GOP lawmakers deny funding to organization that doesn't exist

Two men stand on the plaza of the U.S. Capitol Building as storm clouds fill the sky, June 13, 2013 in Washington, DC.
Two men stand on the plaza of the U.S. Capitol Building as storm clouds fill the sky, June 13, 2013 in Washington, DC.
Shortly after the 2012 elections, Public Policy Polling found that nearly half of Republican voters believed President Obama only won re-election because of ACORN's interference. For a variety of reasons, that didn't make any sense, starting with the fact that ACORN permanently closed its doors in 2010.Groups that don't exist generally find it difficult to interfere in presidential elections.But ACORN's dissolution wasn't enough to satisfy many on the right, and congressional Republicans approved a series of spending measures that denied the organization any access to public funds, long after the group ceased to be.By 2014, it looked like Congress was finally prepared to declare victory over the vanquished ACORN, and the anti-ACORN language was finally scrapped from federal spending bills.It was a brief reprieve. By late 2014, lawmakers were once again blocking funding for the non-existent organization, and the Huffington Post's Zach Carter, who's led the way on this story from the beginning, reports today that anti-ACORN provision is still, even now, a reality.

[H]ere I am, sitting at my desk, writing another story about a budget bill attacking funds for ACORN. It's right there on page 1,060 of the latest government funding legislation: "None of the funds made available under this or any other Act, or any prior Appropriations Act, may be provided to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, allied organizations, or successors."Since ACORN does not exist, it has no affiliates or subsidiaries. "Allied organizations" and "successors" are not legally defined terms. I know because I have written different versions of this story over and over and over again. Every time Congress unveils a new bill to fund the federal government, I do a quick search through the text for "ACORN," and Congress rarely lets me down.

Carter added that the tale is "breathtakingly stupid," which is true, and which is probably why I can't stop laughing at it.We know, of course, how this happens as a procedural matter. It'd be funny to think there's some group of staffers on Capitol Hill, saying to themselves, "Let's make sure ACORN doesn't get any money, in case the group rises from the grave," but that's not the way this works.The more mundane reality is that appropriators simply copy and paste text from previous spending bills into new spending bills, not only to save time, but to avoid controversy: if the old bills passed without a fuss, the new ones will, too. The language about ACORN was in the last omnibus, so it's in this omnibus, and it's all but certain to be in the next omnibus.What I'm curious about is when, if ever, Congress will be comfortable enough with ACORN's demise to scrap the language. For Zach Carter's sake, I hope it's soon -- because the inanity of the story seems to be taking a toll on the guy.