Elizabeth Warren Wants To Tax Lobbying

Her lobbying tax proposal is pseudo-policy, a veneer of wonky seriousness over dubious populist dogma.


Among the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment is the right "to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." You have a right, in other words, 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 it a right to lobby.

That unlimited right to lobby the lawmakers who make decisions that affect your life, your family, and your fortune is one that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) thinks American businesses should not have. The candidate 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 nonprofits would be exempt, but the tax would hit trade associations as well as corporations.

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 in government revenue. But the point isn't really to generate new funds from taxation. It's to eliminate much of the advocacy that happens in Washington.

"We can end excessive lobbying," Warren wrote on Medium in October. The point of the tax is thus to eliminate, or at least severely degrade, a fundamental provision of the Bill of Rights. It is probably unconstitutional and certainly anti-constitutional, in the sense that it is contrary to the spirit of the First Amendment.

That's not surprising coming from Warren, whose respect for the Constitution knows many bounds. A number of Warren's vaunted plans—from her wealth tax to her proposed executive order banning fracking—appear to violate constitutional requirements. As a candidate, she has repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to ignore the limitations imposed by the Constitution in the pursuit of her political and policy objectives.

Warren, a frontrunner in the Democratic primary race, wants to look tough on lobbyists and lobbying. Her lobbying tax proposal is pseudo-policy, a veneer of wonky seriousness over dubious populist dogma.

Lobbying might not be held in high esteem by the public, and it can certainly be used to promote destructive policies. 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. 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 interests.

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  1. Some nonprofits would be exempt, but the tax would hit trade associations as well as corporations.
    The ones that support Democrats?

    1. One expects that unions would be classed with nonprofits. Green energy trade associations and associations of liberal arts colleges might make the cut, as might gender reassignment surgery medical groups.

    2. I’m sure it would be based on their 501(c) classification. All 501cs are nonprofits, but that broad umbrella includes 501(c)(3) charities promoting public welfare, 501(c)(4) lobbying organizations, 501(c)(5) ag groups and county fairs, 501(c)(6) chambers of commerce and real estate boards, 501(c)(7) socal clubs, HOAs, and other community groups, and 501(c)(8) mutual aid clubs like the Masons.

  2. An article by Suderman that starts out “Elizabeth Warren wants . . ?
    No thanks.

  3. I’ve been the owner, employee, shareholder, proprietor, customer, vendor, and manager of a corporation at various points in my life, and the idea that I shouldn’t have been free to advocate my point of view because I wasn’t really a person while I was in any of those roles is ludicrous.

    The idea that corporations aren’t people is among the dumbest lines progressives regularly burp, and yet it’s central to what being a progressive is all about. Being a progressive is about using the coercive power of government to force people to make sacrifices for the greater good (as they see it), which necessarily involves violating people’s rights. But one doesn’t simply walk into Mordor.

    Like in World War II propaganda, it makes it easier to rationalize destroying people and violating their rights if you dehumanize them first. That’s what Warren is engaging in here. She’s just trying to dehumanize the people she wants us to victimize. She has the compassion of a reptile.

    You cannot arbitrarily inflict your will on a corporation without violating the rights of the people who own, manage, work for, are vendors for, and are customers of that corporation.

    P.S. Markets are people making choices.

    1. You’re not wrong, but if Corporations are people, then I’m eagerly awaiting President Coca Cola in 2024. XD

      1. I’m not saying that corporations are people so much as I’m saying that whatever distinctions you want to make between them, you can’t arbitrarily inflict your will on them using the coercive power of government without violating real people’s rights.

        When they try to say that corporations aren’t people, it’s like they’re saying that it’s okay to throw people in jail for drinking alcohol–because alcohol isn’t people. Beer may not be people, but if you’re violating people’s rights for drinking beer, then the distinction between them is beside the point.

      2. >>eagerly awaiting President Coca Cola

        halfway there w/T. and pepsi changed their fucking logo for O.

      3. but if Corporations are people

        That dumb semantics game is no less dumb now than when it was first trotted out following the Citizens United decision by SCOTUS. Corporations consist of a group of people, and all of the actions of a corporation are actions carried out by people, according to decisions made by people.

        1. It was actually Romney that said that, and it was picked up on by citizens united.

          IIRC, “personhood” is an antiquated term referring to the legal rights of corporations (taxes, entering contracts, having legal standing in courts, etc).

      4. I would vote for President Coca Cola, but only if he were ice cold.

  4. “dubious populist dogma”

    As Koch / Reason libertarians, we’re explicitly anti-populist. After all, our philosophy is dedicated to making the richest people on the planet even richer.

    But here’s the thing. Despite Democrats’ embrace of certain populist policies, they’re unanimously moving toward the billionaire position on immigration. A Warren Presidency — even with a lobbying tax — would be better than Orange Hitler’s on our #1 issue.


  5. “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 interests. ”
    Sounds suspiciously like “abuse of power.” Impeach her!

    1. She’ll be the first Native American president of the United States!

      1. By her 1024th term, maybe.

  6. Elizabeth Warren Wants To Tax Lobbying______________.

    1. Beat me to it

    2. Elizabeth Warren wants to tax anything that isn’t Elizabeth Warren.


  7. Lobbyists already bribe, so what’s the point of a tax?

    “Sorry, but you can’t get an appointment to see the Senator until you pay the tax / offer the bribe”

    It’s literally the same thing.

    1. Sure, in the same way that an apple and pickup truck are “literally the same thing”.

  8. Elizabeth Warren Wants To Tax Lobbying

    Elizabeth Warren just accidentally a tax lobbying; is that bad?

  9. “Corporations are people” doesn’t mean that they are identical to people, it means that they are composed of people, people whose speech shall not be restricted by government.

  10. “It is probably unconstitutional” No it is unconstitutional. The document specifically enumerates the rights to free speech, free association, and the right to petition the government. The proposal is clearly a violation of those rights even if the federal courts rule otherwise.

  11. Are there any problems taxes can’t fix? Seems like a cure all.

  12. Make it easy, force politicians, parties, and PACs to pay income taxes on monies they receive just like everyone else and at the same rates.

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