The Constitution of the United States enumerates specific powers for the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, and periodic spasms of tension between them have punctuated American politics since the founding of the republic. But today, we’re seeing something far more dangerous than an imbalance of power between these branches.
The emergence of a“fourth branch of government,” a phrase used by law professor Jonathan Turley to describe the growing federal regulatory apparatus, is poised to become the biggest threat to fundamental liberty since the Alien and Sedition Acts. The pervasiveness of government agencies and their ever-growing ability to issue regulations, enforced with the power of law but without congressional approval or the consent of the governed, stands to leave our Constitution in tatters along with the rights it guarantees.
This is the message I will bring to Congress in my testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Job Creation and Regulatory Affairs. The regulatory leviathan has grown far too large for far too long, bringing with it a crushing burden on ordinary citizens and their personal freedoms.
The most recent attack on individual liberty involves the Treasury Department, which is preparing new rules designed to severely restrict, if not destroy, First Amendment rights to free speech and redress of grievances in the political arena. Launched under the innocuous term of “guidance,” it is the opening parlay in the administration’s attempt to rewrite laws governing tax-exempt 501 (c)(4) groups and limit their involvement in the political process.
This “guidance” would be the latest tool handed to the IRS in its efforts to muzzle certain organizations seeking tax-exempt status that are not aligned with the Obama administration’s agenda. Previously relegated to the low thuggery of intimidating conservative applicants for tax-exempt status, the IRS would wield the power to prevent groups from mentioning the name of a political party or candidate, their legislative record, restrict advertising in the months prior to an election, even voter registration drives.
Once again, the president and his administration are abusing the regulatory process to circumvent laws they don’t like. In this case, Obama’s political appointees would be free to ignore the tenants of the campaign finance laws, including those upheld by the Supreme Court in the 2010 Citizens United case, recognizing that corporations have a First Amendment right to free political speech through donations to tax-exempt organizations. So much for the “rule of law” argument Obama and his henchmen advanced during the debate over the implementation of Obamacare.
One could be forgiven for seeing a nexus between this latest example of regulatory abuse and the bleak prospects for the president’s party in the 2014 midterm elections. With voter discontent growing over the hardships imposed by Obamacare and the approval rating for the president hovering at historic lows, it’s small wonder the president would seek to limit scrutiny of his party and its policies.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.