CCP sends letter to Obama advisor Eisen on censorship of critics

The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) sent a letter today to Norm Eisen, Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform, concerning the recent actions by President Obama’s administration to silence certain critics of a congressional health care proposal.

“The First Amendment does not permit the government to censor its opponents in any political or policy debate,” said CCP President Sean Parnell. “In crafting public policy, it’s essential that the government not stifle citizens who express differences on how certain proposals might affect them. The right to petition government is not subject to veto by the government.”

Humana sent a mailing to members of the Medicare Advantage program suggesting that participants would see a decline in the quality and quantity of services available to them if an administration-supported health care plan passed and urging them to contact their members of Congress to object to the plan introduced by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), apparently at the request of Baucus, ordered health insurer Humana to refrain from communicating such information to Medicare beneficiaries. It threatened “appropriate compliance and enforcement actions.” Humana complied with the order.

“From banning lobbyists from discussing stimulus projects with administration officials, to a recent proposed ban on lobbyists from serving on federal advisory panels to the recent health care speech restrictions, the Obama administration has shown a troubling tendency to arbitrarily silence the speech of its critics or those who it deems unworthy of the right to petition government,” Parnell said.

The Center for Competitive Politics strongly urges the Obama administration to reconsider its order allowing CMS to restrict the free flow of political speech. If it remains in force, the administration’s directive to ban certain voices of skepticism or opposition to health care reform plans will cause lasting damage to the First Amendment.

The Center for Competitive Politics is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to promoting and protecting the First Amendment political rights of speech, assembly and petition.