"This is a nice business.  Would be a shame if it burned down."

We see this line as a subtle form of extortion.  A superintendent for the New York Department of Financial Services (DFS) pulled a similar stunt with financial institutions.

So why would the Montana Attorney General, Austin Knudsen, be involved with a case of pseudo-blackmail in New York?

Because these particular financial institutions were doing business with the National Rifle Association.

NRA v Vullo, a Summary of Events

Maria Vullo, then super of the NY DFS, did not support the individual's right to own guns and did not like the NRA.  But she had no tool to weaken the NRA's influence on policy.  Her realm was in the finance industry.  She couldn't rule over the NRA because it is not a bank or similar business.  But she could throw her clout against the financiers that work with the NRA.  So she used her regulatory authority to target and indirectly threaten the banks and money companies that have the NRA as a customer or client.  Key word here is "indirectly."

She said "Would be a shame if it burned down," instead of "Do as I say or I'll send thugs to burn it to the ground!"

When NRA v Vullo went through the court proceedings, the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled in favor of Vullo, stating she did not directly or explicitly threaten the companies, but rather campaign against them for dealing with the NRA.

AG Knudsen Rides to the Rescue

Knudsen saw the dangerous implications of a government official or agency exhorting businesses just because of who they serve.  First may be guns, then later religion or pro-life.  Could work in reverse, cutting sweetheart passes for environmental, DEI or the Woke agenda.  So he led the cavalry charge of 23 attorney generals and the Arizona Legislature into filing an amicus brief to the United States Supreme Court to reverse the ruling of the 2nd Circuit.  The brief maintained that monetarily hampering an organization, even discreetly or through a third party, violated the 1st Amendment freedom of speech.

The AGs also wrote that an implicit threat is still a threat if "the targeted entity reasonably perceived the statement as a threat."

The Supreme Court Agreed, Unanimously

In a statement, Mr. Knudsen acknowledged "the right decision today in protecting one of the greatest privileges we have as Americans: free speech."  He added "I will continue to fight for the rights of Montanans and all Americans."

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