The Other New York Farce

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

Ed wrote about this Supreme Court decision yesterday, but I want to take a moment or three to discuss what exactly it tells us about how far New York has traveled into banana republic testimony. 

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The decision was overshadowed by the Trump conviction farce, but in many ways NRA v Vullo is as good an example as the Trump trial of the weaponization of government. 

Sonia Sotomayor--yes, THAT Sonia Sotomayor--wrote in the unanimous decision that New York Department of Financial Services Superintendant likely (the lawsuit has yet to be tried) violated the First Amendment rights of the National Rifle Association. 

She did so by threatening insurers with enhanced regulatory reviews if they did business with the NRA. In no uncertain terms she made clear that her department would treat them kindly if they dropped the NRA as a business partner, and would use her power as a regulator to harass them if they did not. 

Why? For obvious and unconstitutional reasons. She doesn't like the NRA or what it stands for, and she wanted to hurt the organization. There was no other reason. She made it clear that she wanted to suppress the free speech rights of the organization because she disagreed with it. 

Sotomayor laid out the facts:

Around that time, Vullo also began to meet with executives at the insurance companies doing business with the NRA. On February 27, Vullo met with senior executives at Lloyd’s. There, speaking on behalf of DFS and then-Governor Andrew Cuomo, Vullo “presented [their] views on gun control and their desire to leverage their powers to combat the availability of firearms, including specifically by weakening the NRA.” Id., at 221, ¶67. She also “discussed an array of technical regulatory infractions plaguing the affinityinsurance marketplace” in New York. Id., at 199, ¶21. Vullo told the Lloyd’s executives “that DFS was less interested in pursuing the[se] infractions” unrelated to any NRA business “so long as Lloyd’s ceased providing insurance to gun groups, especially the NRA.” Id., at 199–200, ¶21; accord, id., at 223, ¶69 (alleging that Vullo made it clear to Lloyd’s that it “could avoid liability for infractions relating to other, similarly situated insurance policies, so long as it aided DFS’s campaign against gun groups”).1 Vullo and Lloyd’s struck a deal: Lloyd’s “would instruct its syndicates to cease underwriting firearm-related policies and would scale back its NRA-related business,” and “in exchange, DFS would focus its forthcoming affinity-insurance enforcement action solely on those syndicates which served the NRA, and ignore other syndicates writing similar policies.” Ibid., ¶69.

On April 19, 2018, Vullo issued two virtually identical guidance letters on DFS letterhead entitled, “Guidance on Risk Management Relating to the NRA and Similar Gun Promotion Organizations.” Id., at 246–251 (Guidance Letters). Vullo sent one of the letters to insurance companies and the other to financial services institutions. In the letters, Vullo pointed to the “social backlash” against the NRA and other groups “that promote guns that lead to senseless violence” following “several recent horrific shootings, including in Parkland, Florida.” Id., at 246, 249. Vullo then cited recent instances of businesses severing their ties with the NRA as examples of companies “fulfilling their corporate social responsibility.” Id., at 247, 250.

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"Vullo told the Lloyd’s executives “that DFS was less interested in pursuing the[se] infractions” unrelated to any NRA business “so long as Lloyd’s ceased providing insurance to gun groups, especially the NRA."

This is about as clear an abuse of power as you can find. "We will help you if you help us to harm a political opponent, and we will hurt you if you don't."

Even the liberals on the Court said, "Hold on, now." 

As alleged, Vullo’s communications with Lloyd’s can be reasonably understood as a threat or as an inducement. Either of those can be coercive. As Vullo concedes, the “threat need not be explicit,” Brief for Respondent 47, and as the Solicitor General explains, “[t]he Constitution does not distinguish between ‘comply or I’ll prosecute’ and ‘comply and I’ll look the other way,’” Brief for United States as Amicus Curiae 18, n. 7. So, whether analyzed as a threat or as an inducement, the conclusion is the same: Vullo allegedly coerced Lloyd’s by saying she would ignore unrelated infractions and focus her enforcement efforts on NRA-related business alone, if Lloyd’s ceased underwriting NRA policies and disassociated from gun-promotion groups.

This is pretty much what Democrat politicians did to the social media companies during the pandemic, as well. In 2020 and 2021, you can find countless examples of Democrat politicians musing about increased regulation and antitrust action if they didn't deal with "misinformation" through censorship. 

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New York followed this lawless example of weaponized government to its logical conclusion: mobilizing all the resources available to lawmakers and regulators to shut their political opponents up. 

This was also one of the intended results of the Bragg case against Trump--keep him in court for weeks, issue a gag order, and keep him off the campaign trail. AOC even admitted it.

It's all part of a massive censorship regime and propaganda mill. We will hear endless cries of "convicted felon" from the media and the Democrats and a renewed push to censor "misinformation" on social media. They have already geared up for the election season. 

Expect more Bird Flu scaremongering as well. It's a playbook they wrote in 2020, and one they intend to run again. 

I doubt it will work as they hope. Fool me once; shame on you. Fool me twice...

New York and California may be the worst examples of Blue state corruption, but they are hardly the only ones. All politicians lust for power, and our Constitution was written to constrain it as much as possible. 

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The Democrats have decided that they don't need to follow it anymore. 

The November election is no longer one just between two men; it is between two different visions of the country. Either you support the notion that Lady Justice should be blind, or that it is one more weapon in the arsenal to harm your enemies. 

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John Stossel 1:00 PM | June 15, 2024
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