Illinois Senator Dick Durbin has been trying to intimidate donors to the American Legislative Exchange Council by telling them to supply information about their support for the group during the time that ALEC’s model “Stand Your Ground” legislation was being passed in state legislatures.
Durbin sent a letter Tuesday to more than 300 members and nonmember companies asking for information about their involvement with ALEC. The move comes ahead of a “stand your ground” hearing Durbin announced following George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting of Trayvon Martin.
“Although ALEC does not maintain a public list of corporate members or donors, other public documents indicate that your company funded ALEC at some point during the period between ALEC’s adoption of model ‘stand your ground’ legislation in 2005 and the present day,” Durbin wrote.
He added that he was seeking “clarification whether companies that have funded ALEC’s operations in the past currently support ALEC and the model ‘stand your ground’ legislation.”
Nice company you have there. Be a shame if something happened to it.
As Politico reports, ALEC is not taking this petty thuggery lying down:
The American Legislative Exchange Council is fighting back against Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin’s push to get companies associated with the group to hand over information over its support of “stand your ground laws.”
The group, which currently is in Chicago for its annual legislative conference, plans to send a letter Monday to Durbin addressing the controversy with some 300 legislators co-signing it, according to a source familiar with the effort.
“Members and donors to 501(c)3 organizations are specifically protected by the Internal Revenue Service and the Supreme Court to shield them from the type of political intimidation found in Sen. Durbin’s letter,” said ALEC first vice chair and Iowa Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer, in a statement.
ALEC is also encouraging members to take to Twitter in an effort to get “#Durbinletter” trending, said that several lawmakers in the House and Senate have offered or are planning media statements and sent an email to its members Friday afternoon to keep them abreast of the situation.
“Stand your Ground” is a hot button issue on the left these days, even though it had absolutely nothing to do with the George Zimmerman trial. Durbin wants to bask a while in the lefty sunshine and thinks that talking tough to those evil corporations who support ALEC as well as ordering hearings where he can harangue company executives for exercising their free speech rights will jack up the base for 2014.
It may backfire on him. This scathing take down of Durbin in the Chicago Tribune left a mark:
So while the letter acknowledges that recipients have a right to participate in policy debates, Durbin’s intent is transparent: Renounce ALEC, and quit donating money, or I’ll shame you but good.
The Journal notes that as Durbin well knows, companies that support ALEC’s economic initiatives don’t care about “stand-your-ground” laws: “His goal is to scare them with reputational damage by mentioning them in the same breath as Trayvon Martin.”
Durbin’s communications director, Max Gleischman, told us Thursday afternoon that the senator’s goal isn’t to silence groups he opposes, but “to find out if groups that support (ALEC) financially agree with (ALEC’s) position on ‘stand your ground’ laws. Simple as that.”
If only thinly coded letters from senators with as much clout as Durbin were that benign. Because it would be more than wrong for a U.S. senator to use the power of his high federal office as a cudgel against his enemies. We’ll give the last word on that to Durbin himself:
“It is absolutely unacceptable to single out any political group — right, left or center — and say we’re going to target them. That is unthinkable. That goes back to some of the worst days of the Richard Nixon administration.”
Zounds. Hoisted on his own petard.
Durbin is a downstate Democrat in Illinois, which is a slightly different beast than his relations upstate in Chicago. But this kind of bullying is not the result of where Durbin cut his political teeth but how he sees himself in his current exalted position as the #2 Democrat in the Senate. Power is useless unless you use it and Durbin’s foray into political thuggery reflects an “ends justifies the means” mindset the left displays all too often.