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Sen. Dick Durbin launches witch hunt among press corps

By   /   August 7, 2013  /   9 Comments


I HAVE IN MY HAND… U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin wants hundreds of organizations to tell him if they are now or have ever been affiliated with the American Legislative Exchange Council.

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.

Stay tuned.

Contact M.D. Kittle at [email protected]


M.D. Kittle is bureau chief of Wisconsin Watchdog and First Amendment Reporter for Watchdog.org. Kittle is a 25-year veteran of print, broadcast and online media. He is the recipient of several awards for journalism excellence from The Associated Press, Inland Press, the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, and others. He is also a member of Investigative Reporters & Editors. Kittle's extensive series on Wisconsin's unconstitutional John Doe investigations was the basis of a 2014 documentary on Glenn Beck's TheBlaze. His work has been featured in Town Hall, Fox News, NewsMax, and other national publications, and his reporting has been cited by news outlets nationwide. Kittle is a fill-in talk show host on the Jay Weber Show and the Vicki McKenna Show in Milwaukee and Madison.

  • Gene Langston

    The Treyvon Martin case was NOT a Stand your Ground case. It was not used as a defense.

  • Ginger

    Doesn’t “Dicky” have anything better to do – -his term is up in March 20l4, vote him the HELL OUT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • OldTimerUSN

    Plain and Simple its called POWER that is what happens after you have a Multi Millionaire in office his whole life. Over 200 Blacks are killed by Blacks every year but that don’t make them MONEY and Votes, they could care less about Black people if we get Voter ID he will drop them like a hot potato.

  • moonpiie

    Simple response– NONE OF YOUR EFFING BUSINESS!!!

  • jealtd

    [“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.] They should also force him to produce these “other public documents”. I would not be surprised to find IRS somewhere in the middle of this, and with records that are (by law) not public.

  • Winghunter

    We’ve known McCarthy was right all along so, why would anyone be stupid enough to continue the Communist smears about him??

    McCarthy Vindicated At Last 12/18/2007 http://bit.ly/b2fmz8
    “…These intercepted cables proved that there were over 350 Americans spying for the Soviets, and enabled investigators to identify about half of them. Joe McCarthy had access to the information contained in the top secret Venona intercepts, access given him by J. Edgar Hoover and others concerned with the extent of Soviet espionage and penetration, but he could not defend himself against charges of recklessly accusing people of being Soviet agents by revealing the source of his information without alerting the Soviets that some of their most important secrets were known to U.S. Intelligence…”

  • S. Bernard

    >The Treyvon Martin case was NOT a Stand your Ground case

    But Florida’s Stand Your Ground case did determine the instructions given to the jury by the judge. And the jurors themselves later admitted discussing the Stand Your Ground law when deliberating the case.

    So, in short, Stand Your Grand did influence the case, and heavily so. See the Miami Herald’s article at: http://tinyurl.com/n44o8sl

  • Michael Huck

    He’s not known as Dick Turbin for nothing.

  • savoy6

    “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party of the United States?”
    ~Joseph McCarthy. House Committee on Un-American Activities1947