By Tom Gantert | July 13, 2016
‘It’s a good thing we have a Constitution
which protects free speech’
U.S. Sen. Gary Peters from Bloomfield Township is one of 19 Democrats who were scheduled to give televised speeches from the Senate chamber on Monday and Tuesday criticizing some nonprofit think tanks for their work on global warming. The gambit is part of a larger campaign that is raising concerns of governmental retribution for free speech.
Emily Enderle, chief environmental policy adviser for U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, sent an email July 10 revealing a coordinated plan. The plan targets 33 free-market think tanks and organizations, including the Cato Institute, The Heartland Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Americans for Prosperity, and The Heritage Foundation, among others.
The proposed resolution circulated among the Democrats hints at congressional investigations into the organizations.
“Sen. Whitehouse is, once again, abusing the power of his office to lead a coordinated attack on free speech,” said Jim Lakely, the director of communications for The Heartland Institute, in an email. “By singling out Heartland and other groups, Whitehouse and his allies are trying to intimidate us and our supporters into silence, but he will fail. Every American has the right to support the causes they believe in, even if a cabal of senators disagrees. The words uttered by Sen. Whitehouse and other participating in this stunt are as un-American as they are unscientific.”
Peters was scheduled to give his speech condemning the Cato Institute at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“With all of Michigan’s problems, it’s surprising to see Senator Peters spending his time trying to shut down voices who question government studies,” said Dan Kish, the senior vice president of policy for the Institute for Energy Research, in an email. “It strikes me as a dangerous totalitarian impulse to use a high office to stifle differing voices and declare that there is an Official Government View that must be obeyed. It’s a good thing we have a Constitution which protects free speech, or he might succeed in stifling differing opinions.”
Neither Enderle nor Allison Green, a spokeswoman for Peters, returned emails seeking comment.
The orchestrated speeches are part of a trend of progressive government officials threatening government action against speech expressing opposing viewpoints.
Earlier this year, a group of attorneys general from 17 states formed “AGs United For Clean Power.” The attorneys general have stated they will pursue climate change policies via litigation against free-market think tanks.