from the that's-not-how-any-of-this-works dept
CPAC, the “Conservative Political Action Conference” put on each year by Matt Schlapp’s American Conservative Union (ACU), used to be the kind of gathering where Republicans would go to get their yearly talking points fed to them. Over the past few years, it has become increasingly tied at the hip with the Trumpists, as they took over the Republican party, threw out anything even remotely resembling principles, and just started acting like “making the libs cry” was a political platform. With the Republicans now losing both the White House and both houses of Congress, as well as some concerns about how some leading members of the Republican Party (looking at you Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley) were seen inspiring insurrectionists to storm the Capitol and try to overthrow an election, it seems like many people and organizations who would normally attend or sponsor CPAC (justifying it with the old “gotta work with both sides” nonsense) are deciding to stay away.
Politico has a pretty thorough story on the mess that includes this silly bit of nonsense:
ACU Chair Matt Schlapp said he is convinced this year?s conference will be no different from past years. ?CPAC is going great,? he told POLITICO on Tuesday, before then saying that his quote needed to be attributed without his name.
That’s not how this works, of course. You don’t get to retroactively put conditions on a quote like that, and it’s good that Politico didn’t let him get away with it.
But why is this a Techdirt story in the first place? Well, because when Politico asked ACU some more questions, ACU’s lawyer threatened to sue Politico for “tortious interference with business relationships.” And that sort of censorial thuggery and threats of a SLAPP suit are just the kind of content we cover at Techdirt:
Schlapp did not address questions about why some sponsors were not continuing their CPAC sponsorship. But after those questions were posed and additional questions were sent to CPAC sponsors ? including whether the Jan. 6 Capitol riot impacted their thinking about sponsoring again this year ? ACU general counsel David Safavian accused POLITICO of ?tortious interference with business relationships? and attempting ?to ?cancel? both CPAC and the American Conservative Union itself.?
The full letter that Safavian sent to Politico is quite stunning.
We understand that Politico reporters are calling sponsors of our national conference (CPAC) and making claims about both our Chairman and our conference that are contrary to the facts. We know this because those very same potential sponsors have immediately contacted us. In pushing a misleading narrative to our supporters using corporate resources, Politico is attempting to chill sponsorship of CPAC and harm the American Conservative Union.
Nah, dude. They’re reporting. It’s kind of a key part of the the Constitution you pretend to love. The 1st Amendment protects the press. And that’s even when the press asks uncomfortable questions to you or your business partners. That’s not “attempting to chill sponsorship.” It’s just doing some basic beat reporting on the topic.
This effort amounts to tortious interference with business relationships. And whether your realize it or not, you are demonstrating to our sponsors and supporters your political bias. Fortunately, most see this effort for what it is: “fake news.”
So, um, if your sponsors don’t believe it, then there’s no interference with business relationships and no damage. Also, again, basic reporting, such as asking questions is not tortious interference. Never has been. Never will be. What you are doing here with threats to sue, however, certainly raises some 1st Amendment questions. You’re implying that you can use the power of the state (via the courts) to silence the press.
Our Founding Fathers understood that the press has a role to play in our democracy. As such, the Framers accorded the news media with protections in the First Amendment. However, Politico’s continued campaign against the American Conservative Union crosses the line from protect speech to political activism.
Where did you get your law degree again? Can you get a refund? Even if it were true that this was political activism (and, again, it is not), political activism is… also protected under the 1st Amendment. You should ask Fox News, NewsMax and OANN about those protections. Because, boy, do they ever need them.
Although the American Conservative Union would rather find a solution that results in “accurate, nonpartisan” reporting again, we fully intend to explore our legal rights to hold Politico fully accountable for what we see as tortious conduct.
Explore away. Any sane lawyer would tell you that not only do you not have any case, depending on where you bring such a lawsuit, you’d probably end up paying Politco’s legal fees. You’re thuggishly trying to intimidate Politco from reporting on an obvious topic of public interest. Thankfully, it looks like Politico is not easily bullied, but thanks for the reminder that we need stronger anti-SLAPP laws in every state, and a strong federal anti-SLAPP law as well.