It’s easy for anyone to throw around claims that their constitutional rights are being violated, but a certain class of politician seems to be particularly prone to it.
Take former Gov. Bobby Jindal, back when he was busy positioning himself as the sort of right-wing warrior he thought Republican primary voters would reward with their votes. Jindal jumped to the defense of “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson after Robertson likened homosexuality to bestiality in a GQ interview and asserted that African-Americans were perfectly content during the Jim Crow era. Jindal’s take was that the A&E network violated the First Amendment when it temporarily suspended Robertson.
Wrong, none other than Megyn Kelly, a lawyer by training and then still a mainstay at the sympathetic Fox News network, explained on the air. The First Amendment guarantees freedom from government interference, not freedom from consequences. What Jindal was actually complaining about was that a business had made a decision based on what it thought the market would tolerate.
The same goes for the Second Amendment, and the two giant banks that the Louisiana Bond Commission has now blacklisted due to their policies on doing business with companies that sell guns.
Both banks have taken actions around the margins: Citigroup Inc. no longer caters to retailers that carry high-capacity magazines or sell firearms to anyone who hasn’t passed a background check or is under 21, unless they’ve passed hunter safety courses or are in the military or law enforcement. Bank of America Merrill Lynch has stopped lending money to manufacturers that make military-style firearms for civilian use. Both policies were issued after the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida reinvigorated a national debate over the easy availability of these weapons.
Yet in a close 7-6 vote last week, the two banks were declared ineligible for $600 million worth of road work that has nothing at all to do with gun violence — despite objections from cooler heads such as state Sens. John Alario and Eric LaFleur, as well as Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration.
All over the move were the current generation of Louisiana culture warriors, Attorney General Jeff Landry and Treasurer John Schroder. Joining them was a new member, Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, the interim appointed after Tom Schedler resigned amid a sexual harassment scandal, who reneged on his commitment not to run in the special election to replace Schedler this fall. Instead, Ardoin will be on the ballot as a Republican in November, which is surely behind his decision to jump into the gun debate.
And cheering them from afar, of course, was U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, Schroder’s predecessor and a man who never met a controversy he didn’t try to capitalize upon, real or invented. Kennedy sent out an email after the vote congratulating the bond commission for preventing the banks from allegedly “trampling on people’s Second Amendment rights.”
Put this one in the “invented” column. Despite the overheated rhetoric coming from this bunch, these banks are not the government; they are not in a position to do any such thing. Instead, they made a business decision based on market forces as they see them. That means that they see more advantage in restricting their involvement in certain types of business than in remaining involved, and are willing to accept the consequences, including being shunned by gun rights purists.
The real question for Louisiana voters is whether they support that shunning, and are willing to pay extra for it. That’s what’s at stake, according to the commission’s own financial adviser, who warned that the banning the two banks could lead to higher costs.
Or as Alario put it: “I am worried about the bottom line to the state of Louisiana, too. True conservatives worry about the dollars,” he said in veiled but pointed rebuke at his fellow Republicans.
Instead, our elected officials have just made their own business decision, that their constituents should open up their wallets so that they can grandstand.
Money well spent? Not in my book.