Anti-lobbyist policy unconstitutional?

posted at 9:03 am on March 28, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

President Obama announced a series of restrictions for government agencies in dealing with lobbyists this week, and free-speech advocates have begun objecting.  Officials in charge of spending stimulus money cannot speak with lobbyists in person or on the phone, and in fact now have to start every conversation by asking the person whether they are a registered lobbyist.  The ACLU and CREW believe that Obama has violated the First Amendment and want the policy changed:

Free speech advocates from across the political spectrum are accusing President BarackObama of impinging on First Amendment rights and are gearing up to take their case public.

At issue is an unprecedented directive that Obama— who has long railed against lobbyists as the personification of a corrupt Washington culture — issued last week barring officials charged with doling out stimulus funds from talking to registered lobbyists about specific projects or applicants for stimulus cash.

Under the directive, which began going into effect this week, agency officials are required to begin meetings about stimulus funding for projects by asking whether any party to the conversation is a lobbyist.

“If so, the lobbyist may not attend or participate in the telephonic or in-person contact, but may submit a communication in writing,” reads Obama’s memo, which requires the agencies to post lobbyists’ written communications online.

The rule is intended to prevent stimulus funds form being “distributed on the basis of factors other than the merits of proposed projects or in response to improper influence or pressure,” according to the memo.

This procedure sounds a lot like the kinds of questions hookers ask johns to keep from getting busted, under the mistaken notion that a cop has to admit his identity if asked directly to avoid entrapment.  In this case, with loads of cash going to little use, the situation is reversed but still ironically applicable.  The johns now have to ask the hookers whether they’re professionals or amateurs.

The ACLU and CREW consider this an unconstitutional infringement.  The First Amendment reads in full:

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.

I made this point repeatedly during the campaign: lobbying is a Constitutionally protected activity.  Obama (and to an almost equal amount John McCain) made lobbyists a fetish over the last two years.  Hillary Clinton actually made the most sense during that time, noting that most lobbyists perform a necessary task well and without corruption.  People hire lobbyists to pursue their political agendas, a task made more and more necessary the larger and more powerful the federal government becomes.

That’s really the key to ending lobbyist influence.  Reducing federal power and cutting back federal spending would push lobbyists out of Washington DC.  Otherwise, the government doesn’t need to act like a participant in prostitution in any sense and in any way during lobbyist communications, as long as Congress can’t earmark funds for contributors and all transactions are fully transparent and accountable.  So far, our political class has been reluctant to do that, although Obama himself did partner with Tom Coburn to force more sunlight on Capitol Hill while in the Senate.

This is an absurd construct that will only make the people more disconnected from the Leviathan Obama envisages.  When Obama loses the ACLU, well, that should speak volumes.


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At issue is an unprecedented directive that Obama— who has long railed against lobbyists as the personification of a corrupt Washington culture

but who has given waivers to 17 (is it even more now?) former lobbyists so they can work in his administration…

Wethal on March 28, 2009 at 9:07 AM

Please people . . . Obama couldn’t care less about the Constitution. Until this simple fact sinks into the minds of the population he’ll continue his rape of the Republic.

rplat on March 28, 2009 at 9:08 AM

If it pisses off the ACLU, can it be so bad?

rayvet on March 28, 2009 at 9:13 AM

The Constitution? heh The Constitutional scholar knows nothing about the Constitution.

becki51758 on March 28, 2009 at 9:18 AM

A very apt analogy in comparing prostitutes, johns and cops to Congress, lobbyists and citizens — although the roles assigned to each are still playing musical chairs in my head.

cruadin on March 28, 2009 at 9:29 AM

the ant-lobbyist thing was always a scam, it is about the size and scope of government as Mr. Morrissey correctly points out. Increase government power and strength, and like flies to honey the special interests will circle to exploit the system for their advantage or get the government off its back.

rob verdi on March 28, 2009 at 9:31 AM

Good post, Ed. Lately there have been absurd constructs everywhere I look.

flyfisher on March 28, 2009 at 9:32 AM

New kid on the block ain’t making too many friends.

blatantblue on March 28, 2009 at 9:34 AM

The First Amendment? What does The Muslim care about that. This guy is likely to create a Department of Government Assembly, lobbyist central with a federal building on K street.

EMD on March 28, 2009 at 9:35 AM

When the government controls how huge amounts of money are being spent. Self interest groups need to lobby for there share of the loot. A very sad situation, but true none the less. Lobbyists are protected by the constitution, and the ACLU is exactly right in this situation.

Dasher on March 28, 2009 at 9:35 AM

Anti-lobby? Just another diversion from the fact that we are in the midst of a Marxist coup d’état.
Let’s get real and look at the big picture.
The collectivsts are trying to tank the economy which allows them to grab more power, and we are concerned about lobbyists?

woodswalking on March 28, 2009 at 9:36 AM

Anti-lobby? Just another diversion from the fact that we are in the midst of a Marxist coup d’état.
Let’s get real and look at the big picture.
The collectivsts are trying to tank the economy which allows them to grab more power, and we are concerned about lobbyists?

woodswalking on March 28, 2009 at 9:36 AM

Right on.

rplat on March 28, 2009 at 9:39 AM

When Obama loses the ACLU,

pigs fly over hell freezing.

The ACLU will tell Mr. Malleable how to do things, and he will comply. He always was a cheat, stealing answers off his peers, trusting their judgment as he lacks all.

maverick muse on March 28, 2009 at 9:42 AM

woodswalking

Hell, who elected Obama in the first place? LOBBYISTS!!!!

How is it that the entire profession of lobbyists can be out-lobbied? They still have friends in office, no? So this move by Obama is actually to pluck naked every political opponent.

Strategy, tactic, maneuver.

Who actually has more clout so far as RELATIONS go in the halls on Capitol Hill? Turn of the screw Obama? Or Lobbyists whose complete intent is up front and public?

We shall see.

maverick muse on March 28, 2009 at 9:49 AM

Lobbying has turned into a billion dollar legal bribery business that our corrupt Congress loves.

getalife on March 28, 2009 at 9:57 AM

Off Topic, but

There’s a new gun control bill in the House, HR 45, that has gun advocates up in arms.

http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-h45/comments/1

I think the biggest thing is the provision saying that the government will have the right to invade any place handling guns “with intent to distribute for commerce” at will (flying in the face of the 4th amendment) and worry with liberal interpretations it would mean anywhere with a gun, including homes.

Thought some might be interested.

amkun on March 28, 2009 at 9:59 AM

is it possible the aclu is doing him a favor? Obama out of “respect” for the constitution scraps his own policy and now has political cover to say, well I tried to clean things up all the while opening the flood gates to very people he attacked during the campaign.

rob verdi on March 28, 2009 at 10:01 AM

Not sure how I feel about this one. In truth, I would not mind seeing some restrictions on lobbying, but the obama administration has shown an unfortunate tendency to go to extremes when trying to solve problems(ie: the budget and bail out!)However, some reasonable restrictions or limits designed to protect the public interest(if such exist)would not be out of place in my opinion.

jeanie on March 28, 2009 at 10:03 AM

Screw Obama’s failures to study all aspects before opening his fat trap regurgitating the Soros-prompt lobby line.

We’re all worn thin on Obama’s first dogma, to hate all employees of Wall Street and love your Department of the Treasury whose body, though legislated by Hamiltonian lobbyists, is not intrinsically Constitutional, and is now bankrupting the nation, NOT EVEN IN ORDER TO SUPPLY MATERIALS, TRAINING AND CAREERS TO DEFEND THE NATION FROM AGGRESSION, but specifically in order to deprive the nation of any national defense.

Conservatives have a beef and won’t give it up to the Obama Burger King to flame broil in sacrificial offering to Lord Soros. Obama has his lobbyists out in force, and will ONLY take calls from his own lobbyists. He will grant them all government appointed jobs with title this and that while demanding death to all lobbyists, SPECIFICALLY those who represent Constitutional concerns, conservatism, free enterprise, and his taxes to starve us to death.

maverick muse on March 28, 2009 at 10:04 AM

What about a bill to ban congressmen from DC? Because it’s not lobbyists who are the corrupt ones. They’re the voices of the people. They’re just playing the game in DC.

It’s the congressmen who corrupted the process.

amkun on March 28, 2009 at 10:07 AM

Most assuredly, there is a conversion within the Lobby Industry occurring with this latest Lobbyist distraction. The effect of this brouhaha is to rally our attention towards both ends of the stick beating us, to distract us from grasping the center of the rod and stop the beating.

maverick muse on March 28, 2009 at 10:10 AM

“This procedure sounds a lot like the kinds of questions hookers ask johns to keep from getting busted, under the mistaken notion that a cop has to admit his identity if asked directly to avoid entrapment.”

This is standard practice in Chicago…even if you are asking that young lady across the bar if you can buy her a drink.

From the Chicago way to the new Washington way, in under 60 days.

I hope it changes.

coldwarrior on March 28, 2009 at 10:14 AM

amkun

It is true that Lobbyists began prior to our IT Age. Perhaps Lobbyists should be limited to accessing our representatives in proportion to individual citizens’ responses. On their official webpages for citizen constituents, our legislators should post meetings with lobbyists online, or at least the summary of the lobbyists’ points and requests. Then take and HEAR the people’s voice.

But the best of plans do go awry. IT systems get hacked all of the time.

maverick muse on March 28, 2009 at 10:17 AM

Lobbying has turned into a billion dollar legal bribery business that our corrupt Congress loves.

getajob on March 28, 2009 at 9:57 AM

Thanks for admitting that Democrats are corrupt. After all, they have controlled Congress for over 2 years now.

Del Dolemonte on March 28, 2009 at 10:17 AM

Off Topic, but

There’s a new gun control bill in the House, HR 45, that has gun advocates up in arms.

http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-h45/comments/1

I think the biggest thing is the provision saying that the government will have the right to invade any place handling guns “with intent to distribute for commerce” at will (flying in the face of the 4th amendment) and worry with liberal interpretations it would mean anywhere with a gun, including homes.

Thought some might be interested.

amkun on March 28, 2009 at 9:59 AM

A letter signed by 65 Democrats in the House says they will oppose any legislation of this kind. Check the links below:

Assault Ban Letter article

A copy of the letter signed by 65 Democrats

Right_of_Attila on March 28, 2009 at 10:18 AM

Thanks for the reminder that Hillary was the voice of reason on this duiring the campaign. That new found respect I had found for her during the campaign has now completely left me. But this was a nice reminder.

myrenovations on March 28, 2009 at 10:19 AM

Get used to it. In future, Obama will be even more open when he demands ‘to see your papers’.

GarandFan on March 28, 2009 at 10:19 AM

It is true that Lobbyists began prior to our IT Age. Perhaps Lobbyists should be limited to accessing our representatives in proportion to individual citizens’ responses. On their official webpages for citizen constituents, our legislators should post meetings with lobbyists online, or at least the summary of the lobbyists’ points and requests. Then take and HEAR the people’s voice.

But the best of plans do go awry. IT systems get hacked all of the time.

maverick muse on March 28, 2009 at 10:17 AM

More transparency is definitely welcome. As we all know, it’s not the intent so much as the appearance of intent (impropriety) that causes many problems.

And then there’s the actual impropriety. No more trips to Vegas, no more free plane rides on the company jet. I don’t think dinner or lunch is acceptable. These meetings should all be done in a public place, preferably with a jury.

There are always people like Jack Abramoff on the lobbyist side, but for every one of them, there are ten Murthas-in-training.

amkun on March 28, 2009 at 10:27 AM

Obama’s “nuance” skills are vastly overrated, in my opinion. He makes my teeth hurt because he’s so heavy-handed. But then, others swooned over his race speech, and all I could think of was how he insulted his grandmother. I could hardly imagine anyone allowing that sentence to remain in the speech, but there it was….taking the air out of the room.

This latest is just another example of his inability to devise nuanced positions.

AnninCA on March 28, 2009 at 10:29 AM

Right_of_Attila on March 28, 2009 at 10:18 AM

I figured HR 45 was a one in a million shot, but even the assault weapons ban has Democrats against it? That’s a pleasant surprise.

Certainly is amusing how fast the anti-gun ninnies came out of the woodwork after the inauguration.

amkun on March 28, 2009 at 10:30 AM

Cultural Marxism.

RealDemocrat on March 28, 2009 at 10:44 AM

Certainly is amusing how fast the anti-gun ninnies came out of the woodwork after the inauguration.

amkun

Why we must support a strong NRA and like-minded organizations. They watch this like a hawk and sound the alarm for those of us who are too busy to keep an eye on congress 24/7.

SKYFOX on March 28, 2009 at 10:56 AM

but who has given waivers to 17 (is it even more now?) former lobbyists so they can work in his administration…

Wethal on March 28, 2009 at 9:07 AM

Which begs the question, does that mean Dabama cannot talk to his administration lobbyists, and if he does does that make him impeachable?

DannoJyd on March 28, 2009 at 10:56 AM

myrenovations on March 28, 2009 at 10:19

Me too! I surprised myself. I also think she’s trying to do a good job talking to the Chinese and the Mexicans etc. Still not sure I really trust the Clintons though but have to say I mostly approve of her efforts so far. High marks for hard work and genuine involvement.

jeanie on March 28, 2009 at 11:12 AM

Its off to the re-education camps for the lot of you.

skatz51 on March 28, 2009 at 11:15 AM

Obama & Democrat Majority: Now that “we” got “ours”, you can’t have any say.

I’d like a lobby on reverse discrimination.

OUR CONSTITUTION promotes the essence of the MLK message that should be the motto on his federally sponsored holiday: that REGARDLESS OF COLOR, each person is to be recognized for their own essence, contributions, and their own achievements.

We knew who MLK was before his “friends” revised his sacrifice to meet their own racist ends for profit that, sadly, are stuck on stupid perpetual self-identity within a victimization mode regardless of opportunities provided to succeed.

maverick muse on March 28, 2009 at 11:22 AM

The collectivsts are trying to tank the economy which allows them to grab more power, and we are concerned about lobbyists? woodswalking on March 28, 2009 at 9:36 AM

Exactly.

Itchee Dryback on March 28, 2009 at 11:34 AM

Yeah, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to find that this is somehow orchestrated to give Barry the ability to “bend” his position on lobbyists. The thugs Barry surrounds himself with are just slightly more sophisticated than I was as a teenager who would concoct elaborate schemes in order to convince my parents I wasn’t doing anything wrong.

anniekc on March 28, 2009 at 11:35 AM

Don’t be fooled when the ACLU actually stands up for something when most everyone agrees to as being right. Look at the bigger picture. They have a pattern of throwing in a common sense objection every now and then as part of their over all plan to throw off the impression that they are a socialist leaning organization.

Side note: In this day and age of pollitics, everything, and I mean everything is calculated and scripted.

Badbrucskie on March 28, 2009 at 11:51 AM

It reminds me of the scene in “Ramblin’ Rose”, where the men decide Rose (played by Laura Dern) may need a lobotomy because they are just too sexually attracted to her as she is.

If Obama can’t trust his administration with lobbyists, that isn’t the lobbyists fault.

MayBee on March 28, 2009 at 11:51 AM

I’m actually surprised they didn’t try for a hail-Mary with an argument that includes the Equal Protection Clause.

Glenn Jericho on March 28, 2009 at 11:58 AM

Lobbyists should just do what the liberals do, change their names.

From now on, they should be Union Representatives.

Jvette on March 28, 2009 at 12:16 PM

This procedure sounds a lot like the kinds of questions hookers ask johns to keep from getting busted, under the mistaken notion that a cop has to admit his identity if asked directly to avoid entrapment. In this case, with loads of cash going to little use, the situation is reversed but still ironically applicable. The johns now have to ask the hookers whether they’re professionals or amateurs.

I never have understood why it is that government agents are allowed to lie to a citizen but yet if you lie to them it’s a crime.

wildcat84 on March 28, 2009 at 1:37 PM

All in a day’s work under President Training-Wheels:
Ignoring the Constitution
Curtailing free speech
Hobbling capitalism
Cutting defense budget
Repealing drug laws
Stopping border enforcement
Rewarding illegal aliens & their families
Increasing spending & gov’t to record size
Tripling the deficit
Releasing terrorists into the US
Renaming War on Terror & Terrorists
Dialing back national security to pre- 9-11
Forming militias
Controlling individual energy use with meters
Doing away with secret ballots
Funding ACORN to further dilute democracy
Lying
Cheating
Stealing an election through voter fraud & intimidation
Murdering babies that survive late abortions
Destroying our country from within
.

Admitting his Constitutional ineligibility to be POTUS due to his dual citizenship/allegiance at birth” .
If only we could have seen it coming, oh wait…

.
It’s NOT TOO LATE

NightmareOnKStreet on March 28, 2009 at 2:46 PM

I made this point repeatedly during the campaign: lobbying is a Constitutionally protected activity.

Absolutely. This has nothing to do with free speech. You can talk all you want but nobody has to listen …. except for the government.

Harpoon on March 28, 2009 at 3:08 PM

Like fellow Iraqis asking if the other is a member of the Iraq-based Ba’ath Party – out of fear of certain death – right?

ericdijon on March 28, 2009 at 3:44 PM

I’m confused. If an Acorn flunky, bought and paid for by Obama, comes to my door to demand census anal exam information, am I obligated to stay mum, or no? Or do I have to receive stimulus or bailout funds in order for this to apply, such as, say, a refundable tax credit…

Is it even legal for him to deal with Acorn now that he bought it/paid it off?

Constitutional scholar my ass.

Maquis on March 28, 2009 at 5:03 PM

Lobbying has turned into a billion dollar legal bribery business that our corrupt Congress loves.

getalife on March 28, 2009 at 9:57 AM

Of course, you would care. It’s not like you’re on the Soros-BHO payroll or anything./sarc

bluelightbrigade on March 28, 2009 at 5:18 PM

Cm’ONNNNN!!
This whole thing was nothing more than a construct show for election purposes…like every single one of the Obama Edicts, it was for show…now that they are in office…well, it’s business as usual with political cover provided by the other leftist at the ACLU…
Keep Moving…nothing to see here…..

colonelkurtz on March 28, 2009 at 7:17 PM

Obama’s time limit on his anti-lobbying statements has run out anyway.

Christian Conservative on March 28, 2009 at 9:36 PM

Wethal sez:

but who has given waivers to 17 (is it even more now?) former lobbyists so they can work in his administration…

So under Obama’s new guidelines, certain members of his administration — hell, of his Cabinet — can’t even talk to each other? What’re they gonna do, pass notes?

Paul_in_NJ on March 29, 2009 at 10:17 AM

Is this like beginning a meeting with a prayer? O most powerful Gaia protect us from the vile lobbyists and cast thy global warming breath on those who do note denounce themselves.

Annar on March 30, 2009 at 12:02 PM