Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Special Counsel to the President on Ethics and Government Reform Has Trouble with the First Amendment

(Imported from HotAir... good work in bringing this to our attention). Let me say that this won't happen, but even for it to be suggested elucidates the liberal tenancy towards socialistic monopolies on "free-speech." Tammy Bruce's book, "The New Thought Police: Inside the Left's Assault on Free Speech and Free Minds," comes to mind.

White House: We’ll cut off criticism of Porkulus

Mark Tapscott notices an interesting blog post by Norman Eisen, who works for Barack Obama as Special Counsel to the President on Ethics and Government Reform. Anticipating a deluge of criticism over the thus-far ineffectual spending plan, Eisen has a straightforward plan to deal with criticism. He’ll simply use the power of the federal government to silence it. Problem solved!

“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. [emphasis mine -- Ed]

“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.”

Silencing dissent and criticism is “necessary under the unique circumstances of the stimulus program”? Gee, what “unique circumstances” might those be? Perhaps the fact that it costs more than the Moon shot, and has yet to halt the economic skid. Maybe it’s the fact that most of the stimulus package doesn’t actually stimulate anything except doctrinaire liberal dreams and the pens that check off the items from the Democratic wish list.

Remember when the Left took to the streets to declare dissent “patriotic” during wartime? I didn’t have a problem with dissent then, but apparently the Left has a curious definition of “patriotism”. Now, suddenly, the federal government can silence their critics at will, not to protect critical national-security programs or keep from undermining a war effort, but to protect a Democratic president intent on seizing control of private industry across a wide swath of the nation. Suddenly, that kind of dissent threatens America.

UPDATE from Mark Tapscott

Carter Wood at Shopfloor sees the same threat to the First Amendment:

"Lobbyists and organizations that lobby complained that the White House’s restrictions on lobbying on stimulus fund projects were discriminatory and unfair because the same restrictions didn’t apply to people like corporate executives or officials. So these memorandumly noted changes address that fairness issue by expanding the ban on orally petitioning the government or expressing one’s views through speech. In the interests of transparency the First Amendment must be sacrificed.

"The restrictions are also ambiguous enough that a lobbyist or other petitioner won’t be sure how to fully comply. So if someone runs afoul of White House officials, a phone call to a news outlet or a friendly prosecutor can punish the offender. Ambiguous rules plus capricious application equals negative rule of law."