by Chet Hardin
Apparently, one of them "thinking types" in the tea party is a Congressman from Michigan. And according to him, Rep. Doug Lamborn's bill to defund Big Bird is probably illegal.
The bill was written to target one, and only one, organization: NPR. By no coincidence, the seven incorporation purposes listed in H R 1076 are an exact copy of NPR's incorporation purposes. The bill covers only preexisting corporations, because the bill's intent is to continue funding every other public radio producer that performs the exact same function as NPR.
The bill's treatment of NPR is arguably unconstitutional and definitely violates the Rule of Law. The bill is arguably unconstitutional because it likely is a bill of attainder. Art. I, Sec. 9, of the Constitution prohibits Congress from passing bills of attainder. The idea behind the bill of attainder ban is that Congress shouldn't enact laws meant to punish particular persons or entities, because the proper way to punish a wrongdoer is after the accused has been given a chance to defend himself at trial in a court. After the federal government similarly singled out ACORN, a federal court ruled the defunding was an unconstitutional bill of attainder. A federal appellate court reversed, but on grounds specific to the facts of the case.
Whether or not H R 1076 is a bill of attainder, passing such a bill violates the Rule of Law. I mean by this that government should write laws of general applicability, meant to cure some harm or further some purpose to the general public's benefit. Laws created on a whim to reward or punish a particular person or entity debases our legal system; our laws' purpose changes from advancing the general welfare to moving favors from one special interest to another.
Is the bill unconstitutional? Maybe, but that's the type of thing that gets worked out in the courts, which isn't going to to happen because the Senate will kill the nascent legislation.
However, Amash's argument strikes right to the essence of Lamborn's so-called constitutionalism. Defunding NPR wasn't a principled cause — it was a cause célèbre. It was always meant to increase his street cred with the frothing anti-taxers in the all-important tea party crowd. It might have even gotten him some one-on-one time with Michele Bachmann. But does it really have anything to do with his principled small-government ethos? If so, why didn't he push to defund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, or any of the number of organizations that profit from this money stream?
Or better yet, why doesn't he stand in opposition to the funding of government subsidies for oil companies?