Mocking corporate anti-reform lobbyists for making up stories about death panels and other frightening falsehoods is a good start, but only a start. The lies Betsy McCaughey and her accomplices tell are not ends in themselves and not the big story. As Rachel Maddow has shown repeatedly for weeks, their intent is not to win debates, but to retain the status quo by preventing rational debate.
Free speech arguably allows paid lobbyists to support the logically indefensible current corporate profiteering. What crossed the line is the intentional, planned use of intimidation, not to influence the will of the People, but to nullify it. What is crucial is the combination of specific lies about the reforms Liberals propose and the depiction of us as similar in policy, character or intent to Pol Pot, Stalin, Hitler, etc., to intentionally predispose protesters to be violent and to intimidate with hate speech. That is not legal. That is a Civil Rights violation, and it should be prosecuted as such.
(the following was originally posted without above Intro on reedyoung.org)
Demonstrably untrue statements about health care, misrepresentation of their identities in letters to Congress opposing Waxman-Markey, and exhortations to disrupt health care town hall meetings using tactics up to and including violence are not only uncivilized, undemocratic and unfair, they are also illegal. Taken together, the pattern of behavior of certain lobbyists clearly constitutes a conspiracy to deprive both climate and health care reformers of our Constitutional rights. Such conspiracy is a felony punishable by 10 years in prison under Title 18, Section 241 of the United States Criminal Code, and as that statute protects the most fundamental rights of citizens from deliberate attack by groups of other citizens, violation of it should always be prosecuted.
If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of having so exercised the same;...
They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, they shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.
Although the right to free political speech is expansive according to the laws of the United States, it has never been interpreted to be unlimited. Lobbyists against proposed legislation -- legislation which is supported by strong majorities of citizens -- have abused their freedom of speech, violating the Civil Rights of their opponents in at least two distinct ways.
First, lying about representing Civil Rights groups and other advocacy groups has the effect of nullifying the will of each misrepresented group member who disagrees with the lobbyists' statements, depriving them of the practical value and purpose of their right to free speech. Second, threatening violence to those who exercise this right, or who organize to peaceably assemble, to exercise their right to free speech as a member of a community is intended to deprive SEIU and other health care reform advocates of the right to free political speech altogether. In at least one case, the conspiracy has successfully deprived a member of Congress and her constituents of their rights to peaceably assemble and to free political speech, in turn depriving each attending constituent of their right to petition our government. "Rep. Kathy Castor eventually had to be escorted out by the police (another video from the event showed hundreds of angry, screaming protesters outside the meeting)." It is in the interest of everybody, regardless of which opinion we honestly hold, to ensure that violence and intimidation do not become standard lobbying tools. If those tactics work, and those who perpetrate them are not brought to justice, this and worse will become the norm.
Racketeering law is more complicated, but in short, I believe racketeering charges are also appropriate because the obscene 31% margin of profiteering in health insurance is so dependent on the absence of competition, which the Deparment of Justice has already been asked to investigate, and because coal and petroleum profits depend on economic forces peculiar to scarce commodities; therefore, all three industries, as currently organized, satisfy both the colloquial and the legal definitions of protection rackets and criminal efforts to preserve that status quo are by definition racketeering.
Corporations, and the contractors they hire to lobby Congress, do not have the right to lie, to incite violence or to threaten us. We the People do have the right to petition our government for redress of grievances. As a practical matter, it is also our responsibility to exercise this and other rights to defend and uphold the rights we have. Please add your name to my petition to prosecute felony intimidation, racketeering and Conspiracy Against Rights committed by corporate lobbyists who are paid to oppose the will of the People on health care reform and carbon dioxide pollution legislation.