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Here Come the Reformers – Again

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Like the inevitability of water finding its way downhill, government is always looking for new ways to expand its regulatory power over the lives of its citizens. On serendipitous occasions, it manages to do so while simultaneously preventing others from impeding future expansions of power.

Such is the case with Congress’ consideration of the ethics and lobbying reform legislation prompted in the wake of public reaction to the Jack Abramoff scandal. Some politicians are attempting to use the newfound momentum for reform to add elements that would seriously impair the ability of average Americans to have their voices heard by their own government.

Like Dracula, bad ideas come well dressed in good intentions and lull their unsuspecting prey into a trance with sugar-coated words. But just like his victims, you wake up in the morning and discover that things turned out quite differently than you expected.

Some of the more sensible ideas being proposed would call for limits on congressional travel funded by outside sources, as well as preventing gifts and meals from being provided to elected officials by lobbyists. Fine. No problem there. But other elements would create regulations that would prevent grassroots organizations, groups of plain ol’ citizens trying to be heard by their government, from communicating with supporters and urging them to contact elected officials about pending legislation. In short, this “reform” would impede the ability of Americans to communicate with each other about what their government is doing.

Such activity is commonly referred to as “grassroots lobbying,” and it is the lifeblood of every constituency-based organization in America that tries to have its voice heard by government. The vast majority of them don’t have a fat-cat lobbyist in DC buying golf trips and expensive meals for politicians, but they do have something the politicians fear – grassroots supporters. This might explain the push to restrict their activity.

Also like Dracula, bad ideas are hard to kill. You have to make sure you get them in the heart. But exactly where the heart of this latest reform effort is, isn’t so obvious. Is it in the ego and aspirations of the politicians who push it; or with the complicit media that beats the drum of scandal to build momentum for reform? Perhaps it is in the uninformed minds of the public.

Whatever the answer, those who know the truth need to speak up and make life uncomfortable for those who advocate this assault on the Constitution. The right to petition our government “for a redress of grievances” is fundamental; in fact, that very phrase is in our Constitution along with the more familiar “freedom of speech.”

We have freedom of speech in this country for a reason. For instance, to be able to speak out against bad ideas masquerading as reform. Thanks to the last major instance of “reform” (the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law), most Americans who want to exercise free speech on any level grander than a conversation with a neighbor will find themselves in need of an attorney – either beforehand to explain the “rules”, or afterward to advise them of their rights and help keep them out of court.

Any historian worth his or her salt will explain that the “freedom of speech” protections contained in our First Amendment were enumerated first and foremost to protect political speech. The founders rightly understood that without freedom of political speech, free speech of any other sort would be meaningless at best, and short-lived at worst.

Yet in America today, we have ostensibly intelligent elected officials suggesting with straight faces that these “reforms” do nothing to hamper our free speech. At the same time, federal judges will bend over backwards to protect a pornographer’s right to distribute virtual child pornography in the name of free speech.

We are quickly entering a day and age when Americans will have to file paperwork to be allowed to have their grievances heard within our political system. If this latest version of “ethics” reform becomes law, Americans of every stripe will be significantly less able to influence their own government, while politicians of every stripe will be significantly emboldened to ignore average Americans.

There’s an old saying that goes, “better the devil you know than the one you don’t.” Another one warns us “the devil is in the details.” Both nuggets of wisdom apply with emphasis in this case. The “devil” of a problem most Americans have in dealing with their government is a known quantity. The devil that lurks in the details of the latest version of “ethics reform” is sure to make things worse.

Just like the dapper count from Transylvania, the proponents of this legislation are concerned with appearances. They want to give the appearance that they are “doing something” in the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal. And they are doing something. They are using the public reaction to the scandal to use “reform” as a vehicle to drain more life out of the First Amendment.

Stop them before they “reform” again.

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About Drew McKissick

Drew McKissick is a political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience specializing in political strategy, planning and organization as well as the development of grassroots related political action programs. He has worked as a political activist at the local, state and national levels, and has served in elected and appointed positions at all levels of the Republican Party, including serving as a member of the Republican National Committee. He also writes a regular column providing analysis and commentary on current events.
  • gonzo marx

    and in the original Poster’s bio it sez…
    *Drew McKissick is a Columbia, SC based political consultant and maintains a blog at Conservative Outpost. His column “The Right Side” is published weekly.*

    and there you have it kiddies

    more and more horseshit from those who wallow in the manure

    how about this…NO money, NO gifts, NO contributions from lobbyists?

    my personal Idea to reform the entire system is relatively simple…

    ONLY registered voters in the constituency involved can contribute to a campaign…unlimited amount…BUT said contribution must be posted publicly (gov’t record and a gov website) within 24 hours of the contribution clealry stating where it came from

    period

    no corps, no unions, no clubs, no PACs, no lobbyists

    bet that would stop a lot of bullshit in it’s tracks

    now before you holler, read what i typed carefully…

    if Bill Gates wanted to give a billion dollars to a Presidential candidate he could…but Microsoft can’t toss out a dime

    “We the People…”

    nuff said

    Excelsior?

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Gonzo, the fact that Drew admits he’s a right-winger is a GOOD thing. That means you know where he’s coming from. And he’s not entirely wrong here. In the past campaign finance reform has been used as a means of silencing certain political groups, shutting down grassroots organizations and making sure that only the right kind of fundraising was possible, to the benefit of the entrenched interests. The latest example of this was the Democrats attempt to shut down indpendent political blogs by trying to apply the equal time rules to them or just making it illegal for them to publish any political content for 60 days before an eleection. If you don’t think that’s an attack on free speech you’re seriously deluded.

    Dave

  • gonzo marx

    read my comment again…then we can talk a bit better…

    you appear to be laboring under the assumption that i approve of the demlicans bullshit in these matters

    incorrect

    ANYONE dirty dealing is my target..it just so happens that the GOP types have all the juice right now, and thus bear the greater level of Responsibility for shit like Abramhoff

    as for “equal time”

    my thinking is that a HUGE part of today’s partisan bullshit began 10 minutes after Reagan stopped the “equal time” parts of the FCC broadcast regulations

    to me..since the Public owns the airwaves, as per the FCC, then political “speech” from the Candidates should be fucking free and equal

    add that to what i commented above, and you solve a shitload of the problems surrounding money/ethics in our politics

    just my one sixth billionths of the world’s Opinion…

    your mileage may vary

    Excelsior?

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    I agree that ACCESS to the airwaves should be equal and that people should be free to speak as they like. But I don’t see how mandated equality benefits anyone, ever. Taking from one group to benefit another only hurts society. Taking free speech away from one person to give more of it to another isn’t fair either.

    Dave