Elizabeth and Sheldon Torquemada
By Paul Driessen
As Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition for 15 years, Tomas de Torquemada presided over the interrogation, torture, imprisonment and execution of thousands, for the "crimes" of religious heresy and pretended conversion to Christianity. Historian Sebastián de Olmedo titled him "the hammer of heretics."
Today Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) are pursuing their own inquisition against perceived "heretics." Thankfully, they don't have Friar Torquemada's torture devices or sentencing options. But they are vindictive and effective nonetheless – abusing their congressional powers to silence critics of their policy agendas, often with the help of media, White House, Justice Department, Internal Revenue Service and Big Green allies.
Warren's latest coup was sacking economist Robert Litan from his position as a scholar with the liberal Brookings Institution, for having the temerity to criticize financial rules she was championing. The fact that Litan is a "progressive" Democrat and former Clinton administration official was irrelevant.
Whitehouse wants the Justice Department to use the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) to investigate and prosecute organizations and individuals who challenge his view that mankind's use of oil, natural gas and coal is causing climate catastrophes. He has targeted "skeptical" organizations and scientists, while alarmists like Michael Mann and Jagadish Shukla have their own enemies lists.
Their attitudes and actions epitomize today's liberals, who cannot stomach anyone who disagrees with their views or policies. These modern "hammers of heretics" refuse to debate and instead do all they can to silence critics and destroy their careers. As Fox News commentator Kirsten Powers observes, too many liberals support tolerance only for themselves and only to advance their intolerant agendas.
More than ever before, says political analyst George Will, they are "aggressively and dangerously … attacking the theory of free speech, the desirability of free speech, the very possibility of free speech."
They compound the outrage with double standards. Senator Whitehouse rages about climate skeptics – but utters not a peep about biased government-funded science, models and propaganda; not a word about EPA's far-fetched "social cost of carbon" estimates and refusal to even mention how its regulations kill jobs and reduce living standards, health and welfare. Senator Barbara Boxer disgraced Congress when she excoriated physician, medical researcher and author Michael Crichton, for daring to suggest that "double blind" studies be required for climate research, just as FDA does for medical research.
Senator Warren's intolerance and double standards make her colleagues look like pikers.
Former Brookings VP and economic studies director Robert Litan is highly regarded as an expert on the unintended effects of regulations on businesses, workers and families. But when he testified before Congress last July, saying a proposed regulation would deprive poor and middle class investors of valuable financial advisors and advice, Ms. Warren was livid. She had vigorously supported the Labor Department rule, even though many Democrats and virtually all Republicans in Congress oppose it.
In September, Senator Warren suddenly discovered that the Litan study behind his testimony had been funded in part by the Capital Group, a major investment management company whose business would likely be affected by the regulation. Both the study and testimony made the arrangement crystal clear.
But Senator Warren saw her chance to pound the heretic. Instead of trying to rebut his testimony, Wall Street Journal columnist Gordon Crovitz observed, she decided to punish the witness. At 8:30 am September 29, the Washington Post posted her letter to Brookings criticizing Litan and claiming his funding disclosure was somehow "vague." An hour later, spineless Brookings president Strobe Talbott threw Litan under the bus, despite his loyal and productive decades of service to the institution.
The senator is on a roll. She has also prevented economist Antonio Weiss from getting a senior Treasury position, and former Harvard president and Clinton and Obama official Larry Summers from becoming Federal Reserve chairman, because their views on certain issues offended her ultra-liberal sensibilities.
She is fortunate that the lofty, inflexible standards she inflicts on others are not applied to her.
OpenSecrets.org reveals that Warren has accepted over $600,000 from securities and investment firms, including some $6,000 from Capital Group executives! Law firms that stand to benefit from her legislation, advocacy and policy interventions have lavished $2.2 million on her campaigns – and the education industry that benefits from her constant promotion of increased education subsidies has given her a hefty $1.4 million, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Even more outrageous is the BFF relationship Ms. Warren has with Better Markets. This tax-exempt 501(c)3 "educational" organization in Washington, DC is funded almost entirely by multi-millionaire hedge-fund manager Michael Masters, via some $3 million a year that flows from him or his Marlin Fund to his Spring Foundation charity to Better Markets – which testifies and lobbies persistently, consistently and quite successfully for legislation and regulations advocated by the progressives' favorite senator.
As political reporter Brendan Bordelon observes in the National Review, "By failing to adequately disclose its relationship with Masters to lawmakers, observers say Better Markets is doing exactly what Warren accused Brookings of doing – covertly taking money from a finance-industry player to influence regulators with the power to approve policies from which that player can earn huge profits."
Former Obama appointee to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission Jill Sommers calls it a "huge" and "unprecedented" conflict of interest. It's "outrageous," says a former SEC counsel.
Masters uses market "triggers" to identify stocks whose prices may rise or fall in response to investor anxiety over political events such as proposed financial rules, Bordelon says. In spring 2015, The Marlin Fund held "call options" worth hundreds of millions of dollars in MetLife, CitiGroup and Prudential. A proposed regulation, reclassifying them as "systematically important financial institutions," would have increased federal controls and driven their share prices downward – giving Marlin and Masters big profits from "short selling" shares, and using their call options as a hedge against unexpected price increases.
Better Markets president Dennis Kelleher testified before Warren's Senate Banking Committee and filed an amicus brief supporting the rule change. But they never disclosed their obvious self-interest in the change: their sole source of income (Marlin and Masters) stood to profit enormously from the change.
Warren would have gone ballistic if an opponent of the rule had such an arrangement. But she has said nothing about this classic conflict of interest. That's hardly surprising.
She was a keynote speaker at a 2013 Better Markets meeting, wrote a laudatory testimonial for its website, and works closely with Kelleher and his group to ensure support for her legislative, regulatory and political crusades, Bordelon notes. Campaign contributions may create more ties that bind.
Meanwhile, Kelleher has testified at numerous Dodd-Frank and other Capitol Hill hearings, and is the go-to guy for many journalists who want insights on the finance industry or Senator Warren's viewpoints.
Ms. Torquemada is clearly not content to have or win debates on policy issues. She intends to prevent debates, penalize anyone who challenges her, intimidate and silence would-be critics, and impose her agenda – regardless of its impacts on the "poor and helpless" she professes to care so much about.
So much for the Senate as "the world's greatest deliberative body," or the notion that, despite disagreeing with what you say, liberals would "defend to the death your right to say it." Torquemada's reincarnation must not become the new reality for constitutional rights, robust debate, and informed decision-making.
Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org), author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power - Black death, and coauthor of Cracking Big Green: Saving the world from the Save-the-Earth money machine.