Right now they’re talking about restricting free speech in connection with dissent from the stimulus bill. Norm Eisen, special counsel to the president for ethics and government reform (of all things), writes this: “Update on Recovery Act Lobbying Rules: New Limits on Special Interest Influence,” from the Whitehouse.gov Blog, May 29 (thanks to James):
Following OMB’s review, the Administration has decided to make a number of changes to the rules that we think make them even tougher on special interests and more focused on merits-based decision making.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.
OMB will be consulting with agencies, outside experts and others about these principles and will publish detailed guidance, but we wanted to update interested parties on the outcome of the initial review. We consulted very broadly both within and outside of government (including as reflected in previous posts on the White House blog) and we are grateful to all those who participated in the process.
In “White House moves to restrict criticism of stimulus projects” at the Washington Examiner, May 30 (thanks again to James), Mark Tapscott explains the implications:
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.More on this as it develops. And trust me, it will develop.
With the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) making an all-out international effort to restrict free speech about Islam, including speech designed to alert non-Muslims to the motives and goals of the global jihad movement, and Obama making conciliatory gestures toward the OIC, it is not at all difficult to look down the path and see the day coming when it will Sharia provisions restricting speech about Islam will be in place in the United States of America, and it will be illegal to speak about the Islamic supremacist agenda.
Most, of course, will dismiss such concerns the way they always dismiss them: with a wave of the hand and an invocation of the First Amendment — as if the First Amendment were some kind of inviolate shield that cannot itself ever in any way be impeached or impugned. Would that it were so. But the Obama Administration is already showing how little it cares for free speech and open dissent. And with an Obama-compliant Supreme Court judging cases that challenge their actions and interpreting the First Amendment for us, what’s to stop the Administration from playing ball with the OIC and building wonderful new bridges with the Islamic world in this way?