Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren's Lobbying Tax Is Anti-Constitutional Pseudo-Policy

The Massachusetts senator's respect for the Constitution knows many bounds.

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Among the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment is the right "to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." In other words, you have a right to communicate with the government, to complain about its current policies, and to advocate for new and different ones without fear of punishment or censor. You might call this a right to gripe about the government, to the government. Alternatively, you might call it a right to lobby

The unlimited right to petition the government—to lobby the lawmakers who make decisions that affect your life, your family, your fortune, and your business—is a right that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) thinks American businesses should not have. 

Warren, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, has proposed taxing corporate lobbying. Expenditures between $500,000 and $1 million would be taxed at 35 percent. Spending over $1 million would face a 60 percent tax rate, which would jump to 75 percent above $5 million. Some non-profits would be exempt, but the tax would hit trade organizations as well as corporate influence efforts. 

Warren's campaign estimates that if the rule had been in place over the last decade, and businesses had made no changes to their lobbying activities, it would have raised about $10 billion. But as with her wealth tax proposal, which is designed more to degrade large fortunes than to raise revenue for the government, the point isn't really to generate new funds from taxation. It is to eliminate much of the lobbying that happens in Washington. 

"We can end excessive lobbying," Warren wrote in a tweet this morning. Excessive lobbying. Excessive petitioning of the government. The point of Warren's tax on lobbying is to eliminate, or at least severely degrade, a fundamental constitutional right. It is probably unconstitutional, in the sense that it wouldn't stand up to a court challenge. It is certainly anti-constitutional, in the sense that it is contrary to the spirit of the First Amendment. 

That's not terribly surprising coming from Warren, whose respect for the Constitution knows many bounds. As National Review's David French has written, many of Warren's vaunted plans—from her wealth tax to her proposed executive order banning fracking—appear likely to cross legal and constitutional lines. As a candidate, she has repeatedly demonstrated her willingness to ignore the irritating limitations imposed by the Constitution to pursue her political and policy objectives. 

And in this case, it's both. Or, more precisely, it's a political objective masquerading as a policy goal: Warren, who is vying for frontrunner status in the Democratic primary race, wants to look tough on lobbyists and lobbying, and this is a way to do it. It's pseudo-policy, a veneer of wonky seriousness draped over anti-constitutional populist dogma. 

Like many of Warren's bad ideas, it may be politically savvy: Lobbyists are not exactly popular in America these days, and lobbying is widely viewed as grubby and unseemly, if not actively corrupt. 

This view is not always correct; asking (lobbying) the government to pursue different laws and different policies can be a noble task and a path to better governance. But the view of lobbying as ignoble does have some merit; individuals and corporations often lobby for bad ideas. Indeed, as Bradley Smith and Luke Wachob of the Institute for Free Speech recently noted, Warren herself has a long history of directly encouraging federal lawmakers to adopt policies she prefers, particularly on issues like bankruptcy, about which she has produced misleading research for decades. Over and over again, she petitioned the government to adopt her misguided views—as was her right. 

At other times, lobbyists advocate for narrow self-interest. Following the passage of Obamacare, for example, medical device makers, who have a heavy economic footprint in Massachusetts, the state Warren represents, pushed hard for a repeal of a tax directed at their industry. Starting with her 2011 campaign for Senate, Warren supported their position and backed much of the rest of their agenda in a 2012 op-ed for a trade publication. Industry lobbyists later praised her as a helpful working partner. "We've enjoyed the opportunity to work with Sen. Warren during her tenure in Congress," a representative from a major medical device industry group told Time in 2015. No doubt they did. 

Lobbying—or petitioning—the government to change a law, or advance an agenda, or redress a grievance, like, say, a tax on your industry, might not be held in high esteem. But it is a form of protected speech. And that protection is designed to shield those who are not in government from those who are, to level the playing field between those who wield direct political power, and those who do not. It is more than a little revealing that Warren, a powerful senator who wants to be an even more powerful president, is proposing to weaken that protection in hopes of advancing her own political interests. Warren, you might say, is lobbying for herself. 

NEXT: Federal Judge Says California Can’t Force Trump To Release His Tax Returns in Exchange for Ballot Access

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  1. Warren, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, has proposed taxing corporate lobbying.

    Right on! And tax voting while you’re at it! A “poll tax” could raise enough money for free health care for all!

    1. Photo caption:
      “And this is how much penis, or clitoris, is going to be exempt. The rest, we are going to tax, to level the playing field.”

      1. So you’re saying you’re exempt twice over.

  2. “Elizabeth Warren’s Lobbying Tax Is Anti-Constitutional Pseudo-Policy”

    Does it apply equally to those seeking “lobbyists” for money – or are they excluded ?

    It take 2 to make lobbying actually activated into policy – two to tango

    1. One group lobbies for money and the other for policy and they make an arrangement.

      1. This is why governments are created and populated by people who mysteriously get rich, worldwide and through all history. It’s the purpose.

        It’s hidden a little better here since there must be some sloppy reason for every law and regulation, so you can dirty backroom deal.

  3. Oh this is so simple!

    to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”

    Just grievances. Not favors.

    1. “My grievance is that the Government never does me any favors.”

      1. My grievance is that the government does me “favors”.

        1. mine is it does all those other assholes favors.

          1. Mine is that it favors assholes.

    2. You have the right to petition the government, including senators and congressmen, for redress of your grievances. But do you have the right to accept money from others to petition lawmakers for redress of the grievances of the people paying you? In other words, do people have the right to be paid lobbyists? I think a law stating that no person shall accept anything of value in exchange for lobbying lawmakers to legislate in the way desired by the payer just might be constitutional, and it would certainly solve the problem of undue influence by lobbyists. But getting Congress to enact such a law could be kind of difficult.

      1. “I think a law stating that no person shall accept anything of value in exchange for lobbying lawmakers to legislate in the way desired by the payer just might be constitutional, and it would certainly solve the problem of undue influence by lobbyists.”

        So, no political adds on TV?
        I’d be all for it, but I think you need to rethink your claim

        1. Ads on TV are OK. I’m talking about banning one-on-one meetings with legislators, for pay.

          1. So under the same theory

            Abortions can’t be made illegal but we can prohibit doctors from receiving payments for the procedure?

            We can’t make newspapers illegal but we can prevent them from accepting money for advertising.

            Seem’s pretty much the same to me.

          2. “Ads on TV are OK. I’m talking about banning one-on-one meetings with legislators, for pay.”

            So if a sect’y is there it’s OK.
            Give it up.

            1. I’m not seeing a difference in principal. The principal you have stated is its OK to limit constitutional rights when you are exercising them for financial gain. Therefore by extension insisting that newspapers not be compensated is logically identical.

              1. Sorry intended for the other poster. I saw “give it up” thought it was him and immediately started typing.

      2. So, NARAL, NRA, ACLU, SPLC, ADL, NOW, AARP and all the others would need to either stop accepting contributions or stop communicating with legislators.

        Don’t think it’s going to fly.

        1. She has specifically created this policy for her enemies. Her friends still get to lobby.

  4. Excellent idea. One small amendment; include campaign contributions as lobbying, and make the politician pay the taxes.

    1. One of the commentariat has also suggested treating broken campaign promises as perjury.

      1. We’re gonna need a bigger jail – – – – – – –

        1. Australia taken…perhaps Antarctica.

        2. We’re gonna need a bigger jail – – – – – – –

          Only you suckers that don’t believe in capital punishment.

          The rest of us can solve the problem with a small landfill or even a large ditch.

      2. “If you vote for me I’ll lower your taxes and give you free heath care”
        Keeping the promise is bribery, breaking the promise is perjury, and making the promise is conspiracy.

  5. So, is she evil or just stupid. She has a law degree?

    1. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I’m just a Native American. I fell on some ice and later got thawed out by some of your scientists. Your world frightens and confuses me! Sometimes the honking horns of your traffic make me want to get out of my BMW.. . But there is one thing I do know – when a man doesn’t turn over all he makes to the tribe they should be buried up to their neck in sand.

    2. Politicians often pass or suggest blatantly unconstitutional things for brownie points from ignorant voters, relying on courts to overturn it.

      So…evil.

  6. A lobbying tax is totally unconstitutional. Now, if you call it a “donation” like Hillary does, it’s perfectly fine – and it’s tax-deductible, too!

  7. ” I would tax Raquel Welch. I have a feeling she’d tax me.”-
    “It’s” Man

  8. Rich proggies are all in favor of redistribution of wealth, as long as its not THEIR wealth.

  9. Ya know, Aunt Lizzie, the “excessive” lobbying wouldn’t matter if y’all weren’t a bunch of morally atrophied crooks. You try to pretend that the money is dirty when it’s in the lobbyist’s hands but then magically becomes clean once it’s in your hands.

    1. Yes – she seems really worried about the buyers but totally unconcerned about the sellers.

  10. nobody ever said she’s not a moron … stop propping her up

    >>Like many of Warren’s bad ideas, it may be politically savvy

    maybe, might just be a bad idea. I’d set K Street on fire if arson wasn’t a felony but I’d also cut off a foot before I’d vote for Fauxcahontas so …

  11. Of course, unions would get around this by “suggesting” that their members send the equivalent of a month or two of union dues to particular candidates, and then giving them a rebate of a month or two of union dues.

  12. Warren really is an awful candidate, not that the rest of the field is much better. What’s scary is that she comes off as more electable than crazy Bernie or stormtrooper Harris.

    What the hell is wrong with the major parties that they keep vomiting up worse and worse candidates? Or maybe I should be asking why the electorate keeps voting for one of them or another, no matter how bad the choice gets.

    1. Or maybe I should be asking why the electorate keeps voting for one of them or another, no matter how bad the choice gets.

      “Lesser of Two Evils.”

  13. Lobbying is highly abused, and not just by firm notorious for it like The Podesta Group. Their predatory activity was about to land most of them in jail, so they had to quickly dry up and blow away, and call in a sea of favors. Lobbying only benefits the wealthy anymore. So really, the only folks defending our broken lobbying system are, well, paid shill lobbyists.

    1. Zo
      October.2.2019 at 4:42 pm
      “…Lobbying only benefits the wealthy anymore…”

      A-1. Fuck off and die, slaver.

    2. So what solution do you propose that’s not worse than the status quo? How do you plan to stop “bad” lobbying by “the wealthy” without also stopping the rest of us from petitioning the government?

      Or are you okay with tyranny?

      1. Original commenter was right though. It has all become obscenely tilted toward the big and wealthy. My solution:

        Massively increase size of congress: makes districts geographically smaller and therefore the district office is ‘closer’ to where one lives so more possible to go there and lobby. AND makes them smaller population so the individual voter is more powerful re consequences of ignoring a grievance. This has become my hobbyhorse but it really does help solve a lot of probs.

        Turn all nonenumerated depts/etc into ‘interstate compact’ form. This is far easier to do than doing nothing while trying to sell ‘libertarian’ reduction. Eliminates federal level mandate (prob a big source of grievance) overnight cuz states are the only ones who turn what a compact does into mandates. Which means people would lobby the states instead – which is both closer to the individual and de facto jacks up the cost 50-fold for those wealthy who want a ‘national’ nonenumerated solution.

        Distribute the exec branch around the country instead of in DC. Like maybe nearly as distributed as post offices. Doesn’t nec move the object of the lobbying closer to the one with the grievance – but it makes it far easier to have an ombudsman or videoconferencing or an open comment period (the vox populi) that can become both formalized and distributed. And it certainly reduces the benefit of centralizing lobbying from K street.

        1. As an aside – interstate compact form is also not part of the executive branch. Constitutionally, it must be approved/chartered/etc by Congress – but legally it is an ‘agreement of states’. So the management of it is then done by states seconding people to that agency – where Congress then oversees whether the agency is fulfilling its charter.

          So it can immediately claw back the imperial Presidency.

          1. Here’s the interstate compact on Education

            States had a legitimate need to talk about things like:
            We’re getting students moving here from your state – say a 12 year old – what have they studied already in your state by that time? And were moving towards converging some things or sharing best practices.

            You could move the entire Dept of Education x civil rights and Indian/overseas DoD schools to that interstate compact overnight without much pushback. Wanna reduce spending? ok well that will involve pushback – but in that IC form its much easier to say ‘ok we’re gonna reduce the fed subsidy by $30 billion over the next say 2 years – it’s up to you states to either accomplish what you want from the IC with the smaller amount or fund that $30 billion yourselves’.

        2. JFree’s solution is a government so big, we’re all members.

          1. just curious: Do you get a benefit check for invading Vietnam? Honestly don’t know.

          2. And your solution is to let the teeny $20 trillion public debt and the even teenier $4.4 trillion in spending and the almost miniscule 4.5 million federal employees continue to grow as they will while you jump up and down doing absolutely nothing except yelling I’m fiscally responsible dammit. It’s not my fault. It’s your fault. If you don’t do what I want I’m going to jump up and down even more. See me jump? Now you know how serious I am! Jumpjumpjump. DeRpdyDeRpdyDerp.

          3. More representatives would be a good thing, especially if we shrunk the executive branch. On this I am in agreement with Jfree and think you’re totally off the mark. More representatives actually would decrease their power. Throw in term limits and it is the best way to reform our Government to it’s original intent. Maybe also go back to when the legislature was only part time and paid accordingly.

            1. As an aside did you see how the USDA and BLM threw a fit because Trump is moving their offices to more western areas so they are closer to the people they are supposed to be serving? Moving the BLM to the west, where most BLM land is, he is literally Hitler.

  14. “We can end excessive lobbying,”

    Uh, yeah, OK.
    WIH mean?

  15. The Constitution refers to individual people, not to corporations. For instance, people can vote; corporations cannot. Suderman’s not understanding the difference completely negates the thrust of his article.

    1. A corporation is a group of people. Just like a union, NRA , ect. Why is that so hard to understand?

    2. “”The Constitution refers to individual people,””

      But only is a few place such as the second amendment. “The right of the people”.

      Most of what people call rights are really restriction of government activity. The 1A for example. A restriction on government is just that. Doesn’t matter if it’s a person or corporation that benefits from the restriction.

    3. How many people have to get together before they lose their rights?

    4. Corporate personhood has been a thing for centuries.

      1. Why?

        1. Because we are not governed by idiots like you.

        2. There are two ways to get a large number of people with disparate interests to cooperate to accomplish jobs too big for a small group: corporations and governments*.

          Over time corporations are almost always productive, governments seldom are.

          * The most productive governments are organized much the way corporations are. Think of Congress as a board of directors and the president as CEO.

        3. Why? … Its pretty simple. Because a corporation is a public entity, where the officers are assumed to represent the shareholders and are excluded from personal liability, the corporation itself becomes the legal party if there is any lawsuit. And any party to a lawsuit is considered a legal person in the sense that they have due process rights and everything those due process rights entail.

          In any case, I hope you agree that if a corporation is sued it shouldn’t be denied due process in court.

          On the other hand, I think the real issue is that the idea of corporate personhood has been misused. A corporation’s personhood depends on the fact that it its representing its shareholders. Because of that, it seems acceptable to place regulations on what a corporation can do without the explicit permission of shareholders. Similar to how Republicans support restricting union dues from going to political campaigns without the permission of the union member, I think its perfectly right to restrict shareholder funds from going into political campaigns without the permission of the shareholder. Lots of people have money going into the stock market through investment accounts, and should not have the burden of monitoring whether such and such corporation is political. Protected speech would be speech connected to the corporate charter (ie a newspaper is set up to disseminate news) or speech by the corporate officers individually.

          As far as a “lobbyist tax” goes, lobbying is central to the charter of a lobbying corporation similar to how news is central to the charter of a news corporation, and the Court has a very long history of striking down the idea of a newspaper tax (this goes back to the Revolution w/ the Stamp Tax), so I don’t think this could pass legal muster.

    5. The article left out the part of Warrren’s plan that gives away the real game:

      “Second, we’ll give more money to federal agencies that are facing significant lobbying activity. Every time a company above the $500,000 threshold spends money lobbying against a rule from a federal agency, the taxes on that spending will go directly to the agency to help it fight back.”

      Future discussion:

      Exxon Lobbyist – There’s this proposed rule we’d like to talk about…
      EPA Director- Please, Exxon lobbyist sir, please! Please don’t spend $1M lobbying me! It’s at the 60% level and they would tax you $600K and put it in my discretionary spending account! I couldn’t bear it!
      Exxon Lobbyist – Jeebus, that’s kind of a high ask, man. But if that’s what it takes.

      1. Last I saw, the EPA was proposing a rule to rescind some of its previous rules and I don’t think there were a lot of big companies lobbying against that proposal. Will they still be taxed under Warren’s plan? I mean, there does seem to be a bias there that bureaucrats are holy and flawless angels and therefore their proposals are Good and anybody opposed to them must therefore be minions of Satan, and yet it’s the usual watermelon conspiracy lobbying against the proposed rules.

        Or is this one of the usual “I can’t define excessive lobbying but I know it when I see it” things where Saint Elizabeth is going to be sole judge of who is righteous and who is not?

      2. ” the taxes on that spending will go directly to the agency to help it fight back.”

        Jesus H. Christ on a popsicle stick. Fight back? Against the people they’re supposed to be working for? I guess this clearly puts the lie to claims of government workers being “public servants”.

        1. Yeah, the part about fighting back is disgusting. But in my opinion what’s really going on here is legalizing kickbacks. It won’t take long for agencies to figure out that the way to get that budget increase they wanted is to get lobbied hard and live off the taxes. To get lobbied hard, they’ll need to propose scary bad rules but also signal that they’re willing to cave if enough money is spent on lobbying.

          It’ll be a massive case of unintended consequences.

          1. What do you mean, unintended?

    6. “The Constitution refers to individual people, not to corporations.”

      You’re full of shit.

    7. Uhmmm, pretty sure the 1A also protects the right to assemble…

  16. Goddamit, Liz! You can’t just tax everything!

    1. With Bernie’s poor ticker and Biden imploding she is likely their nominee too. So, Wall Street and Facebook have already said they are going to campaign against her. Wonder if the rest of Silicon valley will? Will the WaPo suddenly discover how “good” a President Trump is?

  17. Whatever. Warren and Grandpa Gulag (when he recovers) should release a secret sex tape.

    1. Warren with a strap-on and a tube of KY Jelly.

      1. Anal is never recommended for cardiac patients, poor Bernie.

  18. Ever notice how more taxes seem to be the answer to everything for these folks? Sure we have lobbying because we have a bureau or agency for everything and a mountain of regulation.

    The whole system is a scam. The chewing gum industry has to lobby the department of mastication or they will drive them out of business. This ultimately puts more money in the pockets of politicians and keeps the system running.

    1. City inspectors, bill collectors,
      Evolution, revolution, gun control, the sound of soul,
      Shootin’ rockets to the moon, kids growin’ up too soon
      Politicians say more taxes will solve everything,

      And the band played on.

  19. Elizabeth Warren’s entire platform is anti-Constitutional pseudo-policy. Has she mentioned ANYTHING that isn’t an abrogation of basic rights?

    1. But I am assured she is so wonky and well informed.

  20. From what she has said it is fairly obvious to conclude that she does not think anyone has protected rights with regards to what she can characterize as a business interest. It is the old patrician class disdain of commerce as beneath decent people’s dignity.

  21. You know what would unequivocally eliminate lobbying and get rid of the shadow money supporting candidates in politics? Direct funding. Eliminate taxes and allow private individuals and corporations to donate directly to those programs they feel need funding.

    Otherwise there will always be, year after year, a massive pile of money that needs allocating and a bunch of people willing to bet that they can get out a bigger chunk than they paid in.

    1. Or just outlaw all financial contributions to politicians. All. Every cent.
      The theory that they need the money “to get their message out” went away the day Al Gore invented the internet.

  22. Isn’t taxing dollars spent on lobbying already happening? I wasn’t aware a lobbyist firm was classified like a church. Last I checked, dollars spent on those activities aren’t even deductible.

  23. But as with her wealth tax proposal, which is designed more to degrade large fortunes

    Is this a feature or a bug, because it sounds like a feature?

    1. Yes, ugly resentful people would consider it a feature.

    2. She is just jealous of the number of houses and book fortunes a certain socialist does not share with the collective.

  24. You know how we got corporate personhood? Fucking activist judges on the Supreme Court. That and Roscoe Fucking Conkling.

    https://www.jacobinmag.com/2018/12/trump-fourteenth-amendment-citizenship-reconstruction-constitution

    First as Farce, Then as Tragedy

    Favorite part:In a flagrant instance of judicial misinterpretation, the Supreme Court and the Republican-dominated federal government used the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause not to defend the rights of the formerly enslaved but those of corporations, railroads, monopolistic companies like Standard Oil and Carnegie Steel, and in our own times, of billionaires and multinational corporations. In the 1886 Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad case, the Supreme Court accepted the argument advanced by railroad lawyer and stalwart Republican Roscoe Conklin that the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment applied to corporations.

    1. LeaveTrumpAloneLibertarian
      October.2.2019 at 7:30 pm
      “You know how we got corporate personhood? Fucking activist judges on the Supreme Court. That and Roscoe Fucking Conkling.”

      Yes, someone with more brains than you ever hope to have pointed out that humans, even when grouped together, still have right, you fucking ignoramus.

    2. That Santa Clara County v SP case has interesting backstory – and tax consequences. Henry George came up with his analysis in Progress and Poverty while living in CA. Once the book was published (becoming hugely influential around the world overnight), localities in CA rapidly started revising their tax structure to implement their versions of a land tax. SC county formula was ‘land value minus debt’. Which worked well for everyone whose land had a local/state mortgage. Railroads however were the only entities that had national debts – and to avoid them just moving all their debt in state on tax day to avoid taxes, SC excluded railroads from that formula. Railroads were also the biggest landowner.

      Once SP won the court case, that effectively gutted that version of land value tax in the US in many places. At least at state/county level. So while those ideas became important around the world, here in the US it meant that states had to look to a different tax system – and they went to property and income and sales and etc.

  25. I think this article is oversimplifying the subject and is confusing a lobbyist’s right to petition with a lobbyist’s right to throw money at lawmakers. They are not the same. You can spend money to fly to DC and stay at the hotel and eat out, and then there’s common lobbying practices such as hosting a fundraiser for someone and inviting rich people to the table. The problem is she is addressing a problem from the wrong angle. She is saying that because congressmen get money from lobbyists, that they are then corrupted and cannot make impartial decisions. That’s fair, however, even that isn’t the core of the issue. Where there’s a carcass, the vultures will gather. Congress has too much unconstitutional regulatory power. That is the core of the issue.

    1. “She is saying that because congressmen get money from lobbyists, that they are then corrupted and cannot make impartial decisions.”

      That might be what she’s saying, but the reality is- because congressmen are corrupt, lobbyists know they can give them money to get favors.

      1. “When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things bought and sold are legislators.”
        ~ P. J. O’Rourke

  26. “We can end excessive lobbying,” Warren wrote in a tweet this morning.

    Yes we can! We can do that by reducing the federal government down to less than 3% of GDP, like it used to be. That’s pretty much the only way to stop excessive lobbying, namely by stopping excessive government spending and power.

    IOW, the very first step we need to do in order to end excessive lobbying, dear Lizzie Warden, is not to elect people like you.

  27. That’s an insult to true pseudo-policy.

  28. I have a question…? Who and when is this tax applied? Does the lobbyist or the politician pay? If I write a letter to my congressperson, do I have to pay?

  29. “Businesses” do not have rights. Just as other non-humans (like corporations) should not have rights.

    1. ““Businesses” do not have rights. Just as other non-humans (like corporations) should not have rights.”

      Bullshit.

    2. The paragraph that read

      “The unlimited right to petition the government—to lobby the lawmakers who make decisions that affect your life, your family, your fortune, and your business—is a right that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) thinks American businesses should not have. ”

      should probably have read

      “The unlimited right to petition the government—to lobby the lawmakers who make decisions that affect your life, your family, your fortune, and your business—is a right that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) thinks Americans employed by businesses should not have. “

  30. Excellent idea. One small amendment; include campaign contributions as lobbying, and make the politician pay the taxes.
    خدمات ویپ

    1. We can do better. Count campaign contributions and tax them at 110%, the remainder withheld from the politician’s pay (or pension once that’s exhausted).

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