Keep Yo Effn Mouth Shut

Will we still have a Constitutional Republic in four years? I have my doubts.

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."

Evidently these guys have never heard of the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Obama may be a Constitutional scholar, but it is more than evident that actually reading the document is not a requirement for such an appellation.

I wonder if this phrase added to many of my posts comes under the restrictions:

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been fully funded by the Obama administration?

Because Polywell is getting some stimulus funds but the award is not final.

H/T Small Dead Animals

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon on 05.31.09 at 02:02 AM


If it really will be managed so that, as Eisen says, "comments (unless initiated by an agency official) must be in writing and will be posted on the Internet for every American to see", I think the 2nd A concern is minimized. It's almost akin to the "time, place and manner" allowable restrictions - "you can say whatever you want to this government official/office, whenever you want to say it, but this is public business and so you must say it publicly."

Sounds like a close relation to the prohibition on ex parte contact with a judge who's hearing your case - yes, it does restrict free speech to some extent, in that you can't say what you want to say to the judge while the two of you are alone - but you can still say all of those exact things you wanted to say if you say them to the judge and to everyone else involved in the case.

bobby b   ·  June 1, 2009 5:02 PM

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