The Kochs don’t understand the First Amendment

So it’s pretty clear at this point that approximately 100% of climate change denial is being funded by rich activists, right? That’s sure what it seems like – especially in the wake of revelations that infamous climate denier Wei-Hock Soon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics secretly accepted over a million dollars from the fossil fuel industry over the last decade.

That’s why Democratic Senators Boxer, Markey and Whitehouse have sent letters to 100 major corporations and lobbying groups asking them to disclose their bribes.

Key word: asking. The plutocrats have worked hard to ensure that their schemes remain shrouded in legal secrecy, which means that all our representatives in Congress can do is ask them what they’re up to. But evidently, even that trivial move was an egregious affront to our delicate Kochs:

Under the circumstances, we decline to participate in this endeavor and object to your apparent efforts to infringe upon and potentially stifle fundamental First Amendment activities.

That’s how the Koch lawyer Mark Holden responded to your elected officials – read: you – merely asking the Kochs what they’re up to.

Obviously the Kochs were never going to admit what they’re up to, but this is a truly bizarre pretext for refusal. Nothing about inviting them to volunteer information about their lobbying investments even hypothetically abridges their First Amendment rights. That they are able to say “no” proves just how coercive the request really is: not at all. There is not a court in the universe that would endorse such a tortured conception of the freedom of speech.

Want to see how weak their case actually is? Just ask right-wing lawyer John Hinderaker, who approvingly linked to the Koch letter on Friday:

“You’re kidding, right?” might be a workable dodge on Twitter, but this has historically not been a legal argument that has held up well in court. If the Kochs disagree, here’s an open challenge: sue Senators Boxer, Markey and Whitehouse for trying to infringe upon your First Amendment rights. See how far that goes.

Some friendly advice, however: if anyone asks you about your lobbying activities on the witness stand, you should probably plead the Fifth. That would make a lot more sense than pleading the First.

[Photo credit: Agustín Ruiz, Flickr]