Generally speaking, I don’t do politics on this site. If it’s politics you want, you can Google the name of your favorite candidate or party and find approximately eleventy trillion other sites on which to get your fix. But earlier this month, our Attorney General did something that can only generously be described as “questionable”:
By itself, that is deeply disturbing. Contrary to common belief, political candidates and elected officials are not barred from seeking legal relief from claims of defamation. The circumstances of a successful claim go far beyond the scope of this site and I’ll leave the discussions of such to far more intelligent people than myself. But at the most simple level, if Tom Corbett can prove that the users in question knowingly posted false information, then yes — he could possibly be successful in a defamation suit.
Let us assume — for the moment — that this is exactly the case. Let us assume that the users DID knowingly post false information. And let us assume — again, just for a moment — that Corbett’s claim is otherwise perfectly valid.
That still wouldn’t justify Corbett’s actions. He isn’t bringing a civil suit; he has used his power as the Pennsylvania Attorney General to issue these subpoenas as part of a criminal proceeding (his words, not mine). But the criminal proceeding that these posts are allegedly a part of has already handed down a conviction. This begs the question: Why?
Why spend taxpayer dollars to “uncover” this alleged “proof” when the defendant in the matter has already been convicted?
Why wait until after Corbett secured his party’s support in this week’s primary election?
Why, for that matter, wait until after a conviction has already been handed down in the very criminal matter Corbett is using to excuse this action?
Why are the Republicans and teabaggers, who have spent the last few months shrieking about how “the liberals are destroying our Constitution” and “the Democrats are taking away your personal liberties”, conspicuously silent? Is the First Amendment not constitutional enough for them? Or do Republicans just get a free pass on this sort of thing?
If Tom Corbett does truly feel he’s been slandered, he should do what the rest of us do: Pay for a civil suit out of his own pocket. To use his office’s power (and taxpayer funding) to handle his campaign’s dirty work is reprehensible at best.
EDIT: The struck section above was incorrect. The subpoenas were issued in early May, well before the primary elections.