Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) has sent letters to corporate and non-profit donors and supporters of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) demanding to know whether these organizations continue to support ALEC and whether they support “Stand Your Ground” laws. ALEC is right-of-center non-profit organization of state legislators that, among other things, develops and promotes model legislation on various issues. One model statute ALEC promoted was a Stand Your Ground law much like the one on the books in Florida. (Indeed, ALEC claims to have based its model statute on the Florida law.) Senator Durbin said he plans to hold a hearing on such laws later this year, and wants to identify supporters and funders of ALEC in the hearing record. Such disclosure is not required by law and, as the Chicago Tribune editorialized, this appears to be an effort to intimidate ALEC supporters: “while the letter acknowledges that recipients have a right to participate in policy debates, Durbin’s intent is transparent: Renounce ALEC, and quit donating money, or I’ll shame you but good.”
The Arizona-based Goldwater Institute is one of the groups that received Senator Durbin’s letter. In response, they told the Senator to “pound sand.” In a public letter, Institute President Darcy Olsen called Durbin’s campaign an “outrage.” The letter reads in part:
especially in the wake of IRS intimidation and harassment of conservative organizations, your inquisition is an outrage.
We refuse to answer whether we are or ever have been a supporter of ALEC or its model legislation. We refuse to answer not because we disavow ALEC—far from it. We refuse to answer because as free Americans, that is our right.
Your attempt to silence your fellow Americans through threats and intimidation because they don’t share identical political beliefs is disgraceful and not worthy of the title you hold.
The Goldwater Institute is correct. Whether or not private organizations or corporations support or support specific policies is none of the Senator’s business. Politico has more here.