This is more like public corruption than public comment – and ammunition rules could be next on the firing line.
Dead set on pushing its “progressive” agenda through in its final 18 months, the Obama administration is turning to social media to manufacture public support for its proposals that actually doesn’t exist.
In a front page article Tuesday, the New York Times exposed a disturbing program the Environmental Protection Agency embarked on last year to drum up “grassroots” support for new drinking water regulations over Republican opposition.
The idea was to use the EPA’s own resources — including employee time on social media campaigns – as well as long-established groups like the Sierra Club and the Obama storm troopers of Organizing for America to organize “public comment” drives that the agency then used to pretend to Congress that it had the backing of the American public.
Here’s the thing, though. According to The Times, the Obama crowd is playing dangerously close to the edge of the law.
For more than 30 years covering Democrat and Republican administrations, the Justice has issued legal opinions saying federal agencies should not engage in “communications by executive officials directed to members of the public at large, or particular segments of the general public, intended to persuade them in turn to communicate with their elected representatives on some issue of concern to the executive.”
In other words, they shouldn’t do exactly what the flying monkeys of the Obama Era did with the EPA.
And just like Lois Lerner justified the IRS crackdown on conservative non-profit groups by citing the wealth of conservatives opposing President Obama’s re-election, White House insiders justify the manipulation of public comment rules by the strength of opposition to them.
“The fact that there’s a very well-funded campaign means we needed a strong and sustained communications effort,” Heather Zichal, Mr. Obama’s former senior climate adviser, told The Times.
The Times makes a point of interviewing a member of the Bush administration’s EPA who said the practice didn’t cross the line into illegal activity, but it’s clear that the agency is in a gray area – and it could get darker still.
The Times story focuses on an EPA drinking water rule that the agency’s likely to adopt using the outpouring of “public comment” to justify it.
Remember it was only in March that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms backed backed down from a proposal to ban certain ammunition used by AR-15 rifles because of a huge amount of public comment against it.
If the EPA playbook wins out, the outcome might be different for the ammo rule the next time around. And anything else the Obama army wants to get away with.
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