Last week's decision by Congress to to bar federal funding to ACORN was notable not only for the lopsided vote margins (83-7 in the Senate, 345-75 in the House) but also because it revealed a rarely-seen zeal in Congress for holding federal contractors accountable.
As my colleague Sue Sturgis reported last Friday, 23 of the very same House members who voted to strip ACORN of funding had opposed a measure to investigate scandal-plagued military contractor Blackwater, who had been implicated in killing 17 Iraqi civilians.
But the House isn't alone. Many of the same Senators who voted to de-fund ACORN have also opposed Congressional efforts to tighten rules and hold federal contractors accountable.
Case in point: In 2006, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) introduced the "Honest Leadership and Accountability in Contracting Act," an amendment to that year's defense bill. The bill called for sweeping reform of federal contracting, including new standards against fraud and abuse.
Dorgan's bill -- cosponsored by 17 Democrats and called the Honest
Leadership and Accountability in Contracting Act of 2006 -- was tabled
by a roll call vote of 55-43, effectively rejecting the amendment.
Every single Senate Republican voted against the measure to make the
contracting process honest and impose penalties on those who break the
How did these same Senators vote on ACORN? According to the vote tallies, 25 of the Senate Republicans who opposed contracting reform in 2006 voted to bar ACORN as a contractor in 2009.
Ironically, Sen. Dorgan's bill would have led to tougher standards that would have punished activity similar to that of which ACORN is accused. For example, the bill would have led to an investigation -- or cut-off of funding -- for any contractor that:
* "Executes or attempts to execute a scheme or artifice to defraud the
United States or the entity having jurisdiction over the area in which
such activities occur."
* "Falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact."
* "Makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements or
representations, or makes or uses any materially false writing or
document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious,
or fraudulent statement or entry."
But in 2006, the main concern were defense contractors like KBR/Halliburton, which received billions of dollars in contracts despite at least 18 officially-documented cases of misconduct.