“Dozens of Miami property owners who rent their homes and duplexes to visitors through home-sharing platform Airbnb spent all day at City Hall on Thursday pleading with city officials to buck a legal opinion declaring their business an illegal nuisance. Instead, Miami commissioners reaffirmed that position in a 3-2 vote, threatened to sue Airbnb for promoting clandestine activity, and then told the hosts who placed their names and addresses on the record that they had outed themselves to code compliance.” [Miami Herald, Eric Boehm/Reason]
Here’s a letter to the editor I sent to the Washington Post that they didn’t publish, responding to a piece by their business columnist Steven Pearlstein.
To the editor:
Steven Pearlstein (Dec. 2) writes with apparent approval of the prospect that President Trump will “make an example of a runaway company by sending in the tax auditors or the OSHA inspectors or cancelling a big government contract. It won’t matter that, two years later, these highly publicized retaliations are thrown out by a federal judge somewhere. Most companies …will find a way to conform to the new norm.”
I was reminded of Paul Farhi’s revealing story in the Post last March about Donald Trump’s prolonged, losing libel suit against reporter Timothy O’Brien. Per that report, Trump “said in an interview that he knew he couldn’t win the suit but brought it anyway to make a point. “I spent a couple of bucks on legal fees, and they spent a whole lot more. I did it to make his life miserable, which I’m happy about.”
The knowing use of a flimsy legal case to retaliate or intimidate, to inflict punishments or extract concessions a judge would never have ordered, is no more excusable when aimed at other sorts of businesses and professionals than when aimed at the press and reporters. In both cases it is wrong, it sets a bullying example to others, and it endangers the impartial rule of law.
(cross-posted from Cato at Liberty)
- When government uses regulation to retaliate against someone’s politics, relief shouldn’t depend on whether the harassment would have silenced an ordinary citizen [Ilya Shapiro, Trevor Burrus, and Thomas Berry, Cato]
- More thoughts on the constitutional amendment process [Mike Rappaport, Liberty and Law] To what extent did Antonin Scalia’s thinking on Article V constitutional conventions change over the years? [Josh Blackman on this 1979 AEI roundtable, Paulette Rakestraw and Mead Treadwell/Ricochet] I debated the issue in April in St. Louis [Show-Me Institute] “Conservative groups pushing for a constitutional convention are just six states short of their goal.” [ABA Journal]
- D.C. Circuit panel, Judge Brett Kavanaugh writing, strikes down structure of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) as unconstitutional [Thaya Brook Knight, Ira Stoll back in 2013]
- Sounds like the ACLU’s internal “Civil Liberties Caucus,” as it’s been nicknamed, continues to lose clout within the org [David Meyer Lindenberg, Fault Lines]
- It’s not just Baltimore: unreasonable and unconstitutional police searches are common [Steve Chapman]
- A curious subject of academic wrath: constitutional “extremism” [Scott Greenfield]
How would one go about “tyrant-proofing” the U.S. presidency, after years in which many were happy to cheer the expansion of White House power so long as the office was held by someone *they* liked? Key point in Ben Wittes’s 3-part series at Lawfare: the hardest to tyrant-proof are not the extraordinary and covert national security powers held by the chief executive, but the everyday powers over the Department of Justice and regulatory agencies [parts one, two, three].
More: Neither Donald Trump nor his progressive opponents have shown themselves loyal to the principle of the rule of law [John McGinnis, Liberty and Law] Nature of the Presidency lends itself to authoritarianism and despite retrenchment under Coolidge and Ike, that’s been the trend for a century or more [Arnold Kling] And quoting William & Mary lawprof Neal Devins: “A President Trump could say, ‘I’m going to use the Obama playbook’ and go pretty far.” [Marc Fisher, Washington Post] And: Tyler Cowen on FDR, McCarthy, the politics of the 1930s-50s, and “our authoritarians” versus “their authoritarians.”
Do you think Donald Trump is the first U.S. politico to menace publishers over bad coverage? Not even close. My new Cato piece cites a few examples from a depressingly long history. Plus: reprinted at Newsweek.
Bonus: Sen. Sherman Minton (D-Ind.) who put forth the remarkable proposal to make it “a crime to publish anything as a fact anything known to be false,” and who had led a Senate committee’s investigation of the Gannett newspaper chain over its (then) Republican-leaning politics, was later nominated by President Harry Truman to be an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, where he served for seven years and became a leading exponent of judicial deference to the executive branch.
Hey, Denver city councilors: nixing an airport concession to punish Chick-fil-A for its politics is a blatant First Amendment violation [Jonathan Adler, Denver Post; earlier on mayors-vs.-Chick-fil-A here, here (diversity of views within ACLU), here, etc., and my writing elsewhere] In Board of Commissioners, Wabaunsee County v. Umbehr (1996), the Supreme Court found that under the First Amendment, while some balancing tests and exceptions are applicable, the government is not broadly free to withhold business from independent contractors based on disapproval of those contractors’ speech on issues of public concern. Note also the more recent round in which Boston and New York City officials vowed retaliation against Donald Trump after controversial remarks.
- Former NYT Peking correspondent Richard Bernstein, who now co-owns two nail salons, challenges Times blockbuster on prevalence of labor exploitation at NYC salons [New York Review of Books, Elizabeth Nolan Brown and followup, Times rebuttal. More: Bernstein rejoinder]
- More details on how studios used Mississippi attorney general’s office as cut-out against Google [Mike Masnick, TechDirt, earlier here and here, more on AG Jim Hood]
- Of course licensing laws “are only there to protect consumers and are enforced in a totally neutral way that has nothing to do with viewpoints or political pull (lol).” [Coyote on Boston mayor’s “not welcome in our town” message to Donald Trump]
- Speaking of Donald Trump, would his lawyer threaten litigation to intimidate reporter Tim Mak? Only in a totally classy way [Daily Beast, S.E. Cupp/New York Daily News (Cohen, 2011: “I’m going to come at you, grab you by the neck and I’m not going to let you go until I’m finished”), earlier from the vaults on Trump’s use of litigation]
- Things class-action lawyers sue over: “Beggin’ Strips Don’t Have Enough Bacon” [Reuters, New York Post]
- As Lois Lerner targeting scandal drags on, time for Congress to impeach IRS officials? [Mike Rappaport, Liberty and Law]
- Welcome to AFFH-land: Bharara, on behalf of feds, says Westchester County should pay for not squeezing Chappaqua hard enough to approve housing project [Journal-News, earlier here and here]
If Donald Trump ever wants to build a hotel in Boston, he’ll need to apologize for his comments about Mexican immigrants first, the Hub’s mayor said.
“I just don’t agree with him at all,” Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh told the Herald yesterday. “I think his comments are inappropriate. And if he wanted to build a hotel here, he’d have to make some apologies to people in this country.”
More on the use of permitting, licensing, and other levers of power to punish speech and the exercise of other legal rights at Overlawyered’s all-new regulatory retaliation tag. And no, I’m not exactly thrilled with Mayor Walsh for making me take Trump’s side in an argument.
P.S. Now the NYC sequel, from Mayor Bill de Blasio: no more city contracts for the guy with the wrong opinions [The Hill] And welcome readers from the Foundation for Economic Education, which generously calls this blog “indispensable.”
“According to CNN investigative reporter Drew Griffin, the White House is pressuring trade associations and insurance providers to keep quiet about the changes the Affordable Care Act is creating for some people’s health coverage plans. One industry official told CNN on the record that the White House is applying ‘massive pressure’ to combat the impression that the ACA is resulting in the cancellation of some plans.” [Mediaite]
This is not the first time, or the tenth, I’ve heard about regulated entities feeling pressure to shut up about things that might embarrass the regulators they answer to. These stories did not begin with the Obama administration and I don’t think they’ll end with it. Quite aside from whatever we think of ObamaCare itself, shouldn’t they disturb us? And can anything be done about it? Following media attention to the plight of “whistleblowers” in the workplace, lawmakers have created fairly elaborate procedures intended to identify and remedy cases of retaliation against federal employees who speak up about problems they notice, procedures that in some instances have also been extended to some private-sector employees. Should there be procedures aimed at unearthing and rectifying retaliation against regulated entities, too, when they blow the whistle? Or would that be too easily manipulated by regulated entities in search of profit, revenge, or point-making?
- I joined hosts Mark Newgent and Andrew Langer of RedMaryland on their BlogTalkRadio show Monday evening to talk about the Chick-Fil-A furor, the efforts of politicians in Boston and Chicago to use regulatory permissions to push the company around, and the resulting lessons for political and economic freedom; I went on to discuss my efforts to rally opinion in favor of Maryland’s new same-sex marriage law. You can listen here or here (UStream).
- Relatedly, here is Ted Frank’s comment: “Every chicken sandwich you don’t buy deprives anti-gay organizations of approximately $0.0001. Probably less than that. Or, you can do what I did and donate some real money that might actually make a difference to [Marylanders for Marriage Equality] to campaign about the gay marriage initiative on the ballot in that state.”
- “Unwise…won’t work.” The New York Times, oft indignant on other topics, seems rather tepid in criticizing the various city halls’ attacks on speech;
- No united flock: the restaurants in question, many run by strong-minded independent franchisees, seem to be politically a various bunch themselves.
- Speaking of non-united flocks, I think the ACLU’s Illinois affiliate may have a thing or two to teach its Massachusetts affiliate. Following the Chicago alderman’s threats to block the restaurant, ACLU of Illinois attorney Adam Schwartz was both forceful and correct: “what the government cannot do is to punish someone for their words. … We believe this is clear cut.” On the other hand, Carol Rose of the ACLU of Massachusetts strangely dismissed the Boston controversy as “little more than a war of words – which is protected by the First Amendment as core speech,” as if the Mayor had merely subjected the sandwich chain to a volley of verbal abuse, without more. Perhaps Ms. Rose wrote the piece while glancing only at Mayor Menino’s official letter to Dan Cathy, which stays generally within “war of words” territory, and was unaware of the July 20 coverage in the Boston Herald, which quoted Menino thus: “If they need licenses in the city, it will be very difficult — unless they open up their policies.” That’s no more a mere “war of words” than “If you run that editorial, I’ll have you arrested.”
- More coverage: Tom Palmer Cato podcast; Hans Bader of CEI First Amendment analysis; David Boaz, Roger Pilon and Brad Smith at Politico; must-read Glenn Greenwald column; earlier here, etc.
- And: “By handing Chick-fil-A a valid grievance, Menino and his ilk rallied popular support for the company” [Josh Barro, Boston Globe]
- Yet more: Pressure group friendly to Chicago alderman filed antidiscrimination complaint based on chain execs’ speech [Volokh; HuffPo (“negotiation”)] Some further thoughts on where the First Amendment’s relevant in the whole affair, and where it isn’t [Jim Huffman, Daily Caller]