Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin is pushing back against critics of his letters seeking views on "stand your ground" laws.
The Illinois Democrat has faced blowback over his letters to 300 groups asking for their viewpoints regarding the controversial state laws that made national headlines in the aftermath of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida. The letters went to groups that have backed efforts of the American Legislative Exchange Council.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, blasted Durbin's letters as an "inappropriate government intrusion." In a response issued Aug. 9, the conservative Goldwater Institute went so far as to compare Durbin's questions to inquiries made by Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s.
"Simply put, especially in the wake of IRS intimidation and harassment of conservative organizations, your inquisition is an outrage," Goldwater Institute President Darcy Olsen wrote. "We refuse to answer whether we are or ever have been a supporter of ALEC or its model legislation. We refuse to answer not because we disavow ALEC — far from it. We refuse to answer because as free Americans, that is our right."
Durbin criticized the Chicago Tribune editorial board and others in an opinion piece published Wednesday.
"The Tribune editorial page and others attacked me for trying to hinder free speech and use my position to intimidate those with political views I disagree with," Durbin wrote. "The Tribune and others are wrong.
"ALEC and its corporate and organizational supporters have every right to participate in the political process. My concern is with the lack of transparency. As a public official, when I take a position, I stand up to explain and defend it," he added. "I file annual financial disclosures, campaign finance reports and have to face the scrutiny of public opinion."
Durbin has announced plans for a hearing next month on the issue of "stand your ground laws" by the Judiciary subcommittee he serves as chairman of. In the Tribune piece, Durbin said that his queries were to gather information in advance of the hearing.