President Obama has always disliked free speech as a general matter, particularly for those who oppose him. He frequently suggests that those who disagree with him simply lack the power of reason; he constantly attacks those who do not bow to his opinions. In the last month alone he has directly castigated the Supreme Court (it would be “unprecedented,” he said, for them to strike down Obamacare); Rush Limbaugh (he called up Sandra Fluke to tell her how out of line Limbaugh was); and Congress (if they don’t act on whatever it is he wants, he will go it alone).
But he has one problem: the First Amendment does not allow him, as president, to use the power of government to fight his enemies. Obama’s solution to this dilemma lies in 501©3 charitable organizations working in close tandem with the federal government.
Here’s how it works. First, President Obama forges deep and abiding connections with like-minded charitable organizations. These are theoretically supposed to be non-partisan, but they are typically not – they have a direct line to the White House. So, for example, Media Matters for America coordinates routinely with the White House on important issues of the day. And they are experts at initiating so-called secondary boycotts.
Their expertise was honed in the Don Imus affair, as the Daily Caller reported. When Imus made offensive comments about the Rutgers women’s basketball team, Media Matters sprang into action, coordinating with other allies and pushing for a boycott of advertisers on Imus’ show. Soon, Imus was gone.
They quickly moved on to Lou Dobbs. They attempted to force his advertisers to stop buying time on his radio show; in particular, they looked to put pressure on Ford. And they were successful. By November 2009, Dobbs had moved on from CNN, to Media Matters’ delight.
All this time, Media Matters was working with the Obama Administration. Anita Dunn, the White House communications director, met regularly with Media Matters to plot strategy. Media Matters had weekly calls with the White House.
The stage was set. The actors were in place.
Their first joint target was Glenn Beck. While the White House claimed that Fox News wasn’t a “real” news channel, Media Matters worked the back channels, coordinating with Color of Change to “expose Glenn Beck’s racist rhetoric in an effort to educate advertisers about the practices on his show.”
Once again, it had impact: Beck’s advertisers began dropping out. Fox stuck with him anyway, and Beck, being a terrific businessman, came up with alternative revenue strategies. But that didn’t stop the Obama Administration.
Next, they moved into a joint attack on Rush Limbaugh. The Sandra Fluke affair was entirely coordinated from the first. While Rush’s comments on Fluke weren’t expected, they also weren’t particularly controversial – leftists have routinely called conservative women sluts. And Rush quickly apologized for the comment. Nonetheless, the President and his allies in the 501©3 world went into full attack mode, with Media Matters leading the charge, working covertly with third party groups to lead astroturfed boycotts on Rush’s advertising base.
Now Obama is moving his strategy to the next level: he’s targeting major corporations for working with political groups of any stripe. This week, Democratic legislators began calling for a boycott of Coca-Cola over their funding of the American Legislative Exchange Council, which pushes for voter ID laws. The Democratic Party, which courts voter fraud, despises voter ID laws. Thus, Coke entered the crosshairs. Lo and behold, within five hours of the boycott announcement, Coke caved.
This is all fine and dandy under the First Amendment, of course. Private 501©3’s can lead boycotts. Government officials can speak on issues of public importance. But the Obama Administration’s secret dealings with such 501©3’s to impose non-governmental sanctions on companies that sponsor those with whom they disagree doesn’t pass the smell or sight test. The odor is rancid and the transparency nonexistent.
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