The Prosecution (Never) Rests: The Left’s Criminalization of Political Opposition Is a Dangerous Game
Guest Contributor TheOneSoleShoe
Senator Joseph McCarthy used to represent a model the Left opposed
Not many people know that I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby was innocent.
I do not mean “Not Guilty” but actually innocent of the charges for which he was investigated and later convicted. In fact, at the time Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald interviewed him, Mr. Fitzgerald was well aware that the actual leaker of CIA employee Valerie Plame’s name to the press was then Deputy Secretary of State Richard “Dick” Armitage. That knowledge should have ended any further inquiry into the matter for which Mr. Fitzgerald was tasked by Congress to investigate.
But alas, Scooter Libby, adviser to Vice President Cheney, was sentenced to 30 months in prison not for outing a CIA agent, a crime he was never charged with, but for allegedly making false statements to a federal investigator. However, as Peter Berkowitz chronicled (1) this conviction was based almost entirely on the recollection of Tim Russert. Russert initially told the FBI he “could not recall” mentioning Plame’s name on a phone call but “could not rule it out.” A year later he was certain he had never mentioned Plame’s name. The conviction was carried four years later, supported only by the discrepancy in the two men’s accounts of a single conversation. Mr. Armitage, being a critic of the Bush administration on the Iraq War, was left uncharged with any crime.
Libby was prosecuted as a whipping post for the Bush Administration by the Left. Unable to bring war crimes charges against the Bush administration and frustrated by their inability to get Bush to resign despite overwhelming help from the Media, they sought avenues with more teeth like the judicial system. As a result, Scooter Libby became a bona fide political prisoner. This is unfortunately not an outlier event.
A couple of more talented pundits have written recently on the Left’s use of government prosecutorial authority to achieve political ends. Robert Tracinski wrote of the recent case of Bill Nye pushing to prosecute people who spoke against his understanding of climate change. Kevin Williamson took note of this effort as well, with notable figures calling for imprisonment under RICO laws for people who depart from the Left’s orthodoxy on global warming. A US Virgin Islands prosecutor followed through on this precise idea. (He has since pulled the indictment but the message was sent.) In addition, Williamson recounted how Senators such as Elizabeth Warren have put pressure on the Securities and Exchange Commission to punish businesses who lobby against regulations “fraudulently,” in Senator Warren’s opinion:
“Senator Warren charges that the businesses in question exaggerate the costs of regulations when lobbying against them in public and do not do so when communicating with investors and shareholders — which is to say, she wants to make a felony out of what amounts to at most hyperbole or political spin.”
But wait, there’s more!
Rick Perry battled for 2 years against a prosecution based solely upon his use of veto while governor of Texas. Yes, really.
Donors to Scott Walker’s campaign and various conservative activists were hounded for years in Wisconsin by an overzealous state prosecutor named John Chisolm who wanted to know the degree of coordination between these groups, acts which were not crimes. Midnight raids, subpoenas issued with gag orders, all for participating in democracy. The Wisconsin Supreme Court finally put an end to the matter last year.
Churches are being taken to court by the state of California to pay fines, which could lead to prison should they refuse to pay those fines, for failing to provide for birth control and abortifacient medications, which run counter to their bona fide religious beliefs, in their health insurance plans. Despite the clear contravention to federal law, the Obama Administration’s Department of Justice has opted to take no action. The Left does not like to think of civil fines and the like being equated to criminal prosecution of course – it’s just part of the friendly community encouraging people to do the right thing. But, ultimately, someone with a gun hauls you to prison for refusing to comply. No one on the Left doubts that the religious belief involved here is bona fide or widespread; they simply do not care.
Flower shops in Colorado and bakers in Oregon have been required to pay onerous fines – some in excess of one hundred thousand dollars, along with their own expensive attorney’s fees, for their refusal to provide services for gay weddings in violation of their beliefs.
The IRS famously used the weapons at its disposal to bring pressure against conservative groups from forming as nonprofits in the two years leading up to the 2012 election. Barack Obama won that election if you’ll recall. It was not technically criminal prosecution, but the penalties for providing false information, even if collected improperly, to the IRS are criminal in nature. The DOJ has not brought charges against any individual involved at the IRS.
The Center for Medical Progress recently uncovered gross abuse and felonious conduct, including the sale for profit of aborted fetus parts, at Planned Parenthood, one of the Left’s more revered institutions. Aside from the Media quashing the story under false pretenses, the Harris County, TX (another Democratic stronghold in Texas) prosecutor’s office decided to bring charges, not against PP, but against CMP itself. The message of course is: don’t go after one of our Sacred Cows. President Obama’s Department of Justice has not brought federal charges against Planned Parenthood.
Just ask Catherine Englebrecht what happens when you try to form a conservative nonprofit. Her family’s small business had the EPA, OSHA, IRS, and ATF sicced on it only after she formed “True The Vote,” a conservative activist organization.
These cases represent more than mere statistical error instances of gross injustice. Rather, taken as a whole, they indicate a trend of using the justice system, or threat thereof, to crush political opponents when the Left fails to succeed in either the marketplace of ideas or the political arena. This is, of course, the sum of all fears for Conservatives and why we hold the views of limited government we do. Using the criminal justice system, notoriously loaded in favor of the prosecution as it is, to silence and intimidate political dissent is, de facto, the end of our Republic. That is not hyperbole.
We can counter these abuses by introducing Civil Rights legislation nationally – providing further recourse under 42 U.S. Code § 1983 and stripping prosecutors of judicially-crafted immunity who engage in this sort of flagrant misconduct, perhaps allowing for personal liability and criminal sanctions in such cases. But that this step would even be necessary is a sign that something is rotten in the United States.
No, what is more worrisome and saddening is that our fellow citizens are seeking to do this, or sanctioning the activities, in the first place. The prosecutors and government officials are merely playing to the crowd in hopes of furthering their careers while the silence from the Left on these injustices is deafening. (The only search result on Vox for the John Doe prosecutions is a defense of the prosecution, naturally.) The matters may be reported in a traditional “Republicans/Democrats Say” format but even that is a tell for affirming the underlying prosecutorial activity by refusing to condemn it. Where are the public outcries that surely would take place were the positions reversed? Where are the hand-wringing editorials like this one about the future of a democracy in which disagreement can mean facing indictment and/or heavy civil penalties? We still hear about Hollywood blacklists and witch hunts during the McCarthy era, but it’s crickets for a over a decade on more recent abuses. I suppose it’s not a problem if the right people are doing it to the wrong people?
The Left should make all bipartisan efforts to end these practices before the situation devolves. Or else the only remedy the Right will have will left will be to respond in kind.
(1) Berkowitz, Peter. “The False Evidence Against Scooter Libby.” Wall Street Journal. April 6, 2015
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