WHEN the American Civil Liberties Union defends the rights of pedophiles to discuss child-molesting strategies, some liberals will loudly defend the ACLU for its supposed commitment to constitutionally protected free speech. But when political conservatives spend money to oppose liberal goals, everything changes.
In 2000, the ACLU defended the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) when the parents of Jeffrey Curley, a 10-year-old Massachusetts boy, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit seeking damages from the group for the 1997 rape and murder of their son. One of the boy’s killers had accessed NAMBLA literature discussing how to attain children’s trust, gain access to children and avoid the police.
The ACLU argued the lawsuit was designed to stifle the dissemination of NAMBLA’s unpopular beliefs. Citing U.S. Supreme Court cases from the 1960s that protected the NAACP’s civil rights activities in the South, ACLU attorneys vowed to block any effort to force public release of NAMBLA’s membership lists. The ACLU succeeded in getting the lawsuit dismissed.
Contrast that with the California Fair Political Practices Commission’s recent targeting (and fining) of conservative groups.
Americans for Responsible Leadership, based in Arizona, donated millions to the Small Business Action Committee, an organization opposing a California tax increase initiative and supporting a measure to reduce labor unions’ ability to collect dues for political activity. After initially balking, Americans for Responsible Leadership revealed its contribution came from the Center to Protect Patient Rights, which opposed Obamacare. The Center to Protect Patient Rights had previously gotten money from Freedom Partners, which has been financially supported by Charles and David Koch, two businessmen brothers active in free-market causes. Thus, liberals saw a scheme to hide the Koch brothers’ participation.
Left unsaid was that the nonprofit groups are not legally required to identify individual donors. And never mind that the Koch brothers deny any involvement in the California initiatives. A Freedom Partners spokesman said the group didn’t provide support to anyone directly involved in the California propositions.
Basically, this was a political version of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” a game that posits everyone in Hollywood has at least worked with someone who worked with someone else who did a movie with actor Kevin Bacon.
Yet Commission Chairwoman Ann Ravel boldly declared, “This case highlights the nationwide scourge of dark money nonprofit networks hiding the identities of their contributors.” Dark money. Apparently, free speech anonymity is for pedophiles, not conservative citizens.
Almost simultaneously, it was announced that billionaire financier George Soros was supporting a political action committee dedicated to electing Hillary Clinton as president. Officials with the Ready for Hillary super PAC aren’t disclosing the number of people serving on the PAC’s council. Yet no one is bashing that anonymity or accusing Soros and the Hillary PAC of spreading “dark money.”
Political candidates should have to report the source of their campaign contributions, but citizens should be free to exercise their free-speech rights by independently supporting political causes with their time and money.
If the California case is a portent of things to come — and it could be since Ravel has now joined the Federal Election Commission — we may be left with a weakened constitutional safeguard: a First Amendment that imposes few limits on the speech activities of child molesters, but provides limited protection for those engaged in legitimate political debate.