A protest against others’ First Amendment rights

A Sunday conference hosted by Charles and David Koch, who run a Kansas-based energy firm and generously support libertarian and conservative organizations, featured an ironic spectacle: a few hundred protesters, organized by incorporated groups, demanding restrictions on the First Amendment rights of other associations.

CCP Chairman Brad Smith was quoted in a New York Times story about the event:

The protest was “an open assault on rights of association,” said Bradley A. Smith, a professor at Capital University Law School, whose writings on easing campaign finance restrictions have been influential among conservatives.

The Koch retreat “will harm no one,” Professor Smith said. “They are not going to do any more than talk and listen to speakers. That this alarms these protesters is an ironic commentary on their lack of faith in the American electorate and the power of their own ideas.”

The Washington Examiner‘s Tim Carney, who spoke at the Koch conference, also has an interesting and insightful take:

At the front gates of the Rancho Las Palmas resort, a few hundred liberals rallied Sunday against “corporate greed” and polluters…

Billionaires poisoning our politics was the central theme of the protests. But nothing is quite as it seems in modern politics: The protest’s organizer, the nonprofit Common Cause, is funded by billionaire George Soros…

When Politico reporter Ken Vogel pointed out that Soros hosts similar “secret” confabs, CAP’s [Lee] Fang responded on Twitter: “don’t you think there’s a very serious difference between donors who help the poor vs. donors who fund people to kill government, taxes on rich?”

In less than 140 characters, Fang had epitomized the myopic liberal view of money in politics: Conservative money is bad, and linked to greed, while liberal money is self-evidently philanthropic.

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.