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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Full Disclosure: Intimidation Through Exposure

Rutgers Law School constitutional law professor Frank Askin (who should know better) accuses tea parties seeking 501(c)(4) status of acting "in defiance of the law" for applying for that status.  Under his logic, any group which seeks to engage in issues advocacy and claim a tax-exempt status may be accused of breaking the law -- never mind that these groups are very much following the law by applying for such status under the government's own guidelines. This characterization is wrong, and law professors like Askin know better, but the ad hominem attack and "criminal" label is politically useful.  

The 501(c)(4) status is coveted because it allows for donor anonymity. A glance at today's political climate shows why anonymity is prized. Only look at the demonization of George Soros on the left, and the Koch brothers on the right. And besides: what exactly is wrong with people wanting to be anonymous?

The campaign finance legal framework of our country operates around the one core principle of disclosure.  Contributors to a campaign must disclose their identities. This is done to discourage undue influence of "money in politics." But note the difference between campaign contributions and regular issue advocacy.

People like Askin -- and sadly, many people in the Administration and even the mainstream media -- want to change the law so that anyone engaging in legitimate issues advocacy (think, opposition to ObamaCare) must have their names disclosed.  One suspects that the objective is not to protect the public, to expose possible undue influence, but rather to expose those voicing unpopular opinions to the risk of reprisal (official or otherwise) and hence to chill, penalize or outright deter any opposition participation in public discourse.  

Clearly, advocates of such uber-disclosure ignore the lessons of our Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, and even going back to the Constitution which sought to protect minority opinions from government tyranny.  It would be hard to believe any constitutional law professor could mock the concept of "equal protection," except that our current President -- who has set the tone for inconsistent if not politically discriminatory application of government laws, rules and standards -- was also a former constitutional law professor. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Chris Christie: Using Your Political Cannibal

Former New Jersey Governor Brendan Byrne is quoted in this morning's Newark Star-Ledger suggesting that presumed Democratic Party gubernatorial nominee Barbara Buono drop out of the race. This may be smart for Buono, whose political career outside Union County would surely be ended by the impending landslide. But this ignores the larger issue. Why is Chris Christie still courting the most liberal of Democrats, labor unions and so on when he is up 30 points, his opponent is on fumes and a third party candidate (yet to emerge) could actually come in second? When you have political capital, you use it. Use it or lose it. But Christie is using this capital to move to the left. Why? Is he trying to become a Democrat? Is he paving the way to actually switch parties? If Christie were a genuine conservative (or even a moderate Republican) he would use that huge lead in the polls and fundraising to outline a Republican/conservative vision of the future. He would lead his party and develop its base. That is what Republican leaders do, especially when they are in dark blue states where Obama won by 17 points and Bob Menendez just got reelected by 19 points. Christie refuses to do that. Instead, he persists in building his own base with Democrats. He is building his party. But all indications, all the evidence, points to that being the Democratic Party. If you closed your eyes and ignored the party label, you would just never think he was a Republican. He will be reelected; that is not in doubt. But he is developing a huge margin of victory -- at the expense of the Republican Party. Instead of using his political capital, he is acting like a political cannibal. Perhaps Christie is simply not interested in building any Republican Party. It explains the effusive praise to Obama right before the election. It explains the self-centered convention keynote speech, which thankfully got eclipsed by an Empty Chair. It explains why Christie accepts endorsements from Democratic mayors and leaves their Republican opponents hanging. With these actions, do you want Christie's handpicked people running the Republican State Committee the next four years? Do you want his people keeping a state party dormant so Republicans -- other than Christie, naturally -- keep on losing? That's why I am running for Republican State Committee. New Jersey deserves a real Republican Party.

Friday, May 17, 2013

IRS Scandal Could Empower Government Radicals Even More

The IRS-Tea Party scandal is evidence that the government cannot be trusted to apply the laws evenly and fairly.  But anyone viewing this as a partisan event is totally missing both the point and the danger to the nation.

This is not a crisis of minor importance; it strikes at the very legitimacy of the government's authority.  For the scandal will give credence to many opinions and theories, including those from the uninformed, unintelligent or unhinged.  The fringe opinions will cry that "law abiding" citizens need not obey a tyrannical regime, and so on. The danger of these sentiments is their propensity to encourage civil disobedience, general unrest and a decline in respect for legitimate authority.  Hence, the IRS scandal moves the nation towards disrespect for the law and lends credence to those who would encourage lawlessness if not outright anarchy.  

The shame, of course, is that such conditions may create a society most ripe for the expansion of government power and centralized government control as the people cry for order and safety in the face of disorder and growing chaos.  That outcome, my friends, may be precisely the result intended by radical elements both within and outside the Administration, and on all segments of the political / ideological spectrum.

Beware of those who seek to profit from the chaos. Beware of the false prophets.  The profiteers will be in all shapes, sizes and stripes. As bad as the specters of a politicized Internal Revenue Service and of political bias causing some to have health care delayed, denied or insufficiently reimbursed under ObamaCare, let us not forget that the dangers of government overreach have been with us for decades.  Overregulation, overcriminalization and overzealous government employees have routinely been the handmaidens for government's improper power, authority and discretion.

The solution will not be more laws, more regulations or more internal compliance.  (Expect all to be suggested to fix the problem.)  The problem with government is the mindset of the people whom it employs.  

Fixing the mindset may take decades.  But the risk to the people and nation, being as it emanates from people within government, can most efficiently be reduced by reducing the number of people within government from whom the risk originates.  A solution -- imperfect as it may ultimately prove -- involves shrinking the size of government and the scope of its authority and control.  Once the responsibilities and mandates of government have been reduced, the number of people required to accomplish a smaller mission may then be reduced accordingly. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Christie to GOP: Drop Dead!

A pro-Chris Christie political website in New Jersey finally gets it. There's a Chris Christie trend line in New Jersey politics, and it runs away from Republicans.

Christie's praise for Democrats ends up screwing Republicans and especially conservatives who are unfortunate enough to be on the ticket with Christie at the top this November. 

This explains the apparent incongruity, why Christie can tout himself as a "new Republican" who can win in a blue state, while Obama carried the state by 17 points just six months ago. It explains why Christie can lead a very liberal Barbara Buono by 30 points for Governor, yet six months ago a somewhat scandal-tarred Bob Menendez wiped the floor with Republican Joe Kyrillos. 

It's all because Christie governs and campaigns as a liberal. This explains the lukewarm keynote speech, the effusive praise for Obama on the beach six days before the election, and so on.

This explains why the national media fawn over Christie.

This explains why Christie does and says many things which indicate he sympathizes with liberal Democrats, and which point to his running as a Republican for sheer political expediency.

To anyone in the nation thinking Chris Christie is the Great Post-Partisan Hope who can "win" in 2016 should he run for President (thought to be a foregone conclusion), the foregoing should raise several huge red flags.

Surviving Second-Term Scandals

The current "perfect storm" of scandals swirling around President Obama is unlikely to result in serious damage to his Administration or to his resignation or impeachment, if history is any guide.

Two of the last three two-term presidents were extremely popular.  Both Presidents Ronald Reagan and William J. Clinton had high approval ratings and personal popularity with the public. Nevertheless, both sustained serious scandals that (some hoped) threatened to ruin or prematurely end their presidencies. But both survived and arguably strengthened their reputations and popularity in the process.

Exhibit A -- Iran-Contra, which had reporters predicting impeachment or resignation in November 1986.  

Result: Reagan served out the rest of his term.  Televised hearings the following summer introduced us to Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, who parlayed his 15 minutes of fame into several serious candidacies for U.S. Senate and to a radio talk show career.  Reagan withdrew from public life in 1994 after announcing he had Alzheimer's, but remained very beloved.  In fact, he was so beloved that the evening after his passing in June 2004, Canadians gave him a moment of silence before Game 6 of that year's Stanley Cup Finals in Calgary, Alberta.  Americans driving to see him laying in state at the Capitol had to park their cars on a major highway leading to the Capitol and walk several miles to complete their journey.  

Exhibit B -- Monicagate, where real perjury (resulting in President Clinton's disbarment!) was obscured by the salacious, led to similar predictions of regime change. 

Result: Clinton served out the rest of his term.  In fact, some of his most ardent pursuers -- House Speaker Newt Gingrich and longterm congressman Bob Livingston (R-LA) -- resigned over the course of their pursuit of Clinton.  After leaving office, Clinton remained (and remains) beloved, so beloved that the nation virtually stopped when it was announced he was undergoing quadruple bypass surgery at the relatively young age of 57 in 2004. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Is Eric Holder Obstructing Justice By Guiding IRS Officials To Remain Silent

PERJURY IS A CRIME SO -- WINK, WINK -- IF YOU SAY NOTHING WE CAN'T PROSECUTE YOU. Attorney General Eric Holder reminds IRS officials that the laws against false statements (used to convict Martha Stewart and Scooter Libby) may be used against them in any criminal investigation of the IRS scrutiny of Tea Party and other conservative organizations.  

Of course, this is both legally sound advice -- you can't get prosecuted for NOT saying anything -- and quite possibly a coded message that these officials should not say anything for precisely that reason.  One wonders if the intent of this message was precisely to discourage anyone from testifying.  (Again, this is legally sound advice for the officials, who would definitely risk criminal prosecution for false statements for saying anything.  See my analysis on why saying anything to the feds puts you at risk of prosecution, which was recently picked up by constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley's blog.)  Remove the cover of the legally colorable advice, and you are on the slippery slope towards witness intimidation.  In the parlance of the federal criminal code, this could even be viewed as a form of obstruction of justice.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Why Talking To The FBI Is Not A Good Idea

It's unfortunate, but talking with law enforcement is usually not a good idea.

Here's a new article on the blog of CNN commentator and George Washington University Law School constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley.  The article quotes me and links to one of my earlier articles on the same topic.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Non-Citizen Voting Amnesty Bill Considered In New York City

The nation's largest city may soon have a new and large voting bloc: non-citizens.

A bill to allow non-citizens, who are legally present in the country, to vote in municipal New York City elections is being considered by the New York City City Council's Committee on Immigration today.  This bill, originally introduced in 2010, has been co-sponsored by a majority of the City Council and would increase the number of registered voters in New York City with those who are visa holders or permanent residents (those with "green cards").  

The language of the bill would allow anyone who has been "lawfully present" in the City for at least six months by the date of the election to vote in a City election for citywide offices and city council representatives.

Of course, the existing status quo gives lip service to the citizenship requirement for voting, as enforcement and efforts at detection are virtually nonexistent.  In short, the citizenship requirement is presently honored in the breach.  This bill would therefore ratify a system of illegal voting already in place.

I believe this bill, if passed and enforced, would pose Constitutional issues and would be ripe for a court challenge.  Allowing non-citizens to vote presents the risk of vote dilution of the votes of citizens.  

The practical effects of this bill are alarming.  If one presumes that non-citizens consist primarily of low-income, less-educated people, the bill increases the number of voters who can vote for candidates who will promise (and deliver to) them an increased amount of government services.  The burden upon the tax base -- employees, homeowners and small business owners, this means you -- will grow.  And the impetus for these groups to leave New York City will similarly increase.

New York City is already a heavily Democratic city, so the need for this bill to achieve a power shift is not readily apparent along political party fault lines.  However, within the electorate and particularly within each political party (particularly the Democratic and Working Families Parties), a change in the composition of a party's voters can result in a competitive advantage for candidates who can mobilize noncitizens to be an effective voting bloc.  Then again, I suspect this has long been happening already but no one has been checking regularly on the citizenship status of newly registered voters.

This is horrid public policy and can only lead to a deteriorating, slowly imploding New York City.

Terrorist Mom's Objection on Sentencing: Chutzpah Plus Arrogance

On the afternoon of the Boston Marathon terrorist attack (April 15th), two northern New Jersey men were sentenced in Newark federal district court to prison terms of in excess of 20 years for terrorism-related charges (technically, the charge was conspiracy to damage property of a foreign government).

As the sentencing occurred at roughly the same time as the bombing, the defendants' lawyers pointed out the prospect of prejudice in the sentencing.  This was -- on the facts -- stretching the bounds of properly zealous representation.

But now the mother of one of the defendants claims that her son's harsh sentence was due to the bombing.

This claim shows absolute chutzpah. However, the facts surrounding the case and the claim really show how ridiculous -- and disrespectful and insulting -- the mother is.

The sentencing of this woman's son, and his co-defendant, was scheduled months in advance -- January 11, 2013 at 10:00 am, to be exact. (Source: federal district court docket.) The report from the court shows that the sentencing hearing for these two convicts began at 1:30 PM on April 15th. The Boston Marathon bombing occurred minutes before 2:00 PM on April 15th.  For the mother's claim to pass the laugh test, one would have to suspend the sense of disbelief and accept the possibility that within minutes of the bombing, that news reached a closed courtroom and influenced the federal judge to jack up the sentences.  One would further have to believe that the judge's sentencing decisions were not already fairly set based on the objective facts, plus the sentencing memoranda submitted by the Justice Department and the lawyers for each defendant.  It is just ridiculous.

The mother's claim is a new height (or low) of audacity, that her son's guilty plea to a terrorism charge ENTITLED him to a postponement of sentencing because of an unrelated (at least that's the presumption) terrorist attack that occurred after the hearing began. This is rubbish.   It is ridiculous -- and frankly, frivolous and warranting sanctions on the lawyer bringing this up -- to make this claim.

This woman is entitled to her feelings, to her shame. But she is not entitled to her facts. And she is not entitled to have the nation, the same nation her son attacked and victimized, show contrition and honor such an offensive claim. Enough.