“Dems Assigned Conservative Groups to Attack on Senate Floor”

Are you now, or have you ever been, a supporter of the Hoover Institution, the Mercatus Center, the Heritage Foundation, or the Acton Institute? Lachlan Markay, Free Beacon:

Democratic senators have been assigned conservative nonprofit groups to call out by name on the chamber floor in speeches on Monday and Tuesday criticizing corporations and advocacy groups for opposing Democratic climate policies, internal emails reveal.

…[Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon] Whitehouse and his allies, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), have crafted a schedule for floor speeches on Monday and Tuesday that assigns each participating Senator at least one group to go after by name.

Most of the groups have already been targeted by state Democratic officials that have undertaken a coordinated legal campaign against oil giant ExxonMobil since last year. Many were named in subpoenas sent to the company by state attorneys general as part of that effort.

The ringmaster, once again, is Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island — yes, that Sheldon Whitehouse, whose hometown Providence Journal rightly called out his current campaign to sic the law on improper climate opinion as likely to “have a chilling effect on free speech, by intimidating dissenters into silence.” The leader on the House side is Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), also getting to be a familiar name.

One reason this is more sinister than your ordinary political sideshow: the proposed concurrent resolution urges right-leaning nonprofits “to cooperate with active or future investigations” of purportedly unlawful opinion-slinging. One of the most junior senators, Gary Peters of Michigan, apparently drew the short straw in the heresy posse and was assigned to attack my own Cato Institute (which publishes this site) at 6:30 this evening.

The senators participating in this appalling exercise besides Sens. Whitehouse, Reid, and Peters, all Democrats, are Sens. Ben Cardin of Maryland, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Barbara Boxer of California, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, Chuck Schumer of New York, Al Franken of Minnesota, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Tom Udall of New Mexico, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, and Chris Coons of Delaware.

Some early reactions: “All that is lacking are their public confessions” — Ronald Bailey at Reason (whose associated Reason Foundation is among the targets). “‘Assigned’ groups to attack? That sounds like middle school mean girl behavior.” [C.B. on Facebook] Peter Roff at U.S. News on how the Senators can’t (yet) make dissent illegal but can make it costly. And a reminder: the “Exxon Knew” crowd knew Whitehouse’s RICO-for-speech theory was wrong because their own allies had told them, but went ahead anyway.

More, Matt Welch at Reason:

…Since the targets of this shaming exercise are not being afforded the courtesy to rebut the charges in the forum at which they are being smeared, consider this a prebuttal…

This coordinated campaign would be an assault on free speech even if it were not drenched in conspiratorial inaccuracy. Democratic lawmakers, attorneys general, and activists are systematically singling out free-market think tanks for potential criminal prosecution and one-sided disclosure requirements based on the content of the think tanks’ research and commentary. They are literally trying to criminalize dissent. If successful, they will establish as “fraud” or “racketeering” any future think-tank work that runs afoul of political orthodoxy. …

Sadly, this heavy-handed act of government intimidation will likely go as unnoticed as Hillary Clinton’s long track record against free speech. Why? Because generally speaking both the mainstream press and the organized left reserve their First Amendment outrage for politicians they disagree with. Their silence is shameful, and deafening.

The senators’ action this week is no hyperbolic one-off: Prosecuting ungood climatology is baked right into the Democratic Party Platform. The two major Democratic nominees for president agree.

[Updated to correct error on Lachlan Markay’s name, sorry]


  • Your confusion will disappear, citizens, when you realize that “the freedom of speech, or of the press,” are *collective* rights, as in the Stalin Constitution and the Brezhnev Constitution. The people express these rights through their government, which tells them all they need to know. Some comrades have suggested that “free” speech and press implies thear government should provide newspapers and live broadcasts of the Great Leader’s wisdom to homes and workplaces free of charge, but that point is not settled.

  • Ever since he entered the US Senate demanding prosecution of Bush-era officials, US Sen Sheldon Whitehouse has reminded me of the fictional Sen Fred Van Ackerman, bad guy in Allen Drury’s “Advise and Consent.” If the Senate Republicans had a brain and a backbone, they would move to censure him for attacks on free speech and press incompatible with his Senatorial oath.

  • […] of legal action is “one reason this is more sinister than your ordinary political sideshow,” according to Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, another of the Senate Democrats’ […]

  • Bullies and cowards. Switch the party of the Senators and the label/political leanings of the targeted groups and imagine the outcry. Not hyperbole to characterize this as criminalization of dissent. My fear is that Hilary’s SCOTUS appointees would be just fine with this..

    • What makes you imagine that Trump appointees would not also be fine with that?

      Trump has repeatedly filed frivolous or at least dubious lawsuits against his critics.

  • Unlike terrorism, climate change is a real and significant threat to the future of our civilization. If constraints on free expression are necessary to stop the spreading of pseudoscience, then so be it. The country’s been made better off by the reduction of smoking associated with what happened to the tobacco industry. The same will occur when the transition to renewable energy begins in earnest. As for the effect of the precedent, I am not concerned about the “freedom” to spew propaganda and lies that have not been peer-reviewed and are used to deceive the public.

    • Troll level: Grandmaster. Well done, sir.

    • But let’s assume he’s not a troll and really believes this nonsense . . . .

      I’d like to know what the contours are of banned speech.

      Can I lawfully point out that natural processes withdraw prodigious amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere?

      Am I allowed to point out that the models haven’t accurately predicted temperatures?

      Am I allowed to point out that Michael Mann falsely claimed to be a Nobel Laureate?

      Am I allowed to point out that we don’t know that global warming is necessarily “net net” bad?

      Am I allowed to ask whether the proposed efforts to combat AGCC will be more beneficial than harmful?

      Please tell me, Mr. Brennan—surely you agree that the criminal law has to give people fair warning as to what is criminal and what is not.

    • You mean, like the IPCC report …. The one with what turned out to be doctored data, the ones that haven’t been peer- reviewed because the scientists refused to turn over the raw data.

  • […] one of his top aides organizing a coordinated Senate floor attack on various groups. That led to a new round of criticism of Whitehouse on the right, echoing months of previous assaults on him. But Whitehouse went on the offensive himself this […]