Lobbying Laws Keep Politics an Inside Game

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Lobbying laws should be found unconstitutional and abhorrent to a free people.  Consider these letters Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea sent out to parties on both sides of the Pawtucket Red Sox stadium issue, in GoLocalProv:

A letter sent to Pawtucket Red Sox Chief Executive Officer Michael Tamburro, outlining the state’s lobbying statute, began with, “Congratulations on the exciting new developments at the Pawtucket Red Sox, a venerable Rhode Island Institution.”

In contrast, a Pawtucket citizen’s letter started with, “It has come to my attention through media reports and the Organizing Pawtucket website that you are the head of Organizing for Pawtucket, and that you may be engaging in conversation with Rhode Island state government officials on behalf of that entity.”

Does anybody really believe that a government so steeped in inside dealing as Rhode Island’s pursues lobbying and campaign finance laws as a matter of transparency?  That’s the spin, of course, but the end effect is to ensure that politics remains an insider game.  Special interests are drawn into the official network, sort of like outside vendors, and grassroots activists are intimidated.

It’s impossible to know how many people on the periphery of politics never take the next step to involvement because they have a sense that there’s some complex network of laws that they lack the bandwidth to investigate, but I’d wager it’s not a negligible number.  The professionalization and regulation of politics creates incentive for reluctance across the spectrum of involvement, except for those who are actively seeking to buy advantage through government.

Look at the example being made of Dinesh D’Souza.  Run afoul of the government’s regulations for trying to change the government, and you put your life under the thumb of people like U.S. District Judge Richard Berman, who dismissed the assessments of two licensed psychiatric professionals in order to issue this judgment, which would be right at home in a Soviet dissident novel:

“I only insisted on psychological counseling as part of Mr. D’Souza’s sentence because I wanted to be helpful,” the judge explained. “I am requiring Mr. D’Souza to see a new psychological counselor and to continue the weekly psychological consultation not as part of his punishment or to be retributive….

WND reported that at the Sept. 23, 2014, sentencing hearing, Berman said he could not understand how someone of D’Souza’s intelligence, with credentials that include college president, could do something so stupid as to violate federal campaign contribution laws. D’Souza was at the pinnacle of his career, writing bestselling non-fiction books and producing popular feature films….

“You have to understand, I have a background in social work with a psychology major,” Berman explained. “I’m sensitive to mental health issues in the criminal cases I hear, and I do not want to end psychological counseling at this time in Mr. D’Souza’s case.

For those who do not want to make politics and government a central part of their lives, the message is clear: Life is much safer if you just keep your head down and don’t get involved.



  • Mike678

    Intimidation and retribution are part and parcel of authoritarian or totalitarian regimes. Little wonder gun sales are up.

  • Winter Solstice

    The powers that be justify the “intimidation” in the name of “transparency.:” It is ludicrous since Secretary Gorbea was the official who dismissed the state’s case against Corso (part of the effort to bury the 38 Studios fiasco). Then under “an abundance of caution,” she sends warnings to members of citizen groups who are against taxpayer money being used to fund a stadium of questionable economic benefit to the state. Thanks to Kate Nagle of GoLocalProv and you, Justin, for writing about this in your column.

  • ShannonEntropy

    It’s impossible to know how many people on the periphery of politics never take the next step to involvement because they have a sense that there’s some complex network of laws that they lack the bandwidth to investigate, but I’d wager it’s not a negligible number.

    Try — just TRY! — to get a piece of the Rhodent Pie if you aren’t already ‘connected’

    Back when the 38 Studios Deal was announced, I almost started drooling over the terms of the Bonds to be issued:

    ► HIGH Interest rates … 6% to 7.75%
    ► Backed by the State … and most importantly …
    ► FULLY INSURED !!

    Man did I want some of *that* action in my portfolio !!

    But try as I might, I never got ‘in’ … I called the EDC; the Treasurer’s Office; other State offices. And everyone I talked to couldn’t — or more likely, wouldn’t — give me any details about the deal … including even who the Bonds’ underwriters would be so I could call them directly

    *SIGH!* …. If only I “knew a guy” ….

    http://wpri.com/2014/05/13/insurer-reaffirms-it-stands-behind-38-studios-bonds/

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