Remember the right "to petition the Government for a redress of grievances"? Remember the left praising the President's support of freedom of speech and association?
Well, that was then. Now is Norm Eisen, White House special counsel for ethics and government reform, on May 29th:
[W]e 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.Mark Tapscott of the Washington Examiner is halfway right:
This is the Camel’s nose under the tent, being poked because of special circumstances. Let government restrict political expression -- i.e. lobbying of government officials regarding policy -- in one small, supposedly specialized area and not long after the specialized area starts expanding. Eventually, all political expression regarding all policy will become subject to government regulation.I say "halfway" because Tapscott misstates the issue: The Obama Administration isn't merely regulating speech and/or petition, it's prohibiting talking to them about a particular topic. Doesn't that sound similar to what NASA's James Hansen complained Bush was doing? Or--in what would be a inversion of the law--does the First Amendment apply only to liberal government employees? In that light, I'm sure it's mere coincidence that "Government Motors" announced it will continue to lobby the Federal Government that owns it.
What's more, the White House ban is defined by the content of the communications--only petition-speech on stimulus funding is prohibited. Such "content-based" restrictions are subject to the most exacting scrutiny. See Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397, 412 (1989). But not, apparently, by the White House counsel's office--to them, we're all registered lobbyists. As Carter Wood at Shopfloor says, "In the interests of transparency the First Amendment must be sacrificed."
And you thought The One used to teach Constitutional law.
As Liberative's bobn noted, even the Federal Reserve Board will lobby the Federal government, and they plan to use Enron's former top Washington lobbyist, Linda Robertson. She once was a Clinton Administration Treasury Department adviser; her current bio doesn't mention Enron, instead describing that position as "a lobbyist focused on tax, energy, technology, finance and corporate issues."