America has a relatively robust tradition of respecting freedom of speech. Nevertheless, our government officials often find criticism not only annoying but actionable.
But actionable how?
Campaign finance regulation offers officials one avenue to go after political critics. The CFR regime is so ambiguous and complex that it often seems to cover anything anybody might say at any time about anybody running for office. But the ever-metastasizing repressive power of campaign finance regulation was probably not what Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett was relying on when he subpoenaed Twitter, the micro-blogging company, to try to learn who was savaging his conduct as attorney general.
Corbett demanded names, street addresses and IP addresses of two Twitter subscribers who have been claiming that his investigation into public corruption was politically motivated. Twitter representatives were threatened with arrest if they failed to appear before a grand jury to “give evidence regarding alleged violations of the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”
Corbett’s office claims that the subpoena had nothing to do with aversion to political criticism but was related to a particular prosecution. Perhaps the angry tweeters were really a single disgruntled defendant, only pretending to be contrite in court?
Regardless, the attorney general was obviously on a fishing expedition, one that targeted First Amendment rights. The outcry from Twitter users, the ACLU, and others was swift and vehement, so Corbett has dropped his abusive subpoena.
Perhaps he should also drop his gubernatorial campaign.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.