NRA gets ACLU support against Cuomo thuggery
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's vendetta against the NRA has become so extreme, it's gotten the notice of the ACLU.
Cuomo, who is in a pitched primary fight with actress Cynthia Nixon, has been tacking left to prevent an upset. To prove his progressive bona fides, Cuomo has singled-out the NRA for punishment. Not just on the hustings, but also using the state's financial regulators to prevent the gun rights group from getting even simple financial services such as check cashing or insurance:
...Mr. Cuomo was using the state’s financial regulatory agency to intimidate insurance companies, banks and other firms into turning down business with the NRA. The gun-rights group sued Mr. Cuomo after he ordered the state’s Department of Financial Services to tell the firms it oversees “to review any relationships they may have with the National Rifle Association and other similar organizations. Upon this review, the companies are encouraged to consider whether such ties harm their corporate reputations and jeopardize public safety.”
The same day as Mr. Cuomo’s announcement, New York’s chief financial regulator Maria Vullo sent out a bulletin urging companies to manage their “reputational risks” related to organizations like the NRA. She claimed that “in this area society, as a whole, has a responsibility to act and is no longer willing to stand by and wait and witness more tragedies caused by gun violence, but instead is demanding change now.” Ms. Vullo and her agency have also been sued by the NRA.
Political advocacy organizations like the NRA (or the ACLU or Planned Parenthood) need basic business services, like insurance and banking, to operate. The NRA says that the state, using its regulatory powers over those industries, is threatening financial companies that do business with the NRA.
The NRA points to both public and non-public actions taken by the Cuomo administration to penalize it for its views. State officials issued press releases and sent threatening letters to banks and insurance companies, and also allegedly communicated “backchannel threats” to companies with ties to the NRA, warning that they would face regulatory action if they failed to end their relationships with the organization.
If the NRA’s charges are true, the state’s actions would clearly violate the First Amendment. Public officials are, of course, free to criticize groups with which they disagree. But they cannot use their regulatory authority to penalize advocacy groups by threatening companies that do business with those groups. And here the state has admitted, in its own words, that it focused on the NRA and other groups not because of any illegal conduct, but because they engage in “gun promotion” — in other words, because they advocate a lawful activity.
Political grandstanding always takes precedence over a respect for constitutional rights...particularly when the grandstander in question, Cuomo, is fighting for his political life.