MacIver News Service | June 6, 2016
[Madison, Wis...] A broad coalition of free market groups have expressed their support for the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) following a subpoena the CEI received demanding documents related to climate change. Thirty-one organizations, including the MacIver Institute, co-signed the letter.
The CEI has been a leader in opposing regulations and policies that free market groups contend would cause great economic harm with little environmental benefit.
Last month, the CEI received a subpoena from Claude Walker, Attorney General for the U.S. Virgin Islands attempting to force the free market public policy organization to hand over all communications between 1997 and 2007 on the subject of climate change.
AG Walker is part of a group called "AGs United for Clean Power," which is made up of 15 state attorneys general and the AG for the District of Columbia. All attorneys general have the power to issue subpoenas, and failure to comply with a subpoena is punishable by law.
The letter in support of free speech expresses the belief of the 31 groups, which represent millions of Americans, that such demands for information by government officials are a blatant violation of the basic rights of Americans.
"This subpoena was an all-out assault on free speech. Forcing the CEI to hand over private information to government officials is an affront to the First Amendment rights of all Americans," the letter states.
"Wisconsinites know too well how terrifying life can be when an overzealous prosecutor attempts to silence those he or she disagrees with," commented Brett Healy, President of the MacIver Institute. "Everyone - Democrat, Republican, conservative, progressive - needs to stand up to these ruthless and unjust attacks on our right to free speech. No matter your political affiliation you must agree that this sort of political tactic happens in Communist China and Russia, not America."
Though the subpoena was eventually withdrawn, the precedent set by such an intrusion of government into the affairs of private organizations threatens the most basic freedoms enshrined in the First Amendment, regardless of the individual's or group's political affiliation, the letter says.
The letter also says the CEI subpoena is also part of a trend of officials using the levers of government to intimidate their opponents.
"Free market and taxpayer groups have been under assault by government officials including the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This is just another example of how the government is engaging in selective targeting based on a political agenda that is meant to intimidate others from participating and engaging in any debate that may run contrast to the position of the current administration," the letter states.
It's also unconstitutional, the coalition's letter asserts. In the landmark case NAACP vs. Alabama, the Supreme Court asserted that the state couldn't compel the NAACP to disclose its membership list to the government.
Read the full letter here.