In a bizarre press release issued today, Marc R. Stanley, Chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council, asked billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who filed a $60 million lawsuit against him yesterday, to drop the “silly” lawsuit and debate him publicly instead:
Sheldon Adelson sued me, the National Jewish Democratic Council, and NJDC President and CEO, David Harris, on August 8 for defamation. The back story is that the NJDC circulated a petition urging the Republican National Committee and the Romney campaign to cease taking Adelson’s money until public allegations about his overseas business practices were resolved. ..[T]he petition itself only came after weeks of allegations about Adelson in the news media and on the Internet. Indeed, a Google search for such reports as of August 7, 2012 yielded almost 1 million results. Nevertheless, in response to the criticism, we took down our petition and criticisms of Adelson from our website in the interest of shalom bayit.
Apparently, that was not enough for Adelson.
It appears that Adelson, with his billions of dollars, not only wants to control political speech and buy the election for the Republican side. He also wants to stifle the exercise of free speech by a small group of Democratic Jews. This is a classic SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) suit, one which the multiple lawyers and law firms he has allegedly consulted surely have advised him he cannot win because he is undoubtedly a public figure and has thrust himself into the political arena.
The Dallas, Texas based Stanley is a founder of Stanley and Iola, a law firm that specializes in class action lawsuits, mesothelioma cases, and business torts. He has not built a reputation as a legal expert in libel and defamation.
According to the NJDC website, Stanley is a graduate of George Washington University and the University of Texas Law School. He “served on the Credential Committee of the 2008 Democratic National Convention, . . . is a partner of Democracy Alliance, and is a fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional, Senate and National Committees. In June 2011, President Obama appointed him to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Council. [He] served on the National Finance Council for the Edwards Campaign in 2008 and has been actively involved in fundraising for each Democratic Presidential nominee since 1987. In 2006, Marc served as President of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association.”
Stanley’s press release quickly turned to political, rather than legal issues:
It is ironic that a billionaire who is taking more advantage of the “free speech” aspects of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case than any other American citizen now seeks to stifle our free speech.
The difference is that President Barack Obama is the target of Adelson’s political speech. Adelson has given millions of dollars to the Republican Jewish Coalition to be used to wrongfully smear Obama’s record on Israel. This is the same fellow who gave over $20 million to a super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich, who promptly offered the unhelpful opinion that the Palestinians are an invented people, a view close to Adelson’s heart. He has also offered that he is willing to spend up to $100 million to support his second or third choice candidate: Mitt Romney.
And that’s the danger of Citizens United. One billionaire can control the conversation and set the agenda. I understand that Adelson wants us all to hear his message, but does that mean he has the right to silence others who disagree with his position?
Adelson told me personally that he is a Jewish Republican for only two issues: He believes Republicans are better for Israel and he believes Republicans will eliminate the estate tax. I do not believe the vast majority of American Jews will agree with his views, especially when they hear the true facts instead of a one-sided campaign.
So here is my suggestion for Adelson. Let’s put money aside and settle this on the strength of ideas.
Why don’t you and I agree to two debates? You decide the forum and structure of the first and I’ll decide the forum and structure of the second. We can debate Obama’s record on Israel and we can debate the estate tax. And we can debate the differences between Democrats and Republicans on choice, healthcare, education, separation of church and state, marriage equality, poverty, social security, social justice and any other tikkun olam issue you wish.
And drop your silly lawsuit – you are going to lose and you are not going to bully us or silence us because of your wealth. Thankfully we live in a country that protects our ability to speak freely through our rights under the First Amendment.
The National Jewish Democratic Council says it has a three-fold mission: (1) to maximize Jewish support for Democrats at the federal and state levels of government, (2) to educate Democratic elected officials and candidates to increase support for Jewish domestic and foreign policy priorities, and (3) to promote both social justice in America and a secure, democratic Jewish State of Israel.
William Jacobson, a professor of law at Cornell who blogs at Legal Insurrection commented on Mr. Stanley’s press release today:
I think we all have to worry about lawsuits being used for political purposes to silence speech. We have to balance that against the right of even public figures to be free from maliciously false accusations of criminality which also are made for political purposes.
Most legal and political experts gave Stanley two chances of getting Adelson to drop his lawsuit: slim and none.
Breitbart News spoke with Mr. Stanley and asked him this simple question: “Why not just apologize to Mr. Adelson and this law suit goes away?”
Mr. Stanley responded: “My lawyers have instructed me not to go beyond what I’ve just issued. Thank you.”
Michael Patrick Leahy is a Breitbart News contributor, Editor of Broadside Books’ Voices of the Tea Party e-book series, and author of Covenant of Liberty: The Ideological Origins of the Tea Party Movement.