Is Criticizing Politicians a Crime?

Barack Obama’s presidential campaign really dislikes it when anyone points out anything that makes the Illinois senator look bad.

The campaign asked the U.S. Justice Department to prosecute American Issues Project, Inc., a 501(c)(4) nonprofit. At issue is the group’s public service announcement that seeks to educate the public about Obama’s close personal ties to William Ayers. Ayers, who helped to launch Obama’s political career, is the unrepentant terrorist who bragged about blowing up the Pentagon. Their relationship is well documented: we published an article in the June 2008 Foundation Watch that details the ties between the two men.

Even more evidence of their interactions is certain to surface now that the University of Illinois has finally released the papers of the Annenberg Challenge, a charity that both Obama and Ayers were involved with.

The American Issues Project’s PSA is straightforward and 100% factually accurate (I write this as co-author of the above referenced Foundation Watch article). Capital Research Center also produced a PSA that sought to educate the public about the connection between Obama and Ayers.

Is Obama’s relationship with Ayers important? That’s for voters –not someone at the Justice Department– to decide. American Issues Project shouldn’t be subjected to legal harassment for merely bringing facts to the attention of the public. Ed Martin, the group’s president, is justifiably irritated at the Obama camp:

“Having failed in its attempts to get our legal, factual and fully-supported ad off the air, Barack Obama’s campaign now wants to put our donors in prison for exercising their right to free speech…These over-the-top bullying tactics are reminiscent of the kind of censorship one would see in a Stalinist dictatorship, with the only difference being that those guys generally had to wait until they were in power to throw people who disagreed with them into jail.” 

By the way, presumptive Republican presidential candidate John McCain isn’t much better on First Amendment issues. The Arizona senator has long been a fan of so-called campaign finance reform that limits free speech. But even though McCain hates the low tax group, the Club for Growth, which has been harshly critical of his policy positions, as far as I know he hasn’t tried to have the group or its backers prosecuted.

Share this post!