Saturday, January 25, 2014

SHOCK Ron Paul Says Campaign for Liberty Lawyers Double Checked All His Communications

The Austin-American Statesman reports:
[F]ormer congressman and past presidential candidate wrote in a Jan. 14, 2014, email blast soliciting contributions to Campaign for Liberty, a political group.

"You may not know this…," the email opened. "But for the past year, I was censored. Believe it or not, federal rules governing former members of Congress for their first year after retirement limited my ability to mobilize Americans to advance liberty."

Paul, whose last day in the House was Jan. 3, 2013, wrote: "Every communication had to be carefully crafted, and often even double-checked by C4L’s lawyers, to make sure I didn't violate federal law. But as of January 4th, the muzzle has been removed!"
Read C4L to mean Ron Paul Inc.

Was Dr. Paul misled by Ron Paul Inc.? You decide. The Austin American continues:
We asked Campaign for Liberty, which says it is devoted to promoting "individual liberty, constitutional government, sound money, free markets and a noninterventionist foreign policy," to illuminate how Paul was censored and muzzled for a year.

By email, an unidentified staff member said Paul "was not allowed to talk about certain things during the past year because of House Ethics Rules. This requires that you stay quiet about certain things for 1 year after your retirement from the House of Representatives."

The staff email included a web link to a document, revised in January 2012, presenting highlights of the House’s ethics rules and a section titled "Post-Employment Restrictions," which the section says apply to House members.

According to the section, for one year after leaving office, a member may not communicate with or appear before a member, officer or employee of the House or Senate or any legislative branch office with "intent to influence official action on behalf of anyone else." Also, according to the section, a member "may not represent or advise a foreign government or a foreign political party" or "represent oneself, a state or local government, or the U.S. government as an official or employee of a government agency or entity." Finally, according to the section, a member "may not lobby the staff of a member in lieu of lobbying the member directly." Violations of the prohibitions, the section says, are felonies punishable by fines and/or imprisonment.

Experts say restriction doesn't leash free speech

We spotted nothing there about being leashed from speaking your mind or coaxing others to do so.

Experts agreed.

Attorney Kenneth Gross, former associate general counsel of the Federal Election Commission, told us by email that Paul was restricted for one year under the standard one-year "cooling off" period for all House members and senior staff; senators face a two-year limit. "During that time," Gross said. "a former member may not appear before Congress on substantive matters but that restriction does not prohibit public appearances." By email, another expert, attorney Brett Kappel, who specializes in campaign-related laws, agreed with Gross’ analysis.

Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which says it promotes ethics and accountability by targeting government officials who sacrifice the common good to special interests, told us by phone the one-year restriction could extend to keeping Paul and other former House members from lobbying members by testifying before a committee.

Then again, Sloan said, members could still be invited to offer their views on topics. By email, she noted a May 12, 2010, report by the advisory non-partisan Congressional Research Service stating: "The prohibition goes only to advocacy-type of communications, that is, communications ‘with the intent to influence’ a member or officer or employee of the legislative branch concerning "any matter on which such person seeks official action" by that member, officer or employee, or by either house of Congress. There are also several specific exceptions to the general prohibition, including, for example, exceptions for lobbying and advocacy work for state or local governments, testifying on matters under oath, and generally for representations or communications on behalf of political candidates, parties and political organizations."

Upshot: A former House member must take a year off from advocating positions on issues with members of Congress. Sloan and Gross each said, though, that former House members aren’t restricted from generally speaking out.

Paul, Gross said, "was permitted to make public appearances and espouse views. However, he was restricted in making one-on-one appearance(s) before and lobbying members of Congress and staff."

After reading a portion of Paul’s email blast, Sloan commented by email: "From the missive, it appears Paul does have legislative interests. If he wanted to personally lobby Congress on these issues, he was prohibited from doing so for the past year... Sending emails to supporters trying to galvanize them around issues like auditing the Fed isn’t lobbying and would be permissible. So the concept that every word in these emails had to be reviewed by lawyers to comply with the lobbying ban is nonsense."

Sloan said in a follow-up email: "I have trouble imagining what Paul wanted to do that he couldn’t do--if he wanted to write op-eds, appear on television, or have speaking engagements, all of that would have been allowed."

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