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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Arizona Shooting Blame Game Begins

The rush by politicians to blame yesterday's shootings in Arizona on conservative political activists -- and not on the man who actually held the gun --  has begun.

An Arizona state senator, Linda Lopez, essentially blames the "Tea Party" (which any educated observer of American politics understands is by no means monolithic) for inciting the political climate in which yesterday's shootings/crimes occurred.

More disturbing is that some members of law enforcement are blaming the shooting, not on the 22-year-old suspect identified as Jared Loughner, but rather television and radio talk shows hosts and, by implication, their audience including anti-illegal immigration, Tea Party and other political activists. Pima County Arizona sheriff Clarence Dupnik, evidently speaking above his pay grade and forgetting that sometimes it is better to be quiet and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt, connects the vitriol and bigotry in today's political climate to the tragic shootings. 

Consider the following civil liberties gem from Sheriff Dupnik:
"People tend to pooh-pooh this business about the vitriol that inflames American public opinion by the people who make a living off of that. That may be free speech but it's not without consequences."

Yesterday I warned that political activists should expect increased government scrutiny and even investigations in the wake of yesterday's tragic shootings of 20 people including Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, in which (to date) six people were killed (including federal judge John Rell). The shameless, and utterly irresponsible, political opportunism that has followed is likely to drive such investigations as government authorities begin to respond to the already-building political pressures.

Political activists and community activists, including any people whose activity is limited to one issue (e.g., pro-life / anti-abortion activists), should consider reviewing their statements and activities, evaluating the company they keep, and consulting with qualified legal counsel to review their potential exposure to government scrutiny and to handle any government inquiries.

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer who has been practicing law since graduating from Yale Law School in 1994. Mr. Dixon cautions that this article is not legal advice. Mr. Dixon has handled election law and other matters for over two dozen political clients, and also handles corporate investigations, due diligence and sensitive matters including crisis management.  Mr. Dixon is available for consultation or comment at and 917-696-2442.

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