The Discerning Texan
-- Edmund Burke
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Next Stop on the road to Dictatorship: Silencing all Dissent (No Joke)
A new White House policy on permissible lobbying on economic recovery and stimulus projects has taken a decidedly anti-First Amendment turn. It's a classic illustration of Big Government trying to control every aspect of a particular activity and in the process running up against civil liberty.
Check out this passage from a post on the White House blog by Norm Eisen, Special Counsel to the President on Ethics and Government Reform (emphasis added):
"First, we will expand the restriction on oral communications to cover all persons, not just federally registered lobbyists. For the first time, we will reach contacts not only by registered lobbyists but also by unregistered ones, as well as anyone else exerting influence on the process. We concluded this was necessary under the unique circumstances of the stimulus program.
"Second, we will focus the restriction on oral communications to target the scenario where concerns about merit-based decision-making are greatest –after competitive grant applications are submitted and before awards are made. Once such applications are on file, the competition should be strictly on the merits. To that end, comments (unless initiated by an agency official) must be in writing and will be posted on the Internet for every American to see.
"Third, we will continue to require immediate internet disclosure of all other communications with registered lobbyists. If registered lobbyists have conversations or meetings before an application is filed, a form must be completed and posted to each agency’s website documenting the contact."
For the full blog post by Eisen, go here.
The key passage is the reference to expanding regulation from registered lobbyists to "anyone else exerting influence on the process. We concluded this was necessary under the unique circumstances of the stimulus program."
This is the Camel's nose under the tent, being poked because of special circumstances. Let government restrict political expression - i.e. lobbying of government officials regarding policy - in one small, supposedly specialized area and not long after the specialized area starts expanding. Eventually, all political expression regarding all policy will become subject to government regulation.
More on this as it develops. And trust me, it will develop.