Laurence Tribe: is taxing AIG punitive?

Yesterday, Laurence Tribe told me that if we were to enact a narrow tax law targeting AIG, it could pass constitutional muster if (among other things) "the aim of such a tax would be manifestly regulatory and fiscal rather than punitive and condemnatory." I thought this was curious -- it certainly seems like some lawmakers are saying punitive and condemnatory things about AIG -- and asked him to clarify. He responds:

Some perception of political retribution might be unavoidable, but that's not enough to render such a measure unconstitutional. It's well established that the impassioned remarks and subjective intentions of scattered members of Congress don't suffice to condemn as a purely punitive enactment an otherwise valid regulatory or tax measure. If the law were otherwise, it would be much too easy for lawmakers to doom laws with poison-pill remarks.

I don't know how to judge the likelihood of the Tribe's hypothetical in the last sentence, but the first point Tribe makes here seems like a good one: the intention of an individual lawmaker that support a bill is not synonymous with the bill's "legislative intent." Assuming Tribe is right on the attainder doctrine (and I have every reason to believe he is) , I think I was wrong in my original post.
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Conor Clarke is the editor, with Michael Kinsley, of Creative Capitalism. He was previously a fellow at The Atlantic and an editor at The Guardian. More

Conor Clarke is the editor, with Michael Kinsley, of Creative Capitalism, an economics blog that was recently published in book form by Simon and Schuster. He was previously a fellow at The Atlantic and an editor at The Guardian. He is also on Twitter.

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