Special Report

Anheuser-Busch v. Alito

Why is a major beer company bankrolling opposition to Samuel Alito on behalf of Mexican-American separatism?

By 1.11.06

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Fred Smith, president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, knows the instincts of anti-business activists as well as anyone. And his advice to corporate leaders who contemplate buying off their tormentors is this: Don't. Political bribery won't work, except maybe in the short run.

"A lot of companies think that by admitting their failures to accusers, they can buy peace," he said at a conference last November co-organized by his group, the National Legal and Policy Center and the Free Enterprise Education Institute. "Many corporations admit in effect, 'We know we're slimy. But we're going to set aside some of our ill-gotten gains for good purposes.'" Too often, "good purposes" tend to be organizations threatening to sue or boycott them to advance their own anti-business goals.

Companies such as Toyota and Pepsico for years have elevated to a virtual art form the practice of buying off hard-Left plaintiffs and protesters. You can add Anheuser-Busch to the list. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or MALDEF, indicates Anheuser-Busch in a recent annual report as a "Partner." That means that it donated at least $100,000, hardly pocket change.

A company the size of Anheuser-Busch, one would think, would orient its philanthropic giving toward organizations supportive of its interests: namely, boosting beer sales and strengthening free enterprise as a whole. MALDEF, to make a long story short, is not such an organization. For nearly 40 years it has waged a ceaseless battle to create what amounts to unofficial Mexican ethnic principalities on U.S. soil, blocking immigration reform, promoting linguistic separatism, and increasing government public-assistance spending on Hispanics. Such wish-list items are not good for any company's bottom line, never mind Anheuser-Busch's.

MALDEF, as its name implies, files lawsuits -- lots of them. And the last thing the group's leaders want to see is someone sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court predisposed toward making deportations easier, striking down mandatory bilingual education, or preventing issuance of driver's licenses as IDs to illegal immigrants -- in other words, opposing the sorts of things MALDEF advocates.

In Judge Samuel A. Alito, now facing long-awaited Senate confirmation hearings, MALDEF has such an opponent. Alito, having served 15 years as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit, has left a modest-sized paper trail suggesting as much.

MALDEF, let us understand, plays to win. And win it often does. Over the years the organization has filed successful suits to mandate affirmative-action hiring in Denver public schools, force employers to refrain from requiring Hispanic employees to speak English on the job, and require Virginia public colleges and universities to accept illegal immigrant students at in-state tuition.

Alito's presence on the Supreme Court could derail some of these victories. Let's take a brief look at his track record.

IN 1994, IN Tipu v. INS, two fellow Circuit judges threw out a deportation order against a Pakistani immigrant convicted on a drug conspiracy charge. The plaintiff, they reasoned, had played only a minor role in the crime, and had earned a high school diploma while serving a light prison sentence. Alito dissented, arguing the immigration review board did not act arbitrarily.

Another 1994 Third Circuit ruling, Pemberthy v. Beyer, particularly sticks in MALDEF's craw. Judge Alito, writing for the majority, upheld the state prosecution's peremptory challenges to five Spanish-speaking jurors. In that case, two men, Gabriel Pemberthy and Rigoberto Moncada, had been under investigation by New Jersey authorities for involvement in Colombian cocaine trafficking. They subsequently were convicted, and lost on appeal.

Pemberthy and Moncada then petitioned for a federal review, arguing that dismissing Latino jurors for being fluent in Spanish was tantamount to treating ethnicity as an illegal classification under the Equal Protection Clause. A U.S. District Court agreed, and overturned the decision.

Alito in turn voted to reverse that ruling. He understood that an ability to speak Spanish per se is no basis for exclusion. But this was an unusual case. Wiretapped evidence, in Spanish and of a highly cryptic nature, had been gathered by Spanish-speaking law enforcement officers. Alito believed that the stricken jurors, in this instance, could be prone to willfully misinterpreting tapes played back in court. As the prosecution had not violated the Equal Protection Clause, the appeals court restored the convictions.

The wording of Alito's majority opinion made clear race was not at issue. He wrote: "A challenger's decision to strike jurors based on language ability is subject to rational basis review if and only if the challenger's concerns have to do with language rather than ethnicity. The dispositive question is the factual question of subjective intent."

No matter -- this decision, among others, has prompted MALDEF's president and general counsel, Ann Marie Tallman, to denounce Alito's nomination. His views, she states, reveal "a disturbing pattern of insensitivity toward Latinos' lives and a pattern of legal opinions that would... dismantle fundamental constitutional protections currently enjoyed by Latinos and all Americans." His opinions would "roll back the clock on civil rights protections available to Latinos."

Her group accuses Alito of hostility toward immigrants. That's an odd claim to direct at someone whose late father, Samuel Alito, Sr., was an Italian immigrant.

LET'S CUT THROUGH the multicultural pieties. Judge Alito's "insensitivity" is rooted in a sound belief that anyone who resides in America must do so legally, that an ability to speak English is essential to a person's daily functioning here.

It's a position that needs no defense. In 2005 more than 35 million immigrants live in this country, roughly a third of them illegally, according to an analysis by the Center for Immigration Studies. Mexico is the sending nation for slightly over 30 percent of all new arrivals, double its share in 1980. And the problem of illegal entry from Mexico remains severe, despite a tripling in Border Patrol strength over the past decade.

Through lawsuits and public-relations campaigns, MALDEF helped bring about this situation. The group is candid about wanting to transform Mexican-Americans into a powerful voting bloc for cultural separatism. Don't be misled by the fact that most immigration still originates from outside Mexico. High levels of immigration, and high resistance to assimilation, whatever one's country of origin, strengthen Mexican interests by weakening American sovereignty.

Anheuser-Busch, along with more modest donors to MALDEF such as Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, Citigroup, and Toyota, don't quite see things this way. Fearful of becoming targets of boycotts or lawsuits, they have responded by unceasingly promoting affirmative action, regardless of shareholder wishes.

Last September 20, NLPC President Peter Flaherty wrote a letter to Anheuser-Busch President and CEO Patrick T. Stokes, criticizing his company's $100,000-plus donation to MALDEF, at the time opposing Supreme Court Chief Justice nominee John Roberts. Jesus Rangel, Anheuser-Busch's vice president for sales development and community relations, replied two weeks later: "While we may not always agree with MALDEF's position on every issue, we strongly support MALDEF's past, present, and future efforts in regard to protecting and promoting civil rights in the Latino community."

Do Stokes, Rangel, and other Anheuser-Busch officials actually believe that a large donation to a nonprofit pressure group translates into higher sales of Budweiser and Michelob to Hispanics? It would seem that way.

MALDEF can count on continued support from such corporations, ever sensitive to the slightest tarnishing of their good-citizen image. Rare indeed these days is the CEO who doesn't timorously trumpet his company's "commitment to diversity." By contrast, Judge Alito poses an obstacle to the advance of radical Mexican-separatism. That's why MALDEF is a major player in the campaign to deny him a seat on the Supreme Court.

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