What’s the Difference Between Boycotting and Bullying Again?
April 29th, 2011
Focus On the Family tried to define the difference in the context over the law firm of King & Spalding’s refusal to take up the defense of the Defense of Marriage Act on behalf of the GOP-led House of Representatives. K&S backed out, citing what they called an “inadequate” vetting process for taking the case in the first place. One likely sticking points with the firm was may have been the blanket gag order imposed on all K&S employees barring all advocacy for DOMA’s legislative repeal, a provision which not only would have infringed upon K&S employees First Amendment rights, but would likely have been illegal in several states in which K&S operates.
Focus On the Family ignores that, and instead latches onto to a bragging press release from the Human Rights Campaign. HRC boasted that they had contacted several of K&S’s clients:
[HRC spokesman Fred] Sainz said his group did not ask any of the firm’s clients to drop the firm in retaliation for taking the case, as is being assumed by conservatives who are alleging an untoward pressure campaign. Rather, he said, his group informed the firm’s clients that taking the case was out of sync with King and Spalding’s commitment to diversity, which it proudly advertises on its Web site.
One of K&S’s clients, Coca-Cola, reportedly nudged K&S pointing out that K&S’s position was contrary to Coca-Cola’s ” long public history of support for equality and diversity.” K&S was also facing a growing backlash among its own employees. Focus on the Family’s Bruce Hausknecht is blind to all that, latching instead onto HRC’s boast as a clear example of “Bullying, Strong-arming, Veiled Threats, etc.”
Threats of what? You may well ask. As far as anyone can tell, the threat would be, at most, the threat of a boycott against either K&S itself, or against its clients. Threatening boycotts, according to Hausknecht, is bullying, even though Focus On the Family has threatened boycotts on any number of occasions — although, to be fair, not nearly as often as the American Family Association. But okay. Threats of boycotts is now bullying. Fine.
Now that K&S has dropped the DOMA case, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s has barred the law firm from handling any business on behalf of the commonwealth. It’s not clear that K&S is actually handling any cases on Virginia’s behalf — Cuccinelli appears uncertain and asks K&S (PDF: 176KB/2 pages) to check their records and submit any final bills accordingly — but K&S definitely will not receive any business from Virginia in the future. Cuccinelli harrumphs with a final sign-off: “For future reference, your firm is not welcome to re-apply for special counsel status at any time as long as I am the Attorney General of Virginia.”
Hausknecht cheers this act of bullying, strong-arming, and not-so-veiled threats as an act worthy of his “straight-talkin’ award.” At least I assume Hausknecht — ever the straight-takin’ guy — considers Cuccinelli’s act as an example of bullying, strong-arming, and not-so-veiled threats. Because if he doesn’t, then his distinction between boycotting and bullying rests solely on the outcome of the act, and not the action itself. And that would also mean that threatening to with draw business (what he calls “bullying” even though no harm is actually done) is somehow worse than actually withdrawing business from K&S (where economic harm is actually done, but somehow that’s not bullying).
Come to think of it, that kind of twisted thinking does go along way toward explaining Focus On the Family’s consistent opposition to anti-bullying measures in schools. Maybe they only object to the threats, and not to the punches.