A few weeks ago I wrote about the brazen hypocrisy with which conservatives in Congress met the revelation that a handful of ACORN employees gave stupid advice to two conservative operatives attempting to provoke them into saying just such stupid things.
While conservatives ravenously pounced on the opportunity to defund the network of community organizations committed to helping and empowering low-income communities (most egregiously by trying to help them participate in their own democracy), they happily and predictably turned a blind eye to the mass levels of fraud, criminality and assorted malfeasance that have been committed by their dear corporate benefactors over the years.
As I noted at the time, the wording on their Defund ACORN Act was written so broadly that they very likely managed to accidentally defund a great number of corporate contractors, especially military contractors which have been among the most egregious law breakers and taxpayer bilkers in recent history.
While the outcome of this ironic misstep still appears to be in limbo, some in Congress have taken the episode as an invitation to start having an honest discussion about the real criminal enterprises that have been swindling taxpayers out of billions upon billions of dollars, without a hint of indignation from those self-righteous corporate cheerleaders on the conservative side of the aisle.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) rose to the occasion and framed the issue beautifully in an impassioned floor speech last week (it is about 12 minutes long, but worth every minute, especially if you yearn to see members of Congress with some integrity and a spine to match):
The sad truth of the matter is that virtually every major defense contractor in this country has, for a period of many years, been engaged in systemic, illegal, and fraudulent behavior, while receiving hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money. We're not talking here about the $53 million that ACORN received over 15 years. We're in fact talking about defense contractors who have received many, many billions in defense contracts and year after year, time after time, violated the law, ripping off the taxpayers of this country big time. And in some instances, these contractors have done more than ripping off the taxpayers. In some instances, they have endangered the lives and well being of the men and women who serve our country in the armed forces. [...]
Despite violating the law time after time after time; despite being fined time after time after time -- Guess what? In 2007, their punishment was... $77 billion in government contracts, $77 billion in government contracts.
Contrast this with the immediate defunding of ACORN, for committing no crime, and you can see plainly that the right-wing crusade against the community organization had nothing to do with the law, ethics or looking out for taxpayer dollars.
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) has also used this opportunity to take a stand against corporate fraud and criminality. Yesterday he introduced an amendment with the following purpose:
To prohibit the use of funds for any Federal contract with Halliburton Company, KBR, Inc., any of their subsidiaries or affiliates, or any other contracting party if such contractor or a subcontractor at any tier under such contract requires that employees or independent contractors sign mandatory arbitration clauses regarding certain claims.
Now what is this about "mandatory arbitration clauses regarding certain claims"? Well that is the way these contractors try to essentially give themselves carte blanche to do whatever they want to their employees, and face no legal consequences. Basically their employees have to sign away legally protected rights in order to be hired.
KBR, a former subsidiary of Dick Cheney's Halliburton, used just such a clause after a female employee was drugged, gang raped, and then locked in a shipping container by her fellow male KBR employees (this all happening on the taxpayer dime, mind you). After she was finally rescued from her imprisonment, KBR used the arbitration clause to try to keep her, a victim of a succession of brutal rapes, from seeking justice. Senator Franken explains it all:
This is just one example of a powerful military contractor and its employees acting criminally, much more so than any foolish employee working for ACORN ever did. A few weeks ago Jason Linkins at HuffPo pointed out other criminal activities that went far beyond what ACORN has been accused of, without any outrage from conservatives in Congress:
And consider this! A taxpayer-funded contractor for Blackwater USA got drunk and murdered an Iraqi in the Green Zone back in October 2007. That's a month after Blackwater employees went on a killing spree in Nisour Square in Baghdad. The taxpayer-funded contractors who guard the State Department facilities in Kabul spend their time taking photos of each other "peeing on one another, simulating anal sex, doing 'butt shots,' and 'eating potato chips out of ass cracks.'" Halliburton, another government contractor, bilked the Pentagon to the tune of $100 million dollars, and basically covered it up through lies and accounting tricks.
And while we're on the subject of ACORN, which had a handful of employees busted for offering assistance to a fake pimp and his fake prostitution business, let's consider the case of taxpayer-funded contractor DynCorp -- its employees actually, LITERALLY, did service a prostitution ring in Bosnia in August of 2002. Girls between the ages of 12 and 15 were involved. And then six years later, employees of the very same contractor went to Iraq and DID IT AGAIN! And this time somebody got killed.
That's one government contractor, two war zones, two continents, two prostitution rings, one known death, zero consequences. What has your member of Congress done about it? SOD ALL, that's what! And DynCorp is still "supporting U.S. interests worldwide."
Add to this at least one massacre by Blackwater in which 17 Iraqi civilians were slaughtered and I think you can start to get a decent picture of the flagrant double standard applied here by conservatives.
Speaking of double standards, let's play a little game. Let's see which senators voted to strip ACORN of all federal funding, while voting against Al Franken's amendment. Out of the 30 senators (30 Republicans, 0 Democrats, 0 Independents) who voted against Al Franken's amendment to hold KBR accountable, 24 of them voted to defund ACORN, and the remaining six didn't show up for the ACORN vote, but it seems likely, given that not a single Republican voted against it, that they would have voted to defund ACORN as well (especially David Vitter, who has made attacking ACORN his raison d'être, with an extra scoop of hypocrisy coming from a former prostitute connoisseur).
So there we have a confirmed 80% (and suspected 100%) of Senate conservatives who are unabashed hypocrites. These senators voted to defund a grassroots community organizing network because a few employees gave stupid tax advice to conservative operatives trying to entrap them, yet voted against cutting tens of billions of dollars in funding to military contractors (coincidentally also their donors) whose employees drugged, gang raped and imprisoned a female employee while the contractor tried to keep the rape victim from seeking justice for the savage crimes against her.
Just take a moment to think about that.
To these people it is worse for employees to give bad legal advice to people trying to trick them into giving bad legal advice, than for employees to drug, gang rape, and imprison a fellow employee. In the first case they demanded the immediate defunding of the entire organization to the tune of a few million a year. In the latter case they voted against cutting any funds to KBR whose employees committed horrific crimes (not even mentioning all of the other cases of criminal fraud committed by the organization itself).
So why the double standard? Well it is painfully simple: in one case they were protecting major corporate donors who give them lots of cash, and in the other case they were engaged in a long-standing crusade to destroy a community organization in order to discourage a particular demographic profile from having a voice (i.e. poor or minorities who might vote against them). Hey, I'm sure it isn't personal though, it is just business--pure, slimy, dishonest, hypocritical business.
In case you wanted to see who our confirmed shameless hypocrites in the Senate are, here's the list for you:
Lamar Alexander (R-TN), John Barrasso (R-WY), Kit Bond (R-MO), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Jim Bunning (R-KY), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Thad Cochran (R-MI), Bob Corker (R-TN), John Cornyn (R-TX), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Jim DeMint (R-SC), John Ensign (R-NV), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Jim Risch (R-ID), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Richard Shelby (R-AL), John Thune (R-SD) and Roger Wicker (R-MI).
The unconfirmed (at least by this vote), yet almost certain shameless hypocrites in the Senate are:
Richard Burr (R-NC), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Judd Gregg (R-NH), John McCain (R-AZ) and David Vitter (R-LA).
Congratulations to them for showing us exactly what they are made of.