How badly does an organization receiving federal funds have to behave to get Congress to conduct a hearing into their activities? The Republican National Lawyers Association wants Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) to keep his word to investigate ACORN when he learns of “credible” allegations of wrongdoing. Having ACORN employees on video offering tax-evasion strategies and advice on hiding child-prostitution trafficking should be credible enough to warrant a look at the least, right?

A powerful group of GOP lawyers is demanding that government officials open an investigation into the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now to determine if any of their government funds have been used for illegal purposes.

And, they’re making those demands directly to House Chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Rep. Jerrold Nalder, New York, who said he would consider holding a hearing about “if I ever hear any credible allegations” about the group. Now that a pair of activist filmmakers have exposed ACORN workers giving advice on how to obtain federal funds to run a brothel on video the Republican National Lawyers Association says the evidence is piled high enough to get a hearing. RNLA put a web video out Wednesday that replayed Mr. Nadler’s remarks made last March. …

Cleta Mitchell, co-chairman of RNLA, said Mr. Nadler isn’t taking the charges against ACORN seriously and he needs to hold a hearing to track down how their federal dollars have been spent. Republican critics of ACORN estimate the group has gotten close to $54 million since 1994.

“When you get federal money you get it for a special purpose and you are supposed to spend it for that purpose and certify at the end of each fiscal year it was spent for that purpose,” Mrs. Mitchell said. “I don’t see how they could have possibly made those representations truthfully to the federal government.”

Nadler has done his best to avoid fulfilling his promise to Rep. John Conyers (D-MI). On the House floor, he decried the Issa amendment barring funds from ACORN as an unconstitutional “bill of attainder,” which demonstrates Nadler’s ignorance as well as his obstinance.  A bill of attainder creates a judgment of criminal or civil guilt by Congress rather than by a jury, making justice a political battle, which is why the founders were smart enough to proscribe the practice from the very start of the republic.

Congress has every right, however, to determine where it will and will not spend its money.  ACORN is not entitled to federal funding, and Congress can halt funds to it at any time its members so desire.  Such a finding does not carry a legal weight of conviction for violations, and indeed Congress doesn’t necessarily need to justify itself along those lines.  In fact, it would be the height of irresponsibility to allow taxpayer funds to go to an organization that had been caught on tape in several locations and instances giving advice on how to commit crimes and cover them up, including evasion of the very taxes that allow ACORN’s funding in the first place.

If Nadler is so concerned about the idea of a “bill of attainder,” then he should start a Congressional inquiry — with subpoena power for both sides — into ACORN’s business practices.

Update: John Conyers has now announced that he wants a Congressional investigation of ACORN — and of O’Keefe and Giles:

Conyers and House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank of Massachusetts asked the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service today to provide an analysis on several aspects of ACORN, including any current or previous criminal investigations into the group; a breakdown of any funding received by the group and any violations of the terms of that funding; a report on alleged improprieties in collecting voter registration forms and “the extent … that resulted in people being improperly placed on voting roles and actually attempting to vote,” and the group’s programs to provide housing opportunities.

It also asked for a report on private sting activities “in which individuals have reportedly visited ACORN offices, misrepresented their identities and proposed activities, surreptitiously videotaped resulting conversations with ACORN workers, and widely distributed them.”

The letter went onto say, “Conflicting allegations have been made about the propriety of these activities. Please research and report on the federal and state laws that could apply to such videotaping and distribution of conversations without the consent of all parties.”

Yes, because the big issue here is a journalistic strategy that has been in place for the last several decades, used by all of broadcast networks and most local stations, and never before questioned by Congress.  Let’s put undercover jounalistic sting operations at the same law-enforcement priority as tax evasion, child prostitution, and human trafficking, by all means.