Debate Rages Over Drug Policy Bill Provisions

Debate Rages Over Drug Policy Bill Provisions
Posted by CN Staff on May 26, 2003 at 22:24:54 PT
By Marc Morano, Senior Staff Writer
The federal government would be empowered to spend tax dollars for advertisements opposing citizen led statewide drug legalization initiatives and ballot measures under a proposed Drug Control Policy bill before Congress, according to critics of the measure.Opponents of the drug bill say a provision within the Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 2003 would allow for federal tax dollars to be used to campaign against drug legalization initiatives across the country.
Social critic Daniel Forbes, who authored an analysis of the bill, called the measure "an outright abuse" of federal authority and an effort "to strike at the heart of ballot initiatives nationwide." But David Marin with the House Committee on Government Reform, called the attacks "totally bogus" and part of a campaign of rhetoric by the "pro drug legalization lobby."The debate raises the issue of whether any government agency should be allowed to use tax money to finance ad campaigns in state and local matters subject to voter approval, effectively meddling in local politics.Abuse of public funds alleged Forbes, in an interview with, counters that the bill "is not even a slippery slope, it's an outright abuse on the part of the federal government to use public funds to seek to influence elections, and that is what state ballot initiatives are."The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Democratic members of Congress and the CATO Institute have also expressed their objections to certain provisions in the bill. Forbes and the ACLU say the bill would allow the federal government the use of nearly $200 million dollars annually to oppose various state drug initiatives. The entire drug bill's projected five-year cost is estimated to be about $1.02 billion.The ACLU called the bill an "assault on medical marijuana" and believes the bill "would allow the drug czar to use almost $200 million to oppose medical marijuana initiatives and any candidates that support such initiatives.""The Reauthorization Act could give the drug czar authority to use taxpayer dollars to pay for media campaigns directly targeting state ballot measures," wrote Forbes in his essay. Forbes believes the proposal "would run counter to the whole purpose of ballot initiatives, establish a disturbing precedent for federal electioneering and hobble advocates pushing for saner alternatives to the War on Drugs."'Totally bogus' David Marin, press secretary for the Republican-led House Committee on Government Reform, told that the allegations that the bill would authorize federal government to advertise against state initiatives are "totally bogus." The bill is scheduled for a vote in the House Committee on Government Reform in early June."There is nothing in the bill that is or ever was intended to convert the media campaign into a political campaign device, nor will it have that effect," Marin explained.Marin did concede, however that the bill had to be rewritten to clear up some of these concerns. "I will acknowledge that the original drafting of the provision was not as clear as it should have been," he said.Marin said the attack by critics of the bill is "based on rhetoric put forward by the pro drug legalization lobby. There is no truth to it."But Forbes counters that the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) will be able to produce ads opposed to state drug initiatives under the bill."ONDCP head John Walters could begin using whatever portion he sees fit of over $2 billion in total media time and space to try to swing state and local drug-reform ballot elections starting as early as this fall," according to Forbes.Democrats on the committee have expressed concern over the possibility of government money being used in ad campaigns against state initiatives. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said the reauthorization bill "should not be used to influence elections on ballot initiatives or candidates for public office, or to influence the consideration of legislation."'Propaganda tools' The bill also grants a special exemption to the ONDCP that allows the agency to air anti-drug advertisements without having to identify itself as the sponsor of the ads, according to Forbes."The ONDCP would no longer have to identify itself as the sponsor of the messages, reversing an (1934) FCC ruling and making the ads potentially much more effective as propaganda tools," Forbes wrote."Viewers are entitled to know by whom they are being persuaded," Forbes told CNSNews.comAuthor: Marc Morano, Senior Staff WriterPublished: May 27, 2003Copyright: 1998-2003 Cybercast News ServiceContact: shogenson cnsnews.comWebsite: Articles & Web Sites:ACLU Institute Would Let Drug Czar Campaign Initiatives - Daniel Forbes GOP Targets Medical Marijuana States
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Comment #3 posted by kaptinemo on May 27, 2003 at 06:25:15 PT:
And before I forget
Belated kudos for Mr. Forbes; once again he's proven that 'authentic journalism' is alive and well. And still 'afflicting the comfortable'. And the hypocritical...There's a very good reason to favor parliamentary governments as opposed to the 'winner take all' of our own system; parliamentary governments have to rule by concensus, not fiat. Concentrations of power that allow for abuses become very difficult. Not very efficient ways of doing things, but the most efficient governments of all are tyrannies.But this de facto removal of the Hatch Act would allow an even greater accretion of unwarranted and unchecked power (who's going to make the government stop, another bureacracy?) to be placed in the hands of the government.There's a very good reason why politicians and bureaucrats on the Federal or State or local dime are not allowed to politick using government resources; where does it end? Who draws the line, when the government holds the pen, bought with your money, and dares you to take it from it's hand? A lot of countries that have allowed that to happen are just memories now.The Hatch Act and other laws like it serve only one purpose: relief valves against the slow accumulation of powers that can be used against the people. Jam that valve shut, and the pressure builds. When it explodes, people get hurt, badly. And governments squander the one treasure they absolutely must have to survive: their own people's trust.The fools in Washington pushing this are playing with fire; they haven't listened to Mr. Forbes and others who have sounded the warning, time and again. They believe that since 'nothing bad has happened', then nothing will. They are standing right next to that valve, they can see the threads warping and the valve deforming, but think that everything is just fine; it just needs to be tightened down a little more.Remove the protection of the Hatch Act, and it's back to such partisan bickering it'll make any denizen of the 19th Century Congress feel right at home. With all the attendent corruption and patronage that went with it. It's bad enough now; it'll get lots worse.
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Comment #2 posted by Dark Star on May 27, 2003 at 06:14:53 PT
Who Do You Believe?
Dan Forbes or the bureaucrat?Suppose the b-man was right about the intent of the bill. Does it matter? Souder claims he didn't really intend to deny financial aid to all those kids who smoked, but look what happened. Politicians have no imagination as to the abuses of the laws they craft. They should be given no opporunity for such abuse of the process.
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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on May 27, 2003 at 05:59:08 PT:
Again, there's more here than meets the eye
Because this would destroy the Hatch Act forever..and remove ANY possibility of retrieving democracy from the clutches of special interest groups. For when pols can brazenly use the monies for propagandizing against popular referenda, what comes next? Police monitoring of voting booths to ensure that you vote the 'correct' way, as the government wants you to?
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