AOC Defends Due Process as Colleagues Greenlight Asset Seizure Bill
Plus: Homeland Security's new Disinformation Governance Board, the FDA's menthol ban, and more...
The bill asks Biden "to violate the 4th Amendment," says congresswoman. An unlikely coalition of congressional Democrats and Republicans joined together in opposing the "Asset Seizure for Ukraine Reconstruction Act."
But it wasn't enough to stop the House from passing the bill, which authorizes the president to "seize assets belonging to a foreign person whose wealth is derived in part through political support for or corruption linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin," per a congressional summary. Funds from the assets may only be used to supply weapons to Ukraine, support post-conflict reconstruction there, or provide humanitarian aid to Ukrainians and Russians.
The bill does not suggest that those whose assets are seized must be linked to—let alone convicted of—any crime. Rather, it states that the Biden administration shall "determine the constitutional mechanisms through which the President can take steps to seize and confiscate assets under the jurisdiction of the United States" of any foreign person on whom the president has imposed sanctions due to their links to Putin's regime.
Nor does it require that sanctions and asset seizure be linked to corruption; political "support for" the Putin administration is enough.
Of course, in a country like Russia, where dissidence can be punished gravely, support may be a matter of (economic and sometimes literal) survival. Is it really fair for the U.S. to punish people for this?
Alas, a lot of legislators think so. The Asset Seizure for Ukraine Reconstruction Act passed the House by a vote of 417–8 on Thursday.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.) was one of just eight "no" votes on the measure.
"This vote asked President Biden to violate the 4th Amendment, seize private property, and determine where it would go – all without due process," AOC said in a statement. "This sets a risky new precedent in the event of future Presidents who may seek to abuse that expansion of power, especially with so many of our communities already fighting civil asset forfeiture."
It's a very valid concern—and the kind all too rare among lawmakers and among political partisans more broadly.
It often seems like libertarians are the only ones warning against expansions of power that will last long beyond whatever particular circumstances spawned them. So it's nice to see Ocasio-Cortez—someone whom libertarians seldom agree with—make this point and act accordingly.
AOC was joined in her opposition to the bill by a motley crew of representatives representing the right and left poles of Congress. Other "no" votes from the left included AOC's fellow "squad" members Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D–Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D–Minn.), as well as Rep. Cori Bush (D–Mo.).
The four "no" votes from the right came from Reps. Madison Cawthorn (R–N.C.), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R–Ga.), Thomas Massie (R–Ky.), and Chip Roy (R–Texas).
"Never bring something to a fight you don't want shoved up your ass later." David C. Lowery, founder of bands Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker, has some words of wisdom for folks supporting the Biden administration's creepy new disinformation board, which will be a part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
"One of my older cousins gave me some good advice when I was twelve: never bring something to a fight you don't want shoved up your ass later," tweeted Lowery yesterday. "When the DHS is in the hands of the Republicans this gets turned on dems who currently think this is a good idea. Just saying."
Okay you're a punk rocker in 1982 and the Department of Homeland Security under President Reagan sets up a Disinformation Governance Board to combat disinformation. You're reaction is
— David C Lowery (@davidclowery) April 28, 2022
The new Disinformation Governance Board will be headed by Nina Jankowicz, author of How to Lose the Information War and How to Be a Woman Online. Jankowicz claimed on Twitter that "one of the key reasons the Board was established, is to maintain the Dept's commitment to protecting free speech, privacy, civil rights, & civil liberties." But just last week, she was quoted in NPR warning against "free speech absolutists."
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has formally proposed a ban on menthol cigarette and flavored cigar sales. Supporters of the ban have portrayed it as "a racial justice issue."
"They are right about that, but not in the way they mean," writes Reason's Jacob Sullum:
What they mean is that 85 percent of black smokers prefer menthol cigarettes, compared to 30 percent of white smokers.…As the menthol ban's proponents see it, even the choice to start smoking is not really a choice, because consumers—in this case, black consumers in particular—are no match for Big Tobacco's persuasive wiles. Gardiner cites the industry's history of "predatory marketing," while the anti-smoking Truth Initiative condemns "relentless profiling of Black Americans and vulnerable populations" by brands like Kool, Salem, and Newport.
That's one way of looking at it. Here is another: The federal government is targeting the kind of cigarettes that black smokers overwhelmingly prefer, precisely because black smokers overwhelmingly prefer them. The FDA also worries that menthol cigarettes appeal to teenagers, another "vulnerable population." Public health officials are thus treating African Americans like children in the sense that they don't trust either to make their own decisions….
In addition to condescending assumptions, the FDA is displaying remarkable shortsightedness regarding the practical impact of its policy on the community it supposedly is trying to help. "Policies that amount to prohibition for adults will have serious racial justice implications," the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Drug Policy Alliance, the Sentencing Project, and 24 other organizations warned in an April 2021 letter to Becerra and Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock. "Such a ban will trigger criminal penalties, which will disproportionately impact people of color, as well as prioritize criminalization over public health and harm reduction. A ban will also lead to unconstitutional policing and other negative interactions with local law enforcement."
The FDA also claims that menthols are more addictive than nonmenthol cigarettes. "But that's hard to square with the existing data," points out Reason Foundation's Guy Bentley.
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• Europe escalates the threat to online free speech.