- The Washington Times - Monday, August 10, 2009


White House officials are labeling the public’s opposition to President Obama’s health care legislation as “astroturf” and “manufactured anger” (“Obama allies call health care outrage a ‘turf’ war,” Page 1, Wednesday). “Astroturf” is merely a pejorative term for grass-roots lobbying that one dislikes. By tagging critics as nothing more than pawns, these ad hominem attacks avoid addressing the opposition’s points.

More troublingly, these complaints too often result in calls for regulation. In recent years, Congress has tried — and failed — to pass grass-roots-lobbying disclosure, and a number of states already require it. The registration and reporting requirements in these laws serve only to make it more difficult for citizens to organize and lobby their elected representatives.

Reformers see grass-roots dissenters as mindless automatons who unquestioningly do what they’re told. However, grass-roots lobbying is really about interested and engaged citizens who, once made aware of an issue, voluntarily contact their legislators to urge them to vote one way or another. It is the very effectiveness of grass-roots lobbying that has reformers calling for its regulation.

No type of speech is more essential to representative democracy, and no type of speech is entitled to greater First Amendment protection. If the proposed health care bill is defeated, supporters of free speech must resist these calls once more.


Institute for Justice


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