This article was originally published by watchdog.org.
MADISON, Wis. â?? TheÂ Goldwater InstituteÂ on Friday joined a growing chorus of conservative organizations blasting U.S. Sen.Â Dick DurbinÂ for what they see as the Illinois Democratâ??sÂ Joe McCarthy-style interrogation.
â??Have you no sense of decency?â?ť the Goldwater Institute asks Durbin in aÂ responseÂ to the senatorâ??s letter to the institute and hundreds of other companies and organizations, sniffing about for their possible affiliation with theÂ American Legislative Exchange Council.
â??It is the same question we pose to your office today in response to your effort to intimidate us for daring to associate with the free market, limited government organization known as the American Legislative Exchange Council,â?ť writesÂ Darcy Olsen, president of the Phoenix-based conservative think tank that draws its name from the late U.S. senator from Arizona,Â Barry Goldwater.
â??Simply put, especially in the wake ofÂ IRSÂ intimidation and harassment of conservative organizations, your inquisition is an outrage,â?ť Olsen continues in the letter to Durbin.
â??Your letter â?¦ is an obvious effort to intimidate those organizations and individuals who may have been involved in any way withâ?ť ALEC, Allison wrote in aÂ letterÂ Wednesday to the senator.
Cato once was Â funded byÂ David and Charles Koch, the billionaire businessmen who also Â fund ALEC.
While Allison said the think tank wonâ??t be intimidated by Durbinâ??s line of questioning, he said he believes business leaders will now â??hesitate to exercise their constitutional rights for fear of regulatory retribution.â?ť
â??Your letter thus represents a blatant violation of ourÂ First AmendmentÂ rights to freedom of speech and to petition the government for a redress of grievances,â?ť the Cate executive asserts in his letter.
Who are the businesses and nonprofits possibly associating with ALEC? Here are just a few on Durbinâ??s list:
Watchdog.orgâ??s media parent,Â theÂ Franklin Center forÂ GovernmentÂ and Public Integrity,Â also received Durbinâ??s letter.
TheÂ Bill and Melinda Gates FoundationÂ last year announced it would withdraw financial support for ALEC after an activist campaign to separate ALEC from its funders.
The senator asks the entities whether they have given money to or have representatives affiliated with ALEC, and how they feel about a particular gun law.
Durbin spokesmanÂ Max GleischmanÂ toldÂ Watchdog earlier this weekÂ that Durbinâ??s questions seek answers to â??stand your groundâ?ť legislation â?? measures giving legal protections to individuals who shoot home intruders or â??meet force with force.â?ťÂ Durbin plans to convene a hearing of theÂ Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human RightsÂ next month to examine the issue.
â??We sent identical letters to anyone who appears to have been a financial supporter of ALEC following the 2005 adoption of ALECâ??s model â??stand your ground law,â?ť the spokesman said in the email. â??The senatorâ??s hearing is designed to examine so-called stand your ground laws and the constitutional, civil and human rights those laws raise.â?ť
Like the Franklin Center and others, the Goldwater Institute refuses to answer Durbinâ??s questions, which feel like more government intrusion.
â??We refuse to answer not because we disavow ALEC â?? far from it. We refuse to answer because as free Americans, that is our right,â?ť Olsen writes. â??Your attempt to silence your fellow Americans through threats and intimidation because they donâ??t share identical political beliefs is disgraceful and not worthy of the title you hold.â?ť
Contact M.D. Kittle at email@example.com.