A federal court ruling likely to drop this month should provide a good indication as to whether America still has a fully functioning First World justice system. The case, involving an investigation from New York Attorney General Letitia James into the supposed mismanagement of controversial news outlet VDare.com, has received zero media coverage so far, despite it being as crude, brutish, and nakedly political as James’ other lawfare campaigns (notably against former President Trump and the NRA). In fact, it’s arguably worse, as it was clearly designed to dox VDare’s writers and volunteers and bankrupt the tiny outlet out of existence.
In a recent column about James’ investigation, VDare founder and editor Peter Brimelow recounts with frustration the increasing difficulty his outlet has had in spreading its advocacy of “immigration patriotism” over the years. This includes being blocked by social media and payment processors, potential advertisers being subjected to Anti-Defamation League-style intimidation campaigns, and even lawyers and accountants being unwilling to help the group publicly. Its very ability to exist online was threatened a few years back when a black supremacist lawyer now leading the Justice Department’s Civil Rights section tried to pressure its registrar into delisting its domain.
Considering Brimelow is a bestselling author, a reputable financial journalist going back decades, and, according to him, someone who has not changed his views on immigration, diversity, and racial issues generally since he was writing about them in National Review years back, the increasing prejudice and character attacks do draw sympathy as well as a considerable amount of head-scratching.
Post-Trump, it is basically impossible for the group to host anything publicly, as its forced conference cancelations can attest (“more than a dozen,” Brimelow says). In a 2017 case that should have created a national furor, a VDare conference scheduled in Colorado Springs was met with an announcement by city mayor John Suthers that he would direct local police not to protect the venue in case Antifa or BLM protesters showed up. Considering this was quite literally an open invitation to cause violence, venue management understandably canceled the event.
Even in light of all this, Brimelow says James’ current attack is the “most serious threat” he and his wife and VDare-partner, Lydia, have ever faced in the outlet’s 24-year history.
Among the claims James is investigating is that VDare’s New York-registered foundation has been dormant for some years. (Says Brimelow: “We were working through another foundation registered in a different state. This is why we made no further filings: they were not necessary.”) She also alleges the Brimelows are taking advantage of a conference center bought by their nonprofit (a historic house in West Virginia) by living in it rent-free (something that is palpably not true, they assert). James also claims VDare’s board is solely overseen by Brimelow family members (again, not true, they assert, but, in any case, not abnormal). Oddly, she further impugns the fact that the Brimelows failed to specify in VDare filings that they are married.
Finally, James asserts that the conference center was bought by the Brimelows’ foundation but then transferred to a for-profit corporation controlled by Peter’s wife. But according to tax records available on VDare’s site, it’s not Lydia, but the same foundation that actually controls it. As Peter wryly states in his column: “FOR THE RECORD: every step of the [conference center] transaction was carefully monitored by expensive lawyers—because we were well aware that we were susceptible to scrutiny by a malicious and unscrupulous politically motivated regulator.”
Considering the investigator in question, the real motivation behind the charges certainly deserves strong skepticism. Having campaigned for her attorney general position by promising to go after Trump without even specifying on what basis (just like New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg), James has tainted everything she touches. Around 100,000 charities are registered in New York, and the number of open investigations being pursued by the attorney general’s charity bureau cannot be more than a few dozen. And, again, Brimelow’s operation deals primarily with West Virginia and effectively has had no ties to New York for some years.
But even if dismissed by the courts as meritless, just by opening an investigation, James knows the costs to the organization will be destructive. Peter Brimelow says, in addition to severely limiting VDare’s normal operations, the compliance costs to the small, two-employee outlet have so far topped $300,000. This mainly involves complying with James’ mammoth subpoena, which encompasses close to 50 separate demands for internal documents, nearly all of them wildly improper, Brimelow explains. Among them is a perplexing order to produce deposition transcripts from his 2019 defamation lawsuit against the New York Times, something that appears to have zero relevance to James’ role as a charity regulator.
Then there is the aforementioned and highly disturbing demand that Brimelow hand over “[d]ocuments sufficient to identify” the names and addresses of all of VDare’s past and present employees, volunteers, and independent contractors, including the many pseudonymous writers VDare publishes. Considering such information is clearly unnecessary to investigate Brimelow’s own supposed misconduct, one can fairly conclude James’ subpoena is simply designed to dox and intimidate and is steeped in political discrimination. (James’s office has leaked GOP donor information before.) New York state and congressional Republicans, as well as privacy advocates generally, should be condemning her attacks in the strongest terms possible.
Despite their good-faith efforts to comply with James’ bad-faith subpoena, continued, unyielding pressure from James’ office has forced the Brimelows to file a federal lawsuit claiming, among other things, that the First Amendment rights of its past and present contractors, etc., are being violated (the decision we should be getting soon).
In his column, Brimelow alleges James’ office initially asked for an extension of the three-week response time to their federal claim because an attorney working the case came down with COVID. But that was a ruse. According to Brimelow, the point of the extension was to allow James’ team to stealthily file a state court petition in ultra-friendly Manhattan to force VDare to comply with the subpoena’s demands.
Filed on a special expedited basis, the petition was intended to secure a ruling on the subpoena before a decision could be rendered in Brimelow’s federal claims—something which state courts usually await before issuing their own ruling. Unfortunately, earlier this year, that special and rarely-awarded request was granted to James, and with the “unprecedented speed” of a single business day after it was filed, by Manhattan judge and Democrat Sabrina Kraus—Kraus gave James everything she wanted, basically. If Peter’s claims are true and James lied about her fellow attorney’s COVID, this would be a striking level of professional malfeasance even for her.
Now, on top of seeking to enjoin James’ subpoena entirely on First Amendment grounds, the Brimelows are mounting an ethics complaint against James and demanding her disbarment.
American conservatives should send the Brimelows their support and wish them all the best in their David-versus-Goliath-esque battle. Not defending them against such a patent abuse of power is to display the same disregard for justice and fairness that James is guilty of—Brimelow’s former employers at the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and, yes, National Review have so far been silent about James’ clear abuse of state power.
And after all, no conservative advocacy group will be unaffected should VDare get taken down. The Southern Poverty Law Center labels VDare as a “designated hate group,” but it did not always. It took years of conservatives looking the other way for Democratic Party attack dogs like the SPLC to shift its defamation campaign from cartoonish KKK-types to immigration reform groups, like VDare, until, finally, they came for Christian and other conservative groups as well. That shift will happen with Democrat-run apparatuses of state and private power too, if it has not already.
As Evangelist Franklin Graham recently warned after the Family Research Council was de-banked by “junior staffers” before being reinstated by the bank’s president: “Listen, those junior people—guess what—are gonna be in the next five or 10 years the senior people.” For American justice (as opposed to “their” justice) to prevail, conservatives cannot afford to stay cowed any longer.