Americans have a right to their beliefs without left-wing reproach
Warning: Taking corporate donations may be hazardous to your constitutional freedom of speech.
A case in point is the American Legislative Exchange Council, a Washington-based umbrella group of state legislators from around the nation who work together mostly on conservative economic proposals. Why reinvent the wheel in West Virginia if something works well in Iowa?
Last year, the American Legislative Exchange Council was accused by former White House aide Van Jones, a professed Marxist, of being "racist" because the group backed state laws requiring voters to show a photo ID. Quicker than you can say "duck for cover," the council pulled model voter-ID legislative language from its website. Despite the surrender, the group still lost major corporate sponsors, including Coca-Cola, Mars and Kraft Foods.
Bear in mind that the organization's language is similar to that of Indiana's voter-ID law, which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld in 2008. That law's left-wing challengers presented no credible victims and, more importantly, minority participation actually increased after the law took effect, as it did in Georgia.
When you give in to a bully, it's an invitation to more abuse. Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, is currently using outrage over Trayvon Martin's death as a club against companies and nonprofits that have donated to American Legislative Exchange Council. The senator wrote a letter to the organizations on Aug. 6 "seeking clarification" as to whether they currently fund the council and if they support its model "stand your ground" legislation. The bill basically says that people have a right to self-defense. Leftists are relentlessly conflating such laws with the circumstances of Trayvon's tragic death.
Never mind that Florida's "stand your ground" law was not even a factor in the state's unsuccessful prosecution of George Zimmerman. The left and its media allies are employing the Saul Alinsky strategy to "pick the target, freeze it, personalize and polarize it" because it works so well.
It also doesn't matter whether the corporations care a whit about "stand your ground" laws. Just being accused is enough to send them into the tall grass.
This is the reason Democrats have been pushing "transparency" laws that would expose major political donors to media crucifixion until they stop funding conservatives. The American Legislative Exchange Council responded to Mr. Durbin's bullying in a letter, calling his tactics "eerily similar" to the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of Tea Parties and other conservative groups.
Mr. Durbin is particularly good at painting awful pictures of people. In June 2005, on the Senate floor, he compared American troops' treatment of terrorism-suspect detainees at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to horrors committed by the worst mass-murdering regimes of the past 100 years:
"If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control," he said, citing an FBI report, "you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others — that had no concern for human beings."
When confronted angrily by senators of both parties, he stuck to his guns at first, and then apologized, sort of. You be the judge: "Sadly, we have a situation here where some in the right-wing media say I've been insulting men and women in uniform," he said. "Nothing could be farther from the truth."
He then conceded that Guantanamo was not in the same league as the Nazis and communists, but that "it was no exaggeration" to say that the interrogation techniques were unbecoming for the United States. On that point, he would get a lot of agreement, except, perhaps, from families of Sept. 11 victims.
For those attending schools that teach that history began with Barack Obama's election, when the seas stopped rising and the planet began healing, here's some perspective.
During the 20th century, the Nazis killed 6 million Jews and another few million Christians and others and laid waste to much of Europe. They conducted hideous medical experiments that defy decent description.
Twenty million died under Vladimir Lenin and Josef Stalin in the communist Soviet Union, including millions of Ukrainians who were deliberately starved to death. Cambodian dictator Pol Pot executed more than 2 million of his countrymen in that small, Southeast Asian nation that became collateral damage when America pulled out of Vietnam. Some people died in Cambodia's killing fields just for the crime of wearing eyeglasses. The authorities thought they might be too well-read to be good communists.
All that said, if you're running a business, and a guy such as Mr. Durbin turns his inquiring mind to what you've funded lately, you can scarcely be blamed for imagining the most lurid headlines associated with your business. It's a credible threat.
The folks funding the American Legislative Exchange Council should take heart and stand their ground, as Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, has strongly encouraged. A recent editorial in The Washington Times echoed Mr. Cruz, saying, "Foundations, corporations and plain citizens have the right to support political causes of their choice without fear of reprisal from the government, or even from a U.S. senator."
More and more Americans are getting tired of being called names merely for not going along with the latest liberal schemes to divide us. They're looking for someone to stand up to the bullies.
Robert Knight is a senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a contributor to The Washington Times.