By M.D. Kittle | Watchdog.org
MADISON, Wis. – U.S. Sen. Richard “Dick” Durbin has some questions for Watchdog’s parent organization, asking who we know, what we know, and when we knew it.
In a letter to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, Durbin asks the nonprofit news organization whether it has given money to or ever been affiliated with the American Legislative Exchange Council, the model legislation think tank that liberals — and journalism experts like Durbin — love to hate.
“What is it he thinks he’s doing here?” asks Jason Stverak, president of the Franklin Center. “Does he think he has the authority to oversee state legislatures? Is it his job to tell citizens and groups what sort of policies they may advocate? What about tracking down all the members of that group?
“Why not just ask it: are we now or have we ever been members of the American Legislative Exchange Council?”
Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, has been in the news about the news lately. He recently demanded that “we” – whomever that may be – “must define a journalist and the constitutional and statutory protections those journalists should receive.”
And he isn’t just knocking on the Franklin Center’s door. He assures he is trying to drum up answers from other organizations that have been “identified as ALEC funders at some point between 2005 and today,” when ALEC approved model “stand your ground” legislation billed as the “Castle Doctrine Act.” The senator reportedly has sent letters to more than 300 possible corporate backers.
The bill, based on a Florida law, provides immunity for certain types of deadly force, or as proponents of “stand your ground” might put it: It defends those who dare to defend themselves and their property.
“Although ALEC does not maintain a public list of corporate members or donors, other public documents indicate that your organization funded ALEC at some point,” the senator writes in his letter.
What’s Durbin after? The senator says he plans to convene a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights to examine “stand your ground” laws.
All this investigative business, of course, comes as the ink dries on the non-guilty verdict for George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin – now the nation’s most notorious “stand your ground” case.
Some might see Durbin’s inquiry as political grandstanding to serve a congressional vendetta against the conservative ALEC — and maybe even the senator’s apparent quest to define and dispatch news organizations and journalists he doesn’t like.
Watchdog intends to ask some questions of its own – specifically whether his letter was inspired by anti-ALEC activists meeting with the senator or his staff, and whether his staff coordinated the release of the letter with ALEC opponents.
While Durbin legislative staffer Dan Swanson said he could not answer the questions and pointed Watchdog to Durbin’s media relations people, Swanson did assure that Watchdog did have the right to file a Freedom of Information Act request with the senator’s office. That’s a heady feeling just knowing a staff member in the office of a senator who seems to know so much about journalism acknowledges the right to file an open records request.
And Watchdog.org has.
Contact M.D. Kittle at [email protected]