June 7, 2019

AOC and Cruz to Work Together on Anti-Lobbying Bill

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

“Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez set aside their Twitter bickering [last] Thursday to strike an unusual bargain: an agreement to work together on a bill to ban former members of Congress from lobbying for life.” Politico

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From the Left

The left is supportive of lobbying restrictions but does not see this proposal as the best option.

“Is this a sign that bipartisanship has not totally and irrevocably flatlined in this hyper-polarized moment? Proof that not even Ted Cruz can resist AOC’s charming and engaging social media posts? Or just evidence that the scourge of the Congress-to-lobbyist fast-track is so rampant and destructive that even two people who likely see eye-to-eye on little in the world of policy can agree that something needs to be done about it?”
Jessica M. Goldstein, ThinkProgress

“This isn't the first time lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have taken up the anti-lobbying cause… Yet none of [the] past bills have managed to gain much traction, and adversaries have raised constitutional issues with the ban, since the First Amendment gives U.S. citizens the right to petition the government. But with such political star power behind it, will A.O.C. and Cruz's nascent bill finally be the one that manages to breaks through?
Alison Durkee, Vanity Fair

“Members of Congress in both parties are talking a big game about cleaning up Washington corruption, and House Democrats passed a major anti-corruption bill earlier this year that would crack down on lobbying. But even with the rare bipartisan momentum, some money in politics experts fear a blanket ban could have unintended consequences — pushing more people into so-called ‘shadow lobbying’... where former members of Congress still go to work for firms but even fewer actually register as lobbyists.”
Ella Nilsen, Vox

A lobbying ban isn’t enough… The Lobbying Disclosure Act requires lobbyists to register and disclose their clients if they spend more than 20 percent of their time on lobbying... Are you not a lobbyist if you only spend 19 or 15 percent of your time contacting government officials? Activities like buying ads or setting up astroturf websites to influence government officials also aren’t covered. A ‘government relations’ firm, for example, could spend $1 million on ads on the side of DC buses or at the Capitol South metro station saying ‘Congressman Funt Glunk, Vote No On HR. 69’ and never have to tell anyone on whose behalf they spent that money…

“A strict lobbying disclosure act, requiring more frequent and detailed disclosures and scrapping the bizarre 20 percent rule, would go a long way.”
Libby Watson, Splinter News

“If you ban lobbying jobs, the same corruption can sneak through in other channels. Consider, for example, Florida state Sen. Joe Negron, who was a staunch ally of the private prison industry while in office and then landed a cushy job as general counsel for a major private prison company. A job in a general counsel’s office isn’t lobbying. Neither is a gig on a company’s ‘public policy communications’ team. Or a job in a law firm’s government affairs practice. Or a ‘strategic consulting’ job. If a company wants to reward a former political ally with a lucrative job, a lobbying ban won’t stop that, and it’s honestly difficult to imagine what kind of rule would…

“It’s a nice feel-good story. Unfortunately, it’s not a very good idea. The most unseemly aspects of ‘the revolving door’ can’t effectively be curtailed by a lobbying ban, and attempting to craft an airtight one will distract reform energy from more important concerns. The real strength of moneyed interests in Congress derives from America’s unfortunate habit of starving its public institutions of resources. Give Congress more money to operate and pay members of Congress more and we’ll go a lot further to curb the power of special interests.”
Matthew Yglesias, Vox

Many note that “Biden’s opposition to [marijuana] legalization… puts him at odds with the great majority of Democrats, 75-plus percent of whom back legalization. Biden’s opposition even puts him at odds with the median Republican, with polls showing that even a majority of Republicans support legalization. Politically, then, legalization should be low-hanging fruit… Yet Biden is not quite there… It’s an especially bad look for Biden. He has a long record of pushing for punitive criminal justice and drug policies — not just supporting but actually writing many of the laws in the 1980s and ’90s that helped shape America’s modern war on drugs. For Biden to hang on to marijuana prohibition, then, just reinforces one of the major concerns that criminal justice reformers like Booker have about him.”
German Lopez, Vox

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

From the Right

The right is generally supportive of lobbying restrictions but believes the current proposal would be unconstitutional.

From the Right

The right is generally supportive of lobbying restrictions but believes the current proposal would be unconstitutional.

“Beltway wealth is not mostly enjoyed by well-paid bureaucrats, but by former government officials who cash in their public service. While in office, they increase their market value by making government bigger and more complicated. The biggest businesses are fine with this, because they can afford to hire former members such as Trent Lott, Joe Crowley, John Boehner, and Tom Daschle. Mom and pop suffer, as do taxpayers in Topeka who subsidize an orgy of ill-gotten wealth in the federal capital… A lifetime ban on lobbying by members of Congress and Cabinet officials wouldn’t stop the revolving door completely, but it would slow it a lot.”
Editorial Board, Washington Examiner

“In principle, I like the idea. But constitutionally, I think it is a deeply problematic proposal. I’d be totally okay with a constitutional amendment… But it is not just [politicians]. It is their staff too. Frankly, I am more in favor of term limits for congressional staff than members of Congress and none of them should be allowed to lobby. But we can start with congressmen.”
Erick Erickson, The Resurgent

The right to petition is explicitly protected by the First Amendment, and there is no exception within its text for former government employees — employees who, after they have left office, enjoy precisely the same relationship with their government as does any other citizen. Were Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz, and co. proposing to prohibit former federal legislators from engaging professionally in other First Amendment–protected behavior — say, from becoming paid writers or paid speakers or paid clergymen — it would be extremely obvious to us that their idea was unconstitutional. It should be obvious here, too.”
Charles Cooke, National Review

“All Cruz and AOC need to do is convince a majority of their colleagues to, er, voluntarily ban themselves from [these] lucrative jobs after their time in Congress is over. And they somehow need to do it despite the fact that both of them famously earned their own seats in Congress by defeating establishment-backed candidates in competitive primary races. That is, Cruz and AOC have *personally* made centrist members of their party less secure in their jobs and now they’re spoiling to block those centrists from security in their next jobs…

“[And] even if the ban took effect, good luck enforcing it. Presumably ex-legislators would develop some formalistic workaround in which they’re hired on by corporate firms as ‘consultants’ or whatever and then work the phones informally with their former colleagues in Congress.”
Allahpundit, Hot Air

“Working in DC is a full-time job, and lobbying firms hire people with relevant experience and contacts. Who are they supposed to hire? Former bartenders? Snarky tweeters? Idealistic pundits? You can’t outlaw Americans from gaining experience any more than you can outlaw them from staying in Washington. What you can do is vote for decent politicians, if such things exist

“[Furthermore] lobbying isn’t inherently unethical. There are lobbyists for construction workers, nurses, casket makers, lawn-care providers, and numerous other industries that most voters probably find morally neutral. Yet, not one of these outfits, not even the ones with the most money or the most politicized agendas, has ever controlled your vote or the vote of your cowardly elected official. Politicians rely on groups whose views comport with their own agendas. Banning speech won’t change that reality.”
David Harsanyi, The Federalist

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“After adding in the ultra-millionaire’s tax and factoring in the other capital taxes Warren wants to levy — on financial transactions, on unrealized capital gains, on corporations — we’d be asking every billionaire to hand over more than two-thirds of their total wealth over a 10-year period. If the government actually managed to collect it, their fortunes would rapidly erode — and so would tax collections. The plan might be a good way to smash wealth, but it’s a terrible way to fund the nation’s health-care system…

“If Warren makes it to the White House, and tries to pass a plan, the Congressional Budget Office will eventually attach more reasonable numbers, with more defensible assumptions, sparking an even more spectacular political blowback than the one that greeted Friday’s announcement. Outside of the progressive Twitterati, there isn’t necessarily an enormous constituency for spending $20.5 trillion to herd every American into a national health insurance program; there would be even less support for spending what Warren’s plan would actually cost.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

On the bright side...

Dad is giving away homemade backyard rollercoaster for free.

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