Stange Bedfellows for a Popular but Dumb Idea

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Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire and his writing website Yonderandhome.com

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77 Responses

  1. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Commercial speech is constitutionally protected but subject to regulations that are not allowed for other kinds of speech. I admit that determining what is and what is not commercial speech can be very hard at times.

    Do you remember the Lisa Blatt affair from when Brett Kavanaugh was before the Senate? This was possibly before the allegations of teenage sexual assault came up. Lisa Blatt wrote a column for Politico or some equivalent publication with the title “I’m a feminist, liberal Democrat. My fellow Democrats better support Brett Kavanugh for the Supreme Court.” Or something very close to that. What was unsaid but obvious from anyone that can spend two minutes on Google is that Lisa Blatt is a big-time partner at Washington powerhouse Arnold Porter Kaye Scholer. This was a firm formed by Abe Fortas in the late 1940s. They are indeed Democratic leaning.* But they make their massive profits (net income was 383.5 million in 2018 according to an April 2019 National Law Journal article) from representing big, corporate clients. Brett Kavanaugh is much more likely to make decisions favorable to big Corporate clients than any Democratic-appointed Justice.**

    Lisa Blatt made some lip-service comments about abortion and precedent in her essay but what rankled many on the left is that she is from a class (white, wealthy, connected, well-educated) that will never have any problems seeking an abortion or access to birth control for herself or people in her circle that need it. Abortion rights are for those without such connections. Lots of liberals were able to see that while Ms. Blatt might vote straight-down Democratic, she is essentially a careerist looking out for the size of her bank account and what helps her career first over any of her other values.

    The most “bipartisanship” in politics seems to come from a small group of high-level party functionaries that switch from government to private work based on the party in control of the White House. They are always in high-level positions in both sectors. This group has known each other since they were eighteen if not before. They represent the same clients that they later regulate. Or they regulate the clients that they later represent. It should be pretty easy to see how this is a big problem and might lead to regulations being less tough than they should be and need to be. There should be a way to combat this.

    *In the field of BigLaw, there are firms that lean Democratic and firms that lean Republican. Arnold Porter was always known for attracting Democratic types because of the Abe Fortas connection. Kirkland & Ellis and Williams Connelly lean Republican.

    **A good example is this case which went well for plaintiffs’/ordinary Americans only because Justice Thomas’ idiosyncraticies lead him to unique positions from time to time. If Merrick Garland was appointed, the corporate Defendants would not have had a chance:

    https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/05/clarence-thomas-home-depot-consumer-rights-class-action-liberals.htmlReport

  2. Avatar Stillwater says:

    Let’s start with the problems with the premise here: Bipartisanship good, lobbyist bad.

    Nope, that’s not the premise. For starters, the premise of the AOC/Cruz convergence has nothing to do with bipartisanship being good. For seconders, the view isn’t that lobbyists are bad, but that CCers-becoming-lobbyists are bad. And honestly, if the libertarian view is to let the nexus of money, government and connections roll, I’m disappointed in libertarians.Report

  3. Avatar Philip H says:

    Oh please. The issue isn’t that lobbying is bad per se, its that Congresspersons go to firms that are not lobbying for you and me – because those don’t exist and instead go to the big cushy firms that handle large donor clients. None of those congressman are using their private citizen stature to lobby for something they personally believe in (which is what the Framers were after since in England you had to be a Courtier to get the Kings favor).Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird says:

    So it’ll create an additional layer of inefficiency?

    Rep. John Jackson is barred from being a registered lobbyist, but Lobbyist Jack Johnson has to hire former Rep. John Jackson as a consultant?

    Eh, that’d be a good way to give sinecures to nephews and whatnot.

    I guess I’m for it.Report

  5. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    Weird how in the efficient private sector, the idea an employee can take their insider knowledge of how things work, then turn around and use it for personal enrichment with a competing firm is widely understood, and made illegal.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      [Note: Private sector efficiency = private sector profits in this discussion.]

      The most interesting thing to me about this post is that it reduces Cruz’ and AOC’s position on lobbying to “two individuals who really, really like such attention.” The wonderful thing about that take is that it’s even more cynical than the politicians it’s ostensibly critiquing. Yet libertarians consistently shoulder that heavy burden – no one’s coercing them! – and persist.Report

      • Avatar pillsy says:

        Is Andrew even a libertarian…?Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          {{He sure writes and argues like one.}}Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            Oh come on. The particular type of cynicism you express in your posts didn’t/doesn’t emerge in a vacuum.

            Or are you one of those people who can’t be forced into labels? 🙂Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              We should allow people to identify how they choose, Stillwater.Report

            • Avatar pillsy says:

              I didn’t realize “cynical” and “libertarian” were synonyms, or even rhyme.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                How would you describe his political ideology/philosophy?Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                I’m not sure actually. Maybe Trumwillian centrist?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I’d go with “hot take specialist” before Trumwillian centrist since his posts lack the depth and nuance Trumwill brings to a discussion. The simplicity of his critiques, the one-dimensional focus on partisanship as the sole driver of politics, is a giveaway of … something.

                He could end the curiousity-based gossip by just articulating where his views are centered, tho. He’s not a libertarian, so … ??? (For my part, I view his writing as expressions of bog-standard liberatarian critiques of contemporary politics regardless of whether he identifies as one, and by doing so I may help him realize his one true nature. 🙂Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                I dunno man this seems kind of unfair and to be blunt pretty dickish.

                This was a great post, and a political one.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Megan McArdle has written lots of posts I like.

                Politics and the world are complex places. Everyone’s bound to be right pretty damn often, even if less frequently than each of us think they’re wrong.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                Nyah I mean I think the take here is weak but everybody is going to come up with weak takes from time to time.

                I am… not going to discuss McArdle for the sake of everybody’s sanity.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                It doesn’t matter what he *IS*, it matters what he says. Argue against his arguments as if the arguments are wrong. Not against the guy as if he’s *BAD*.

                Just assume that he’s bad.

                There. Done.

                His argument still stands (or falls) whether or not he’s bad.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                And my argument is that the libertarianish critique of AOC and Cruz is nonsense, not because it’s libertarianish but because it’s nonsense.Report

              • Avatar JoeSal says:

                I’m with Stillwater on this one, it reeks of clownworld.
                (nothin against Andrew, just the topic)Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                So nonsensical, in fact, that it requires explanation….Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                But that has nothing to do with whether he is a centrist (and certainly not whether he’s a “hot take specialist”).Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                If your point is that centrists can be idiots too, no objection from me.

                I’m presuming, with adequate evidence – evidence I think we can all agree on I might add – that Andrew isn’t an idiot.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                And we’re back to talking about what Andrew is or isn’t instead of his argument…Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                *You’re* the one who brought up his potential centrism.

                My argument is that his take here is so blisteringly ridiculous that it can only be placed in priors he holds, and my hypothesis is that his priors are pop-culture libertarian.

                We both agree that his “take” on the AOC/Cruz alliance is ridiculous. That doesn’t meanall his takes are ridiculous, of course (even tho that needed to be said). It’s that his take is so ridiculous it requires explanation.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                No it doesn’t. It’s easy to look at both AOC and Cruz and conclude that anything that they agree on *MUST* be bad.

                Good Lord, that’s my first inclination too.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Only if you pay more attention to what people think of those two than what they actually say or do, or the policy they’re both advocating.

                I would expect more from a FP poster than what you just wrote in a casual comment about a trivial side issue.

                Look, Andrew writes lots of posts I agree with. Hell, I think of the most recent three I co-signed with his “take” on the political dynamics in play. That doesn’t change the fact (and it is a fact) that I think he adopts a libertarianish pop-culture contrarianism in his posts.Report

              • Avatar JoeSal says:

                Something doesn’t add up though. Do you think the libertarian position would even need to voice concern about corruption, or would that be a premise that was baked into the government cake upon it’s creation?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Joe, I think the libertarian view is that the corruption (as they define it) is baked right in, but that it also has to be articulated (to remind people of how much corruption is baked right in.)Report

              • Avatar JoeSal says:

                Why would a libertarian bother, those who know it is built in don’t need a reminder, those that ignore it would just ignore it, in their own self interest. The exercise would be a waste of effort.

                I could see it in a bog standard ‘political pop-culture’ offering but it would look weird in a libertarian sense.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Why would a libertarian bother,

                Why does anyone bother? Speaking is a public act, right?

                Why do you keep talking about the difference between individual and social constructs?Report

              • Avatar JoeSal says:

                Why do you think I do?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Why do you ask why I asked why you do what you?

                This is silly.Report

              • Avatar JoeSal says:

                I didn’t ask why you asked.

                My question was about why you think I would;

                talk about the differences between individual constructs and social constructsReport

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Why do you?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I recall trhe precise moment you publicly stated that you were no longer a libertarian. If what you say rather your ism is all that matters, them why the public pronouncement to the commentariat here at the OT? Presumably it’s because you wanted people to know that you were no longer *one of those people*. 🙂Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Ahem: “We should allow people to identify how they choose, Stillwater.”Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                “I believe in Christ as our personal savior and the Bible as the word of God, but don’t you *dare* call me a Christian.”Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I’m more of a Mormon, really.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                You’re an Evangelist. What you evangelize is sorta secondary.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                Does anybody else remember that tech fad where people who would tech other people about computer languages or version control systems or whatever were called “evangelists”?

                Like, “Yeah, I’m a Concurrent SNOBOL Evanagelist.”

                That sucked.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Remember the Geek Code?

                Good times.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                Yep. I was a Linux evangelist for years.Report

              • Im all up for an open forum on what y’all want to try and categorize me. I have 300 odd posts at OT and 30K off tweets of reference materialnow so it should be great fun watching how it gets parsed out.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                {{A view from nowhere? There is no view from nowhere.}}Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                Well if you’re cool with it I’m not gonna say otherwise. Anyway I’m sticking with my Trumwillian centrist call.Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

            But are you a duck?Report

    • Avatar Pinky says:

      The key word there is “insider”. Companies hire people away from their competition all the time on the basis of their expertise. There’s nothing wrong with that. Now, if former Congressmen were working for foreign governments against the interests of the US, that would fit your analogy, but it’d be treason. Lobbying the US government on behalf of a foreign government or entity is legal, but under restrictions.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

        The whole point of hiring an ex-Congressperson is that they have insider information about their former organization, not expertise.

        And the point of this lobbying is to have that insider knowledge used to the advantage of special, not public, interests.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          Or, alternately., the “expertise” justifying those folks hiring is how to leverage specific politicians’ votes in favor of preferred legislation and against their retail political instincts. If it all could be done above board, on the up and up, their “expertise” wouldn’t be in demand.Report

        • Avatar Pinky says:

          I would say that the point is the connections. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. If Ford brings aboard a GM exec, he’ll potentially have information about a new car line or something. That’s not the case for governance. I mean, maybe in defense contracts. But when present and former Congressmen get together, the influence is the fraternity.Report

          • Avatar PD Shaw says:

            I think the notion that a Congressperson has expertise, influence or connections that would make him/her a better lobbyist is speculative.

            The value of lobbying services is difficult for the purchaser to ascertain. After all the lobbyist cannot exactly guarantee that he or she can get a law passed (or killed). So its an area that the consumer is likely to overpay because price is believed to be a signal of value; other signals can include having prominent former politicians in the lobbying group, an elite address, giving out free football tickets, etc.Report

        • Avatar pillsy says:

          The whole point of hiring an ex-Congressperson is that they have insider information about their former organization, not expertise.

          Huh? What insider information?Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            “I know that I have this job because I helped pass H.B. 302-2012 seven years ago.”Report

          • Avatar PD Shaw says:

            The only useful insider information I can think of:

            ‘Bill 2472 is just supposed to whip up a lot of political contributions; the Speaker/Leader doesn’t intend for it to actually pass in any shape or form.’Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            They know which CCers can be bought off and each one’s leverage points.

            Do folks reading this blog know those things?Report

          • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

            I’m making a comparison to an employee who has inside knowledge of how the product is made, and uses that non-public knowledge to the benefit of a rival.

            its not a perfect overlap, but in this case, the main reason someone hires a former Congressperson is NOT that they have any expertise about the issue;
            What they have is intimate knowledge and access to other Congresspeople;

            Its the access that you pay for, and is being used against the citizens since it is for a private gain.Report

            • Avatar Ozzy! says:

              The first of those examples would fall under theft of property and the second would be learned knowledge/experience. There is a very real difference in the eyes of the law, and there should be.

              Insider trading is a better parallel/example in the private sector. Unfortunately, that also is based on the idea of theft.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                Yeah, but defining things in such narrow legal terms ends up being a wordsmithing contest of how creative we can define “property”.

                “What’s in your secret sauce?”
                “Mayonnaise and ketchup- yours?”
                “Mayonnaise, ketchup, and relish.”

                “Hands up! You both are under arrest for theft of intellectual property!”

                The stronger moral logic for both cases is not property, but trust.

                That the employee or Congressperson is being entrusted with power and knowledge which is to be used, not for their own personal gain but the company or public’s benefit.Report

  6. Avatar Pinky says:

    It seems to me that a principled conservative and a principled liberal could both arrive at this position. So I can’t judge them negatively on that respect. As for them reaching across the aisle, I hope to see more of that. If politicians can find common ground, and the only thing stopping them from cooperating is the letter after their names, we should want to see them work together. Isn’t that what we always hear, that both sides have supported common sense (blank) reform, but they refuse to work together because it would give the other side a win? Personally, I’d like to see more compromise where people vote a little bit against their interests for an overall win. I’m not going to complain about two politicians supporting something they arguably both believe in.Report

  7. Avatar PD Shaw says:

    Bipartisanship is usually confused with non-partisan. Bipartisanship is often the most partisan partisanship of them all.Report