H.R. 1, the “For the People Act,” which passed the U.S. House of Representatives on a party-line vote, should be renamed the, “For the Career Democratic Politicians Act.” This bill would take power away from the states, help elect Democrats and protect career politicians. Yet that’s not the conclusion one would draw by reading the “news.”
Here’s the first line in The New York Times story about the passage of H.R. 1: “The House passed the Democrats’ showcase anti-corruption and voting rights legislation on Friday, an expansive measure that aims to dismantle barriers to the ballot box, end big money in politics and impose stricter ethics rules on federal officials.”
“Anti-corruption?” Really? How does this bill crack down on public corruption?
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Prosecutors have lost major public corruption cases in the past few years, including the prosecution of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and current U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez. The McDonnell case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which issued a decision making it even harder to convict a public official for bribery. So, does the bill expand the definition of bribery? Does the bill make it easier to bring cases against corrupt politicians or even increase the criminal penalties? Of course not. The bill does nothing to combat public corruption.
So how else do the media mischaracterize the, “For the People Act?” The Times also claims the bill will, “dismantle barriers to the ballot box.” What? Are there barriers preventing Democrats from getting to the voting booths? Is that why they lost Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin in the last presidential election? Has President Donald Trump built a wall around voting booths in Democratic precincts? Of course not. There are no barriers to voting for eligible voters.
So what does the bill do? It forces states to automatically register to vote any eligible residents who apply to state agencies for benefits or services. It specifically includes students of state colleges and universities. It also requires the states to register all convicted criminals who become eligible to vote upon completion of their sentence. Coincidentally, the overwhelming majority of college students and ex-convicts vote Democrat. This is not dismantling any “barriers.” This is using taxpayer dollars to register potential Democratic voters.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in promoting the bill declared, “(We) must not suppress the vote of our newcomers to America.” Well, if the “newcomers” are noncitizens, then we must because it’s illegal for them to vote in federal elections. That’s why states, which have the constitutional authority to determine the qualifications of voters, have passed voter identification laws to require proof of eligibility before casting a ballot. Democrats wrote H.R. 1 to nullify these laws; the bill allows a potential voter to simply sign a piece of paper swearing they’re eligible instead of having to show identification. I wonder who “our newcomers” are more likely to vote for, Democrats or Republicans?
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The Times also says this bill will, “end big money in politics?” How? The bill will require the federal government to match any donation up to $200 to a candidate’s congressional campaign by a factor of six. Donate $200 and the taxpayers will kick in another $1,200. The candidate must agree, however, to accept only these “small dollar” donations. But, career politicians, who can raise big money, will not restrict themselves. Has any media member asked Speaker Pelosi, who has served in Congress for over 30 years and outraised her last opponent by over 340 to 1, if she will limit herself to small donations in her next reelection? Not a chance.
The first candidate to reject public financing in a presidential election was Barack Obama in 2008, even though he had earlier pledged to accept it because it would “reduce the influence of moneyed special interests.” Why did Obama flip-flop? Because he started raising money hand over fist and did not want to be limited. He raised three-quarters of a billion dollars in 2008. Hillary Clinton, who also rejected public financing, together with the Democratic Party and pro-Clinton PACs raised a record $1.2 billion in 2016. So, the idea that H.R. 1 will “end big money” in politics is absurd.
The bill will, however, get out the vote for Democrats. In addition to automatically registering college students and ex-convicts, the bill would create a paid holiday for federal employees on Election Day and allow them to take another six paid days off each year to work the polls. Of those federal employees who belong to unions, a much higher percentage are Democrats. Of those who donate to politicians, they donate overwhelmingly to Democrats. So, if the most politically active federal workers receive an extra seven paid days off to work the polls, I wonder which political party they’ll be working for?
H.R.1 will consolidate power in the federal government, further protect career politicians and use taxpayer dollars to help get out the Democratic vote. Thankfully, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has declared the bill DOA in the U.S. Senate. And, for good reason, despite what the media would lead you to believe.
Marc A. Scaringi is an attorney in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a radio talk show host of “The Marc Scaringi Show” on WHP 580AM and I Heart Radio and a Donald J. Trump endorsed Delegate to the 2016 Republican National Convention.
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