- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 8, 1999

As political director of Newt Gingrich’s GOPAC, I was responsible for training more than 15,000 Republican candidates and activists over four years. What we did worked because we always made sure to get across the idea that we are a big party full of diverse ideas and opinions and, when we work together, we can achieve great things. There is no idea so stupid or wrong that it cannot at least be discussed. Stay focused on the war, not the battle.
Two Republican leaders have caused me to rethink this strategy. One is a senator and one a governor who are, for who knows what reasons, trying to derail, through tax and regulation, the dawn of a new economic age, the continued electoral success of the GOP and the continued dominance of the United States in the world economy, all at the same time.
Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, and Utah’s senior Sen. Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, have embarked on an anti-technology effort that will wipe out the political successes of the post-Reagan Republican Party and set it back 50 years.
Information technology and services are the fastest-growing, most productive segments of the American economy. The information economy is the economy of the post-industrial age. It allows for greater efficiency, greater consumer choice, decentralization and entrepreneurism all things we value highly in America.
Republicans stand for lower or no capital gains taxes, increased personal privacy, liberalized rules on encryption, greater immigration of skilled workers to fill information technology jobs, tort reform and limiting government regulation. High-tech should be among the strongest supporters of the Republican Party in the business community.
On the other hand, the Democrats’ coalition of big labor, liberals, environmentalist radicals and trial lawyers has little in common with the interests of the high-tech industry. And yet, when it comes time to bring a leading presidential candidate to Redmond, Washington, whose name is on the invitation? Al Gore’s. Why? It may be because Mike Leavitt and Orrin Hatch are, between them, doing dirty work for the Democrats, leading the charge to tax and regulate the Internet and the entire world of e-commerce.
Now, while the Republican Party has the political power to enact laws that will safeguard the interests of high-tech, and the rest of us who will benefit from high-tech’s central position in the new economy, Mr. Hatch and Mr. Leavitt are working overtime to toss the opportunity away.
With the overt backing of Mr. Hatch, the Justice Department is spending tens of millions of dollars prosecuting Microsoft over a free web browser. Think about how stupid this lawsuit is. The technology that spawned the litigation is already obsolete. The issue is irrelevant and the judge has asked Microsoft and the Justice Department to try to reach a negotiated settlement before he passes judgment. Yet the government presses on, hoping to accomplish via litigation what it has no legislative or constitutional mandate to do establish hegemony over the high-tech industry and pick winners and losers in the marketplace.
Mr. Hatch, acting as the senator from Novell, is jeopardizing the Republican Party’s success across the country. Republicans cannot maintain their stance as the party of limited government as our chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee leads a government jihad against the most successful company in the high-tech industry.
Mr. Leavitt’s zeal for taxing e-commerce is equally destructive. Out of 31 Republican, 17 Democrat and two independent governors in the country, no one has pushed as hard or as loudly for taxing the Internet as Mr. Leavitt.
Why is Mr. Leavitt leading the charge to establish a new national tax on Internet sales? He wants to be able to spend the money it would generate. The Internet has, in a very short time, forced every for-profit and non-profit business and organization in America to rethink the way they operate. He is insisting that, even before many of these companies show profitability, government get its hooks into the Internet by taxing consumer purchases.
He sees a new source of revenue, ever-expanding, that government can tap into. The unlimited fountain of government spending is a Democrat myth, not a Republican one. If Mr. Leavitt succeeds, the political consequences for the GOP and the policy consequences for the nation are frightening.
Ben Franklin said it best: “We must indeed all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” If Republicans cannot beat back the effort of the Utah Twins to remake the party in their image, we are headed right back to where we used to be nowhere.

Peter Roff is a political strategist and former political director of GOPAC.

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