Former Senator Scott Brown's Staff Sends Larry Lessig A Letter Demanding He Stop Referring To Brown As A 'Lobbyist'

from the stop-using-the-truth-to-smear-our-candidate! dept

Larry Lessig’s new SuperPAC must be making a few people in Washington nervous. That’s the only thing that could explain former Sen. Scott Brown’s office sending a little hate mail demanding an apology for calling the former politician a “lobbyist.” [PDF link]

Sent by Colin Reed, the campaign manager for New Hampshire for Scott Brown, the letter opens this way and doesn’t let up.

Your MAYDAY Super PAC has issued a piece of mail to New Hampshire voters falsely calling Scott Brown a ‘Washington lobbyist.’ This is a flat-out lie.

Scott Brown is not nor has he ever been a lobbyist. Ever. We call on you to immediately cease and desist with the mailer in question, and to use one of your various media appearances as a purported authority on ethics to retract your falsehood.

As Lessig points out, Brown not being a lobbyist largely depends on what a normal person would think a lobbyist is. He quotes The Hill, which details Brown’s post-Senate employment.

I take it Mr. Reed’s outrage is triggered by the Senate’s regulations of what constitutes being a “lobbyist” for purposes of the Senate rules. I hadn’t received the memo that explained that the English language is now regulated by the rules of the United States Senate. If there is such a memo, they should send it to The Hill too. Here are a few snippets of what they reported last March:

Brown has joined Nixon Peabody, a law and lobby firm, as counsel in the firm’s Boston office. The Massachusetts Republican, also a former state senator, will concentrate his practice on “business and governmental affairs as they relate to the financial services industry as well as on commercial real estate matters,” according to the firm.

Nixon Peabody has a burgeoning K Street practice, having made more than $1.5 million in lobbying fees for all of 2012, according to the Center for Responsive Politics…

So yes, according to the Senate, Scott Brown isn’t a “lobbyist.” But I submit to anyone else in the world, a former Senator joining a “law and lobbying firm” to help with Wall St’s “business and governmental affairs” is to make him a lobbyist. Because to anyone else in the world, when you sell your influence to affect “business and governmental affairs,” you are a lobbyist.

Other news sources agree. Brown now holds the position of “counsel” in a lobbying firm. This may not exactly make him a lobbyist but it certainly makes him more lobbyist than “counsel.” The only thing likely preventing Brown from retaining the title of ‘lobbyist’ are rules meant to keep this sort of revolving-door behavior from being so blatant and prevalent.

The Boston Globe noted Monday that while Brown himself will not be a lobbyist — Senators may not lobby their former colleagues for the first two years after leaving office, under the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 — “he will be leaning heavily on his Washington contacts to drum up business for the firm.” The position will also allow him “to begin cashing in on his contacts with the financial services industry, which he helped oversee in the Senate.”

So, not technically a lobbyist but as close to a lobbyist as one can get. The overblown letter also calls into question Lessig’s “Harvard code of conduct” and hilariously refers to the Mayday SuperPAC’s letter as evidence of Lessig’s “partisan political agenda” — apparently unaware of the fact that Lessig is backing a Republican candidate against Brown in the upcoming New Hampshire election.

The letter wraps up with the following threat:

If you fail to immediately cease the mailer in question, we are leaving all our legal options on the table.

Lessig has responded to this angry letter in three ways, all of which suggest a dearth of respect for Scott Brown or his purported legal representation. First, there’s the last line of his blog post about the letter:

And finally, as for those “legal options” that Mr. Reed says he’s “leaving on the table,” let me offer the words of Harry Callahan: “Go ahead. Make my day.”

And this tweet.

If you can’t read the tweet, it says:

Yea, an institution that calls ketchup a vegetable doesn’t get to tell me how to speak English.

And, finally, Lessig did, in fact, change Mayday’s ad as follows. The top one is the original ad, the bottom one is the “new” ad:

Someone set the “table.” I’ll make popcorn.

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Comments on “Former Senator Scott Brown's Staff Sends Larry Lessig A Letter Demanding He Stop Referring To Brown As A 'Lobbyist'”

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pegr (profile) says:

Did he really thing that?

Is Scott Brown really so stupid that he thinks he can throw down with Larry Lessig and be better for the experience?

Just for my own personal amusement, I hope he pushes this forward. Oh, please, oh please, oh PLEASE!

(Hey Scott Brown! I know that political hubris can blind folks, but you REALLY don’t want to do this. STOP DIGGING!)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

And Pluto is a planet since ethically recalling a definition is wrong. Ethics doesn’t exist in the legalese universe, it is “right makes might”. Politicians just don’t seem to be able to avoid the moral creep and responsibilities to “shareholders”.

When it comes to definitions he should know as a lawyer that the official legal definitions matter more than technicalities and as a politician he should know that threats of lawsuits usually makes its way around the media, making him look bad.

Anonymous Coward says:

Maybe we need to come up with another name for government officials who pass through the “revolving door” and take an unusually high-paying job with a private company that is seeking something from the government, or in some cases start their own D.C.-area “consulting” firm whose clients are either directly or indirectly seeking something from the government.

Otherwise we’d just have another word-game to play more complex than nailing down the definition of email.

But better yet, let’s just ban it all, and require former government officials to leave Washington entirely and go back to where ever they came from before they joined the government (unless it was a ‘lobbying’ job). That includes jobs working for “think tanks” and other back-door lobbies. It’s a simple solution, but probably one much harder to achieve than balancing the budget.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Language abuse

Let’s see…

It’s not “torture,” it’s “enhanced interrogation techniques”
It’s not “corporate interests” or the interests of the wealthy, it’s “American interests”
It was Snowden’s act of leaking that caused damage, not the behavior the leaks revealed
It’s not “terrorism” when done by people we like, it’s “asymmetric warfare”
It’s not “sewage”, it’s “biosolids”
It’s not “state execution”, it’s “capital punishment”
It’s not the death of innocent people, it’s “collateral damage”
It’s not “propaganda”, it’s “communication”
It’s not the “war department”, it’s the “department of defense”

…and so on

Don’t let the government define the words being used. Scott Brown is a lobbyist no matter what the rules say he is.

Anonymous Coward says:

it must be real nice to be in the position of being able to stand up to people like Scott Brown and his ‘helpers’. even if Lassig were to lose a court battle, he would still win with the people. us mere mortals get no choice but to crawl back into our shells before some industry ass hole takes everything we ever worked for, even when we have spoken the truth!!

sorrykb (profile) says:

"Harvard code of conduct"?

Which part of the “Harvard code of conduct” is Colin Reed alleging that Professor Lessig has violated? I’d really like to know.

P.S. A person who embraces the Senate’s distorted definition of “lobbyist” has no business lecturing anyone about the “search for truth and knowledge”. Legally, it might be correct. But it’s certainly not truthful.

Киушкин Евгений Иванович says:


Письмо в Конгресс и Сенат США.

Уважаемые члены Конгресса и Сената США!
Дорогие коллеги и партнёры!

Вы меня знаете по делам моим и поступкам в вопросах паритета, принуждения к миру, мирного сосуществования.
Я, Гражданин Российской Федерации Киушкин Евгений Иванович, советский и российский изобретатель, создатель особого Электромагнитного Оружия Массового Поражения.
Впервые активно на практике я стал волновать вас ещё в 70-х годах ХХ века. Вы в реальных событиях оценили и оцениваете по сей день мою эффективность. Вас трясёт и лихорадит с тех самых значимых для мирного мира пор, когда, открывая и воплощая фундаментальное и прикладное научное наследие в явные земные изобретения, к 1986 году я создал сверхновое направление, произвёл Государственные полигонные испытания в Демократической Республике Афганистан, в Республике Никарагуа, в Республике Куба, в Германской Демократической Республике в 1986, 1987, 1988 годах и поставил на вооружение секретную систему, обеспечив небывалую ранее Глобальную Государственную Безопасность.
25 сентября 2014 года я единолично принял решение о развитии освобождения Космоса от засилья вашего Милитаризма. Отмечаю, что осознанное введение против Милитаристов САНКЦИЙ и запретов на возможность использования Милитаристами околоземного Космического пространства, как составной части НЕ милитаризированной жизни НЕ милитаризированной Вселенной – это не реванш, а необходимость защиты Земной цивилизации, Человеческого разума и Человеческой эволюции, необходимость сохранения мирного прогресса.
Профессиональный военнослужащий, военный научный деятель, радикальный миротворец, в душе я убеждённый пацифист. Моя цель и цель моего детища – глобальное обеспечение мирной жизни. Миру – мир! Мир – миру!

Честь имею.

Ваш вероятный союзник Евгений Киушкин.

Российская Федерация.
25 сентября 2014 года.

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