Drug Policy Reform at CPAC

Sometime this past week, Allan pointed out to me this bit of nonsense by Cliff Kincaid: Soros Infiltrates the Conservative Movement. Cliff, who is an ignorant drug war cheerleader and always writes bizarre anti-reformer screeds (example), decided to complain about a drug policy session planned at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which ends today.

The notion of a drug policy session at CPAC isn’t new — there was a very successful one last year. But Cliff jumped on the fact that Ethan Nadelmann and Bruce Birken would be participating, and that — horror of horrors — both worked for organizations “funded by leftist billionaire and anti-Bush activist George Soros.” (I’ve also contributed to both the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Policy Project, but Cliff didn’t mention me.)

The kicker, for Cliff, was the fact that poor Calvina Fay of Mel Sembler’s Drug Free America Foundation had to pull out of the debate because it “had been stacked against her” by those George Soros meanies that were trying to infiltrate the conservative movement.

MPP responded with the real story.

Kincaid reported that Fay cancelled her scheduled debate because it “had been stacked against her.” However, during a Monday phone conversation with MPP Director of Government Relations Aaron Houston, Fay’s Director of Communications Lana Beck told Houston that Fay had cancelled because she did not want to engage in a back-and-forth debate, and would only accept under the condition that each side give five-minute speeches, without openings, rebuttals or closings for each speaker […]

On Thursday, Houston and a staffer for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) offered both Fay and Kincaid slots in a Friday panel discussion with MPP’s Kampia and DPA’s Ethan Nadelmann titled “War on Drugs: Misplaced Priority on Marijuana?” Fay had already been offered a slot on the panel, but declined. On Friday morning, the pair finally informed Houston that they refused to participate in the panel.

So much for Kincaid’s outrage. Calvina simply wasn’t willing to face an opponent who might be able to correct her lies.

It was a fun little dust-up, and several reformers got to take over the comments big-time at the Kincaid article published in the Conservative Voice. I thought that was all there would be to it… But no.

Here comes our old friend/nemesis, sado-moralist Mark Souder (Jacob Sullum has also talked about this at Hit and Run). Representative Souder also read the Kincaid piece and decided that the drug policy mini-session at CPAC is a threat to the conservative movement that rivals… the Jack Abramoff scandal!

He placed this in the Congressional Record:

George Soros, the radical liberal financier who dedicated himself to defeating President George W. Bush in the last election, has taken a lesson from Jack Abramoff.

As much of Abramoff’s pernicious lobbying technique has come to light, we’ve seen how he was adept at manipulating certain conservative organizations to pursue a decidedly anti-conservative agenda, namely the promotion of gambling. By working hand in hand with the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC), for example, he was able in 2000 to undermine conservatives’ best effort to outlaw on-line gambling. Proxy organizations played a fundamental role in Abramoff’s strategy.

Since 1974, the American Conservative Union has held the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, which is billed as a three-day meeting for thousands of conservative activists and leaders to discuss current issues and policies and set the agenda for the future. I myself have addressed the conference in the past.

One can imagine a conservative’s surprise to read on the CPAC 2006 agenda that a representative of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) is slated to moderate–yes, moderate–a panel Friday discussing drug policy. For those who are unacquainted with it, the pro-marijuana MPP has been funded by Soros in the past. Also represented on the panel is the Drug Policy Alliance, which is Soros’ principal pro-drug arm. Incidentally, the moderator himself is a convicted drug dealer.

What on earth were the CPAC organizers thinking? Why would the American Conservative Union allow extremist liberals like George Soros and Peter Lewis (who is responsible for most of MPP’s funding) to access a meeting of conservatives? And, in exactly whose estimation would there be balance in a debate moderated by the MPP?

Thanks to Accuracy in Media Report editor Cliff Kincaid, these are just a few of the questions that the CPAC organizers now face. I’d like to submit into the record his article of February 7, 2006, entitled “Soros Infiltrates Conservative Movement.” In exchange for a donation, is this 32-year old conservative conference turning itself into a Soros proxy organization just like Abramoff’s TVC?

Over the last number of months, we’ve been surprised to learn how one such as Abramoff was able to exploit conservatives for his own purposes. Surely in this environment we can’t miss seeing it when it’s happening once again.

This is just wrong on so many levels.

First, Souder makes it sound like this is the comparison: Jack Abramoff manipulated conservatives into supporting gambling against their will. Now Soros is attempting to manipulate conservatives into supporting drugs against their will. What bull!

The Abramoff scandal isn’t about promoting gambling. It’s about pitting one gambling interest against other gambling interest and paying Legislators hefty bribes to get them to pass legislation that will make certain clients and lobbyists rich, while victimizing certain Native American tribes.

The other situation is about two organizations, which get donations from a lot of individuals, hosting an optional panel discussion/debate on drug policy at a conference. And for that, Souder uses the Congressional Record?

There’s another thing happening here. Souder, and certain other social conservatives, would like nothing better than to frame drug policy reform as a “liberal” issue and remove it from conservative thought. But it won’t work, unless they’re somehow able to cleanse all traditional conservative beliefs in liberty, individual responsibility, and limited government from the Republican party, in which case that party is doomed.

By the way, early reports that I’ve heard indicate that the drug policy sessions were among the most interesting at CPAC, with the majority of attendees supporting the reform arguments.
Update: Here’s a report from the Stamford Advocate.

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