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Have You No Sense of Decency, Sen. Durbin?

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Astute Acton readers more than likely are aware already that U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has fired another salvo in the ongoing battle to silence conservative voices. Durbin joins our progressive friends in the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and As You Sow – both involved in proxy shareholder resolutions that would force companies to disclose donations to nonprofits – in their attempts to declare lights-out on the American Legislative Exchange Council.

At issue for Durbin is ALEC’s draft legislation called the “Castle Doctrine Act,” based on Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Apparently, Sen. Durbin doesn’t like either, in much the same fashion ICCR and AYS dislike ALEC’s stand on climate-change, genetically modified organisms, Citizens United  and “Castle Doctrine.”

In his letter sent last week to right-of-center and free-market think tanks across the country, Durbin demands “yes or no” answers. The numbered questions below are lifted directly from the Aug. 6 letter sent to the Center of the American Experiment in Minneapolis:

  1. Has Center of the American Experiment served as a member of ALEC or provided any funding to ALEC in 2013?
  2. Does Center of the American Experiment support the “stand your ground” legislation that was adopted as a national model and promoted by ALEC?

Sen. Dick Durbin
Sen. Dick Durbin
If this resonates with a bit of what progressives like to call McCarthyism or even fascism in its attempt to shut down an entire side of public policy debate in the United States, well … it’s a brand new world, dear readers. Hey, at least Tailgunner Joe claimed he was chasing Commies. Durbin, ICCR and AYS – and a host of other progressives – seem to want the ghettoization of ALEC and any company or organization that doesn’t share the leftist dream of what for many of us is a Hobbesian Leviathan of centralized power.

AYS specifically gets its knickers in a twist over corporate donations to ALEC, saying these donations “can present reputational risks to companies,” and name checks ALEC’s “Castle Doctrine” model legislation “based on Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law that gained national attention after the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin, for instance.” AYS conveniently leaves out that “Stand Your Ground” was never used as a defense or justification for the eventual acquittal of George Zimmerman, and boasts: “In response to investor and grassroots pressure, 42 companies, including Amgen, Bank of America, Coca-Cola, Yum! Brands, evaluated the risk to their corporate reputations compared to any benefits and made the decision to leave ALEC.”

Among the better responses to Durbin’s letter is the following excerpted letter from The Institute for Policy Innovation, based in Lewisville, Texas, written by IPI President Tom Giovanetti:

If freedom of speech and freedom of association mean anything, they mean that we don’t have to answer to you about our speech and about our associations.

The American people have had enough of bullying and intimidation from the Government Class. You have lost track of your commitment to the Constitution and you have lost touch with those you claim to serve. Today, the Government Class lords over the private sector as rulers, rather than as “public servants.” You look after your own interests such that the Government Class has higher incomes, better benefits, and greater job security than those who toil to fund your extravagance and whom you have placed on the hook to bail out the unnecessary programs and unfunded benefits that you have secured for you and yours.

And when groups such as IPI and ALEC point this out and call for a return to constitutional restraints on the size and scope of government, they incur your wrath.

You yourself directed the Internal Revenue Service to investigate specific conservative organizations, which sent a clear signal to the IRS that you wanted them to help silence conservative and Tea Party groups. It is no surprise that you are the source of an attempt to put pressure on ALEC, a 40 year-old organization with an outstanding track record and broad membership from the peoples’ elected state legislators.

At ALEC, legislators exchange ideas about how to make their state pension funds solvent, how to deliver services to their residents in the most efficient and most effective ways possible, and how to create jobs within their states.

I can’t think of any more powerful retort to government overreach in recent memory. In fact, one may have to go all the way back to 1954, when Hale and Dorr attorney Joseph N. Welch lambasted Sen. McCarthy for his attacks on Welch’s subordinate, Fred Fisher:

Until this moment, Senator, I think I have never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Fred Fisher is a young man who went to the Harvard Law School and came into my firm and is starting what looks to be a brilliant career with us. Little did I dream you could be so reckless and so cruel as to do an injury to that lad. It is true he is still with Hale and Dorr. It is true that he will continue to be with Hale and Dorr. It is, I regret to say, equally true that I fear he shall always bear a scar needlessly inflicted by you. If it were in my power to forgive you for your reckless cruelty I would do so. I like to think I am a gentle man but your forgiveness will have to come from someone other than me.

Substitute “ALEC” for “Fisher” in the quote above, and you have a response as spot-on as that given by Giovanetti, until one arrives at Welch’s classic coup de grace:

Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

Bruce Edward Walker has more than 30 years’ writing and editing experience in a variety of publishing areas, including reference books, newspapers, magazines, media relations and corporate speeches. Much of this material involved research on water rights, land use, alternative-technology vehicles and other environmental issues, but Walker has also written extensively on nonscientific subjects, having produced six titles in Wiley Publishing’s CliffsNotes series, including study guides for "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest." He has also authored more than 100 critical biographies of authors and musicians for Gale Research's Contemporary Literary Criticism and Contemporary Musicians reference-book series. Most recently, he was managing editor of The Heartland Institute's InfoTech & Telecom News. Prior to that, he was manager of communications for the Mackinac Center's Property Rights Network. He also served from 2006-2007 as editor of Michigan Science, a quarterly Mackinac Center publication. Walker has served as an adjunct professor of literature and academic writing at University of Detroit Mercy. For the past three years, he has authored a weekly column for the mid-Michigan Morning Sun newspaper. Walker holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Michigan State University. He is the father of two daughters and currently lives in Midland, Mich., with his wife Katherine.

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