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Choking Constitutional Liberty

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

What do porn, pistols and Ponzi schemes have in common? They are all targets of Operation Choke Point, an Obama administration initiative that is the very picture of a selectively oppressive and overreaching government.


A program of the Justice Department, Operation Choke Point is the functional equivalent of a mafia extortion racket, using abusive federal regulatory authority to coerce banks and other financial institutions into withholding financial services from companies in industries that are out of favor with the administration, including the firearms and ammunition industries.

Operation Choke Point is among the more frightening threats to liberty of late because it relies on strong-arm government tactics to erode our rights under the 2nd Amendment by specifically attacking gun stores and sellers of ammunition.

The mechanics are straightforward. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) came up with a list of industries considered to be “high-risk” for fraud and then pressured banks to end their relationships with targeted businesses within these industries. Because the FDIC is the primary regulator for some 4,500 financial institutions, its authority is forged into a bludgeon to threaten banks with a choice; stop doing business with gun stores and ammo sellers, or else. Tony Soprano would be proud of such a business model.

These “high-risk” industries were not arbitrarily chosen. They were specifically selected by the administration because starving them of financial services serves its political agenda. The nation is not in the mood, politically or legislatively, for gun control so the Obama administration uses Operation Choke Point as a way to enact gun control by other means.


No less pernicious is how the FDIC goes to considerable lengths to link these legal businesses with other, less savory industries such as pornography, Ponzi schemes, escort services and the like. What better way to demonize firearms than by linking guns to porn? In the case of other legal industries, there’s evidence that, “FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg’s letters to Congress and talking points always mention pornography when discussing payday lenders and other industries, in an effort to convey a ‘good picture regarding the unsavory nature of the businesses at issue,’” according to an investigation by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

It’s striking and more than a little insulting to realize that the Obama administration equates our constitutional rights under the 2nd Amendment to pornography and the “Racist Materials,” industry, as if there even is such an “industry” in America. Operation Choke Point also shares more than a few tactics used by the North Korean partisans who pressured Sony Pictures into canceling the December release of the movie "The Interview," which they deemed unsavory. Both efforts reflect how the left reacts to things that do not promote or support its agenda.

Taken by itself, Operation Choke Point epitomizes imperial governance. But when combined with the administration’s aggressive use of civil forfeiture and Internal Revenue Service seizures of assets for no cause, a picture of government run amok emerges. These programs strip ordinary Americans and business owners of their most basic rights simply because a president doesn’t believe in them, fundamentally transforming the nation into little more than a banana republic in the process.


Congress is already asking questions about Operation Choke Point but whether it can cut through the administration’s obfuscation remains to be seen. If the 114th Congress finds itself in need of an agenda for the coming year, it might consider moving to restore the constitutional liberties this administration is busily destroying.

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