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Do-gooders Mobilize Against Free Speech

A Commentary By Debra J. Saunders

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Forget all that talk about bipartisan civility. When some 200 conservatives showed up for a weekend conference hosted by the libertarian-leaning industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch in Rancho Mirage, Calif., there was no welcome wagon. Instead, seminar attendees were met by close to 1,000 activists protesting the meeting and waving banners. News reports showed a swastika and cute slogans like: "Quarantine the Kochs" and "Koch kills."

Greenpeace hired a blimp with pictures of the Koch brothers and the words "Dirty Money." The Center for American Progress mobilized. The liberal watchdog group Common Cause held a panel.

If there was soul-searching from the left-leaning activists about tone, it was not immediately apparent.

Common Cause spokesperson Mary Boyle made the reasonable point that when there is a big demonstration that is supposed to be a "peaceful and respectful event," you can't control who shows up.

That's true, but I still have to wonder why a group that says it stands for good government would protest other people, albeit conservatives, talking to each other. Or would participate in an event that culminated with activists trespassing on the Koch assembly.

Others have written on the bald hypocrisy of progressives barking about the unseemliness of what they dismiss as the "billionaire's caucus." After all, Common Cause has accepted funds from left-leaning billionaire George Soros.

The difference? Citing the Kochs' global warming skepticism and opposition to cap-and-trade legislation, Boyle answered, "Our take would be that our good government issues are not killing people ." (My italics.)

Translation: The Koch brothers are conservative.

Alas, the anti-meeting protest was the least of the organization's transgressions. Last month, Common Cause sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking the Department of Justice to investigate whether Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas should have recused themselves in the 2010 Citizens United case. The court found that unions and corporations could donate directly to political campaigns. The Koch brothers were on the winning side. Each of the justices once had spoken at a Koch brothers event. Launch the Inquisition.

Would it be a conflict for a justice to have talked to Common Cause? No. "We don't engage in electoral politics, so the political prohibition would not apply," explained Common Cause attorney Arn Pearson.

But Common Cause is partisan, like the Koch brothers.

Pearson could not name an instance when the Justice Department investigated a Supreme Court justice because of a ruling. Nor did he seem concerned with the invasive nature of an administration questioning the judiciary -- about a ruling that the executive branch opposed.

No worries, Pearson explained. The feds probably wouldn't have to interrogate Scalia or Thomas. They could question Koch associates or employees at resorts where the events were held.

There is no such thing as one investigation in America. If Republican-appointed justices sit in the hot seat, then be assured, Democrat-appointed justices will warm it later.

All hail the new civility.


See Other Political Commentary

See Other Commentary by Debra J. Saunders

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