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View Diary: Who's Istook and why does he want your tax forms? (115 comments)

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  •  Good catch (none)
    on the hypocrisy of prohibiting lobbying by receivers of grants, as opposed to tax-exempt status.

    But, to take it even further, wouldn't logical consistency demand that he be in favor of prohibiting lobbying from those who receive federal contracts?  I mean, seriously; in the greater scheme of "lobbying for a seat at the trough," aren't federal grants relatively small potatoes?

    •  Absolutely right. (4.00)
      The essence of the Republican argument was that even if grant funds themselves weren't being used for lobbying (and they weren't, that was already prohibited by federal law), it didn't really matter, since money is fungible. Grant funds would pay for some other activity, and the money which would have paid for that activity could then be used for lobbying. (There are a number of good reasons why this isn't true, either, but that's another story.)

      But contract money is fungible, too. So are the tax savings realized through exemption.

      In seeking to differentiate between grantees and contractors, Republicans argued that contracts are simply a different animal. To prove their point, they frequently displayed a thick book of existing laws, rules and regulations covering procurement and contracting policy -- a favorite trick among "small government Republicans." Of course, the size of the stack of regulations does nothing to address the issue they were supposedly complainig of: the fungibility of contract payments.

      It was equally absurd for them to dsiplay that stack of regulations in given that their solution to the "problem" was never to reduce regulation of contracts, but rather to increase regulation of grants. In other words, they were looking to make the stack even bigger. And remember, this was years before the Bush administration exploded the small government Republican myth. This was still in the days of the Contract With America.

      The Republican argument also ignored the fact that the final stage of a negotiation of a grant agreement with the federal government is the signing of a contract. That makes the line between grantees, who agree to spend grant monies in the provision of services on the government's behalf, and federal contractors, who agree to provide goods or services to the government in exchange for cash, a very fine one indeed.

      That's a very long way of saying that Istook, the amendment, and its supporters, are way full of it.

      Before the amendment came to the floor during the Labor-HHS appropriations bill debate, ex-Rep. David Skaggs (D-CO) managed to wrangle some partial answers from the Republicans on what the differences were supposed to be between "grantees" and everyone else who got money from the government. Often the answers were basically in the form of, "this doesn't apply to X because we say so," though there was never any language in the amendment that specifically said so.

      Churches were exempted, WIC recipients were deemed to be "beneficiaries" and not "grantees" for whatever reason, and were exempted as well. Farmers receiving farm subsidies were covered, and would have been prohibited from lobbying as a result. Recipients of "sod-buster" payments, however, were deemed to be receiving "entitlements" and not grants. OK. Irrigators getting water from Bureau of Reclamation projects were not affected, nor were mining companies acquiring title to mineral lands, since both were deemed involved in "transactions" and not grants. Clearly, they were just making this stuff up as they went along.

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