Sen Lamar Alexander: if shills have to tell Congress who's paying them, it will "chill speech"

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is one of many Republican legislators who've objected to a new policy at OSHA that requires experts to disclose when they have been funded by parties with an interest in the outcome of regulatory proceedings. According to Alexander, he and his colleagues are "very concerned about OSHA's attempt to have commenters disclose their financial backers," because "the chilling effect the financial disclosure could have seems counter to the idea of robust inclusion of a diverse set of ideas and views to inform the rule-making." The current proceeding is about whether silica in cement poses a health hazard, and OSHA wants to know if the experts it's hearing from have been paid to have an opinion one way or another.

Notable Replies

  1. Ratel says:

    "Scrutiny makes it harder for us to lie."

  2. Ygret says:

    That's simply not true. These politicians are against OSHA's new policy for the same reason they don't want us to know who is paying them to hold the views they do. The ridiculous conceit that money paid to politicians' campaigns isn't outright bribery is belied by their hesitation to allow "experts" financial ties to be exposed. They know all too well that an expert that has been paid by a party that has interests in OSHA's decisions, in this case the concrete industry, will not be trusted by OSHA as much as a disinterested party. Everyone knows that money shapes the views of those who receive it both consciously and unconsciously. The only reason OSHA would disregard such payments is if the civil servants who make up OSHA itself are revolving door recipients of corporate largesse themselves. Its clear that OSHA's move to force disclosure of payments is an attempt to avoid the money corruption that is rampant in D.C. Otherwise they would never have established the new policy. If this policy is allowed to stand for OSHA, how long will it be before other government bureaucracies start to implement similar policies? There are massive tensions between the career civil servants that do the yeoman's work of our federal bureaucracy and the political appointees that head up these agencies. The career civil servants know all too well that their work is constantly corrupted and distorted by their bosses and the boss of their boss. Many of them despise this situation because they went into government work to make government policy and practice serve the people and the Constitution. If they can win a fight like this and stand their ground, it will embolden other agency careerists to do the same.

    I'm very curious to see how this policy at OSHA came about in the first place: either Obama appointed someone who actually wants to make sure OSHA fulfills its mission (which would've clearly been a mistake on his part given his track record), or the career people beneath the political appointees have maneuvered them into supporting this policy somehow. Curious situation indeed.

  3. snig says:

    This is the definition of speech where more cash = more speech. So he's not concerned so much about free speech as free specie.

  4. Somebody needs to tell the good senator that that is the POINT. They do, in fact, want to "chill" the speech of paid shills. They want actual opinions from real experts, duh, not just paid mouthpieces for the industry.

  5. It will chill speech? Darn good thing too. If 'experts' are being paid to lie, I would very much enjoy having their speech chilled.

    I don't see a problem.

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