Stopping Obama From Ignoring You and Bypassing Congress to Radically Transform America: An Interview With Phil Kerpen


Phil Kerpen is the vice president for policy at Americans for Prosperity. This week, I had an opportunity to do a short interview with Phil about his new book, Democracy Denied: How Obama is Ignoring You and Bypassing Congress to Radically Transform America – and How to Stop Him. What follows is the edited transcript of our interview.

You have a whole chapter in your book on The REINS Act, something most people haven’t heard of. Yet as you say, it could save America. Talk about that.

Well, this is really, really crucial legislation, John. …I do expect the House to vote on this bill before the end of the year and I expect it will pass in the House where it has a huge number of co-sponsors — somewhere in the 170s or 180s right now. This is a pretty simple, common-sense Bill. It says any economically significant regulation, any regulation that has a significant economic impact, needs to (pass Congress). So the people that we elect to write the laws would need to actually approve the major regulations that affect us — which essentially are laws.

…One of the big problems we’ve seen over the years is, and we saw this especially in the healthcare and Dodd-Frank laws, is a huge incentive for Congress to pass these broad, vague laws and just delegate away all of the really tough decision making, all the really damaging economically harmful decision-making, to bureaucrats and regulators who are insulated from public opinion. That’s what allowed the federal government to get so large and intrusive and costly. The REINS Act is a corrective to that. …So I think it’s a critical way to restore accountability to the legislative branch…

Anybody who’s reading this interview should have cause to be a little nervous about the government tinkering with the Internet. Do people have to be worried that the Obama Administration is going to screw up the Internet by giving more control to the government?

The FCC voted just about a month and a half after the election last year to ignore the results of the election with respect to Internet regulation — and there were 95 Democratic candidates who campaigned on this idea of regulating the Internet in the idea of net neutrality. All 95 lost. It was probably the worst issue for Democrats in the past election.

But the FCC went ahead and voted on a 3-2 party line vote last December to regulate the Internet for the first time in a decade in the name of net neutrality. Now whatever you might think about this idea of net neutrality, it seems crazy to mess with something that’s been working really, really well. The free market Internet has been the greatest driver of economic growth, innovation, creativity and communication that the world has probably ever seen over the past 10 years. Nonetheless, Democrats are beholden to certain corporate special interests and other ideological special interests; so they went ahead and voted on a 3-2 party line to impose those regulations. Then they sat on the rules for nine months and so for nine months they did nothing. They didn’t publish them; they didn’t put them into effect. Now they have issued the final order and it is set to take effect November 20th unless the U.S. Senate votes to overturn it. There will be a vote in the U.S. Senate on overturning it. The House has already voted to do so. That Senate vote we think will happen probably sometime in the next month or two.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson and Mitch McConnell are committed to forcing an up or down vote under something called the Congressional Review Act that will protect that vote from filibuster. We expect all 47 Republicans will vote to overturn that order and keep the Internet a free market — an unregulated space. It will take four Democrats to put this on the President’s desk and dare him to actually veto the overturn and take personal responsibility for the first regulation of the Internet in a decade.

I told a liberal friend of mine that I was interviewing Phil Kerpen from Americans for Prosperity and asked her for a question that liberals would be interested in. She had one. She said, “What is the extent of the Koch Brothers involvement with Americans for Prosperity?”

David Koch is the Chairman of our educational foundation, the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, and so I see him at our board meetings. He generally says we’re doing a great job and doesn’t have much to do with our day-to-day operations and that is the extent of their involvement.

Okay, I was hoping you would have something more like, “He gives us money to do evil or something.” That would have excited them more.

The Left would never question the motives of left-wing groups, no matter who their donors are, because they are friends with them and know they really believe what they’re saying. They really, I think, should have the same standard on the Right. Folks who work for non-profit organizations do it because they believe in the ideas that they’re espousing. Nobody goes into non-profit, public policy work so that they can serve as a mouthpiece for some interest. The pay just isn’t very good. They’d probably go into corporate PR if they wanted to do that.

I’ve been guilty, from time-to-time — I think we all have — of going off on a Koch-like rant about Soros or some other left wing donor. But the reality, John, is people are going to advocate the ideas they believe in and they’re going to look for whoever they can to fund that work and it’s tough to raise money for public policy work. I assume it’s tough on the Left as well. I think it would be better if instead of impugning each other’s intentions and trying to figure out where the secret money is coming from, we just answered the arguments and let the better policy arguments carry the day.

Once again, Phil Kerpen’s book is called Democracy Denied: How Obama is Ignoring You and Bypassing Congress to Radically Transform America – and How to Stop Him.

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post

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