very sympathetic to ACORN’s policy goals and who as recently as October called the radical group “a longstanding and well regarded organization that fights for the poor and working class,” really wanted to investigate his longtime ally in the leftist movement.
Conyers, who received a 100% rating from ACORN in its 2006 legislative scorecard, showed how truly in sync he was with ACORN when he spoke at the group’s national convention last June 22.
“I’m through with deregulation,” said Conyers. “It doesn’t work because the capitalist predators who are waiting unregulated are going to take advantage of it.”
Last fall Conyers seemed on hair-trigger alert, ready to pounce on anybody who tangled with ACORN. After media reports surfaced that one ACORN worker was assaulted by an irate homeowner, some ACORN workers were threatened, and two ACORN offices might have been vandalized, Conyers speculated –in the absence of any evidence that the incidents were connected— that a massive anti-ACORN conspiracy might be afoot.
“If true, these reports appear to describe possible federal crimes such as criminal civil rights crimes [sic] including conspiracy to deprive the victims (and others) of federally protected constitutional rights, mail and wire offenses, and other more basic offenses such as assault and battery,” Conyers wrote in an Oct. 20 letter urging the attorney general and the FBI director to act.
“Depending on the circumstances and the possible involvement of a group of individuals, the conduct also raises serious questions under the federal RICO law,” he wrote.
Yet the allegations of racketeering made against ACORN at the Judiciary Committee hearing in March don’t seem to interest Conyers.
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