When the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a major new rule intended to protect the nation’s drinking water last year, regulators solicited opinions from the public. The purpose of the “public comment” period was to objectively gauge Americans’ sentiment before changing a policy that could profoundly affect their lives.Amazing! Who knew the American public was so committed to expanding the range of the EPA's authority?
Gina McCarthy, the agency’s administrator, told a Senate committee in March that the agency had received more than one million comments, and nearly 90 percent favored the agency’s proposal.
But critics say there is a reason for the overwhelming result: The E.P.A. had a hand in manufacturing it.Oh.
In a campaign that tests the limits of federal lobbying law, the agency orchestrated a drive to counter political opposition from Republicans and enlist public support in concert with liberal environmental groups and a grass-roots organization aligned with President Obama.
Oddly enough we were just talking about the difficulty for citizens in influencing the bureaucratic rule-making processes. Pretty much the only way is through the public comment period, when the agency happens to ask for one. If they are now permitted ("required," it sounds like) to game the system by flooding themselves with positive comments from full-time policy organizations that favor their position, that tiny bit of influence will be diluted out of existence.
Once again, the Obama administration is making a mockery out of the ordinary forms of our democratic republic. Rule of law can be set aside by prosecutorial discretion. Rule making comment periods can be gamed. The IRS can be tasked with paying special attention to your enemies. Pervasive surveillance replaces the need for warrants before prying into private communications.
It's a disturbing pattern, and one that will be hard to reform.