If you speak out against something that powerful people like -- such as bailouts for banks, or regulations favored by powerful media organs -- they or their followers will accuse you of 'lobbying,' even if you merely expressed your own beliefs to your fellow citizens (not lawmakers), have no political connections, and were not paid by anyone to say anything. By contrast, if powerful people like the President approve of what you have to say, the powers that be will claim you are not a lobbyist even if you made your living seeking to influence lawmakers.
In 2008, I criticized the bank bailout, which was supported by a vast array of corporate and bank lobbyists (including the biggest banks), and which encountered only grassroots opposition. When every powerful special interest supported it, I opposed it (opposition shared by people across the political spectrum, from conservatives like Michelle Malkin to progressives like Daily Kos, both of whom expressly agreed with me).
But later, an Obama supporter (Obama backed the bailouts) cited my opposition to the bank bailout to falsely brand me as a "lobbyist," writing, "Hans Bader is a corporate apologist, a lobbyist for banks and big oil and apparently healthcare. He called the bank bail out socialist, predicted that by now the Feds would own all the banks and they would be state run. In other words he's a shill for anyone with a fat check." I did not predict such things, nor I am anyone's shill. Thanks to my modest-paying job at a think tank (which employs me as a lawyer, not a lobbyist), I live in a small house with two bedrooms. Working at a think-tank like mine involves financial sacrifices, rather than being paid off with a "fat check." Prior to working at a think-tank, I made far more money at law firms. (Years ago, I made twice as much money as I make today, while working for the law firm of Skadden Arps).
More recently, I wrote a factual, non-ideological commentary about gun regulations -- specifically, about the fact that the gun used in the Sandy Hook school massacre in Connecticut was not an "assault weapon" as defined in assault weapons bans (either Connecticut's existing ban, or the federal ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004), and how such bans reach some weapons that are no more deadly than typical guns. My commentary was not aimed at lawmakers, nor did I send it to any lawmakers or their staff. It was posted on a blog read by members of the general public. No one paid or encouraged me, or my employer, to write it. But after it got quoted by conservative blogs, an unhappy leftist accused me of being a pro-gun lobbyist (keep in mind that I did not even discuss gun control in general, or the merits of things like registering guns. I don't own a gun, don't belong to the NRA, and have never contacted any lawmaker about any gun-related issue):
You and others in the gun lobby, like Lott and Bader, should be ashamed of the carnage caused by your obstinate opposition to common-sense limits on guns. Opposition to sensible gun control paved the way for mass murder. When will you hostile, fearful white men let go of your weapons of mass killing, and enter the 21st Century?
What this all boils down to is a sense of traditional white male entitlement and fear of social change (including the long-overdue presence of an African-American in the White House). As Nick Benton of the Falls Church News-Press noted, "It is poignant that all who were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary were young children and women, their teachers and care givers. All killed by a white male. . .But, if there is an optimistic side to all this, last November's election marked a sea change in our culture. . .It was a big win for victims and opponents of the stupid white male stranglehold on our culture."
The racial references in this stupid racially-inflammatory comment were purely gratuitous, since my blog post did not discuss any racial issue or even mention the subject of race. It quotes the race-baiting publisher of the Falls Church News-Press, Nicholas Benton, a liberal journalist and former follower of political extremist Lyndon LaRouche, who constantly inveighs against "stupid white men" in his newspaper (which is ironic, given that he himself is a white man. Perhaps his railing against "stupid white men" is a form of projection, or reflects the mistaken belief that his intellectual limitations are shared by all white men. His self-hatred is as unattractive as other forms of hate). You can see examples of his race-baiting rantings here, here, and here. (Here's one relatively mild sample of Benton's rhetoric: "In Virginia . . . the state is run down in Richmond by right wing Republican brain-dead stupid white male jocks who got banged around too much playing college sports such that they can’t think in any way but a straight line." America should, Benton suggests, insist "that its next generation of leaders at all levels eschew contact sports," so that "the percentage of our leaders with stupid straight white male pedigrees would decline dramatically." This sort of race-baiting may endear him to Virginia Democrats, but it does little to logically persuade anyone.)
While expressing inconvenient or politically-incorrect views gets a grassroots citizen falsely labeled as a lobbyist, for-profit lobbying gets depicted as not being lobbying, if the lobbyist in question has not formally registered as a lobbyist, and has Democratic political connections. For example, Obama, who promised not to appoint lobbyists to powerful administration positions, has in fact appointed scores of them to high-ranking jobs. He recently appointed a top lobbyist for drug manufacturers to the position of HHS General Counsel. The Washington Examiner's Tim Carney reported that "The Obama administration has nominated a former lobbyist for drug companies and hospitals to be the top lawyer at the Department of Health and Human Services. William Schultz's nomination as general counsel of HHS once again demonstrates that Obama's lobbyist restrictions were toothless, and that Obamacare made the revolving door spin faster. . . .Schultz cashed out, becoming a lobbyist at the K Street firm Zuckerman Spaeder. . .Over eight years, Schultz lobbied on behalf of seven different drug companies, plus the American Hospital Association, according to lobbying disclosure filings. The firm brought in $2.98 million from Schultz's lobbying, according to the filings." The Obama Administration claims he isn't a lobbyist because he was not formally "registered" as such after 2008.
If you head a lobbying firm, and send your subordinates down to Capitol Hill to influence lawmakers, but don't go there yourself, you aren't a "lobbyist" in the eyes of the Obama Administration. The Obama Administration also takes money from people who are lobbyists, as long as they don't formally register as lobbyists until shortly after making the donation. Keep in mind that I have never been, or registered as, a lobbyist (or taken money from anyone to push any legislation), yet I still get depicted as such by Administration supporters for opposing the bailouts favored by the Obama Administration.
What do the Administration and its allies mean when they deride "lobbying"? Grassroots critics like me, who oppose corporate welfare, crony capitalism, political correctness, and big government. They want us to shut up.
In a related vein, Administration allies, like the Center for American Progress and the United Auto Workers (which received sweetheart deals from the Obama Administration in the auto bailouts), are launching a big campaign to tighten limits on expression. Right now, notes Matthew Continetti, “an association of organizations with combined revenue of more than a billion dollars is launching a campaign to get ‘big money out of politics.’” These powerful organizations are political allies of the Administration. The Power Line Blog noted that "In truth, no one wants to get money out of politics, but a lot of people want to get their opponents’ money out of politics." (These groups include "the AFL-CIO," "the Service Employees International Union," and "the United Auto Workers," -- which spend millions of dollars annually on politics -- as well as "the Center for American Progress," "Common Cause," "People for the American Way," among others.)
(Common Cause pretends to be non-partisan, but is actually very partisan and left-wing. It helped organize a protest action that vilified two private citizens opposed to the Obama Administration, calling for them to be “quarantined” based on their political activities. At that protest, participants called for the lynching of Clarence Thomas. It also claimed that constitutionally-protected billboards denouncing "voter fraud" were illegal “voter intimidation”).