Here’s something you likely haven’t heard about but need to know: last month, the Attorney General of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Claude E. Walker, subpoenaed the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) of Washington, D.C.
CEI’s mission states that they provide an “uncompromising case for economic freedom in order to allow entrepreneurship, innovation, and prosperity to flourish.” They have been described as “one of Washington’s feistiest think tanks” and have gained a reputation for their unwavering commitment to science-based research, whether on global warming or Genetically Modified Organisms.
The subpoena is seeking nearly a decade’s worth of writing and research conducted by CEI relating to climate change. This is the latest and scariest tactic by some of the left to criminalize free speech and research on climate change policy. CEI’s General Counsel, Sam Kazman, responded to this latest attack by saying that “[T]his subpoena is a blatant attack on our First Amendment rights of free speech and association.” But actually it is much, much more than that.
Earlier this year, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, former Vice President Al Gore, and attorneys general from Massachusetts, Virginia, Connecticut, Maryland, Vermont as well as Attorney General Walker, “held a press conference in New York City to announce ‘an unprecedented coalition of top law enforcement officials committed to aggressively protecting and building upon the recent progress the United States has made in combating climate change.’ Schneiderman said that the group, calling itself ‘AGs United for Clean Power’ will address climate change by threating criminal investigations and charges against companies, policy organizations, scientists, and others who disagree with its members’ climate policy agenda.”
CEI fought back quickly and decisively regarding the subpoena but it’s clear that some on the left seek to use McCarthy-like tactics to stifle public debate on the most contentious issues facing our nation. “The public needs to understand the threat to our precious First Amendment rights, as well as to deliberative democracy, when scientists, think tanks, and private businesses are persecuted for their views” said the CEO of CEI.
This is the most recent attack as opponents test-market various methods of harassing and silencing those policies and organizations with which they disagree. Some legislators in Minnesota seek to silence opposition to their doctrine by imposing an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution that would require disclosure of contributions and expenditures made by certain non-profit organizations that seek to educate the public about issues and legislative votes. The authors of this amendment propose that state government maintain a public database of donors to these organizations that could result in the harassment of citizens who support those organizations. That means that when you make a donation to organizations such as Planned Parenthood or Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life your private information (name, home address, contribution amount) would become public data and would exist in perpetuity on a government database.
In today’s polarized political environment, more and more individuals have suffered violent threats, harassment, and property damage as a result of unnecessary donor disclosure regulations imposed upon them by government officials who seek to silence their opponents. The U.S. Supreme Court has a long history of protecting all Americans and their rights to free speech and association -whether it be donors to the NAACP in the Jim Crow South during the 1950s or citizens like you and me who support organizations and causes with our donations today.
Attempts to silence political opposition by amending the state constitution would shred the protections of the First Amendment, stifle political dissent and allow elected and appointed government officials to control political speech. It’s up to each of us to fight any restrictions on free speech, association or dissent – whether we agree or disagree with what is being said. Let’s hope the legislature and our government officials don’t believe the false messages being peddled in this important debate and that they ignore those who would seek to limit our ability to write, research and speak freely in Minnesota.