By L.K. Samuels
It is now official. The state of New York and Governor Andrew Cuomo have decided to embrace the ugly specter of fascist extremism. A statist Leftist, Andrew Cuomo has spearheaded an anti-human rights and anti-Founders campaign to extinguish an advocacy group through government intimidation, regulations, and threats, a tactic often employed by the National Socialists of Germany to affirm the supremacy of society over individual rights.
Fortunately, the ACLU has found these government-funded strong-arm tactics to be problematic and unconstitutional, declaring: “Although public officials are free to express their opinions and may condemn viewpoints or groups they view as inimical to public welfare, they cannot abuse their regulatory authority to retaliate against disfavored advocacy organizations and to impose burdens on those organizations' ability to conduct lawful business.”
In this case, that advocacy group is the National Rifle Association (NRA), but it could be any educational or advocacy group that actively espouses change. In early August, Cuomo bragged about taking down the NRA via government regulations on his Facebook post, declaring: “The regulations NY put in place are working. We're forcing the NRA into financial jeopardy. We won't stop until we shut them down.” This has a chilling effect on free speech for every group and institution, left or right, since this precedent will encourage all politicos to silence or abolish an opponent’s ability to express their opinions.
This case is obviously beyond the pale. How can a government agency compel banks, financial institutions, and insurance companies to dismiss an advocacy group as a customer? This is a blatant violation of constitutional laws and protections, especially the First Amendment. The state of New York is using its vast legal and taxing power to punish political enemies. Only a Fascist-Marxist ideologue would employ the power of the state to silence private organizations they deem adversaries. They are simply outlawing their political opponents without actually legislating laws that explicitly make them illegal.
The New York State attack against free exchange went into high gear when Maria Vullo, head of the state's Department of Financial Services, sent out threatening letters to businesses in New York. Vullo demanded that companies sever connections with pro-Second Amendment groups. In many cases the government threats worked to scare off business vendors. A number of banks withdrew banking services while insurance companies decided not to renew liability insurance.
Of course, two can play this anti-free speech game. Tit for tat reprisals are notoriously ugly and damaging. Conservative governors and agencies might unleash their enormous bureaucracies and attorneys to go after the banks and insurance companies that associate with opposing advocacy groups. If this were to happen, all hell would break loose across the political spectrum as society grows more polarized, if that is even possible.
When it comes to keeping the political environment free of censorship, the golden rule of ACLU's legal director David Cole is indispensable: “The First Amendment bars state officials from using their regulatory power to penalize groups merely because they promote disapproved ideas.”
A slippery slope always arises when government decides to weaponize its political arsenal to attack political enemies. And such a chain of related events has the potential to destroy the core values of the First Amendment that could lead to the fascistization of America. But then again, like the censorship transgressions on college campuses, maybe the stifling of free speech is precisely the purpose of Cuomo’s agenda.