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OpEdNews Exclusive; Grover " Drown Govt. in a Bathtub" Norquist on Elections And Gov. Transparency

By       Message Paul Lehto       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   8 comments

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Influential conservative activist and lobbyist Grover Norquist appeared Friday in Washington D.C. at the elections reform conference called "ClaimDemocracy" as part of a panel of four guests speaking about the areas of elections where the left, right, and center may be able to find common ground. Also appearing were George Washington University Professor Spencer Overton, David Keating of the Club for Growth, and Hendrik Hertzberg of the New Yorker, each providing their individual areas of proposed commonality among political parties.

For his part, Norquist expounded for several minutes primarily about transparency in elections as something diverging political viewpoints could agree on. For one example of increased transparency, Norquist suggested having a five day waiting period between final changes to a bill and any final vote by representatives, in order to allow the public to be up to speed and prevent last minute shenanigans by politicians. For another example, Norquist cited the idea of placing government contracts on the internet for public inspection, a transparency initiative he said was originally proposed by Ralph Nader. WIth this internet posting catching on in a few states now, "a lazy person could get a Pulitzer" quipped Norquist -- suggesting that internet surfers might find some real nuggets comparing government contracts with each other.

In a famous quip from a few years ago, Norquist did not find too much common ground with Democrats and Independents when he unilaterally announced that "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub." A former presidential liaison for evangelical Christians, Norquist's present organization, The Americans for Tax Reform has as their mission statement: "The government's power to control one's life derives from its power to tax. We believe that power should be minimized."

Given that the government gets 100% of its taxing power via elections (as well as 100% of its legitimate power) combined with the fact that Norquist was lecturing election experts and election activists about transparency, I expected Norquist to be completely on top of the implications of the government determining 100% of its own power and taxing authority in secret vote counting computerized systems. Naturally, a few followup questions by Opednews were in order, in order to benefit from Norquist's self-styled "transpartisanship" and expertise on election transparency:

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OPEDNEWS: Mr. Norquist, do you support global transparency throughout all aspects of the elections system, including but not limited to transparent campaign finance, transparent vote counting, and so on?

NORQUIST: "Uh, what do you mean?"

OPEDNEWS: Well, whatever portions of the elections systems are not transparent, that's where the corrupting forces in elections will concentrate their efforts, if there are any, kind of like a burglar when robbing a house always moves to the unlocked window or unlocked door, ignoring the "security" procedures in place on the locked windows or doors.

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NORQUIST: "We should be able to watch the vote counts. I've been involved with watching vote counts before... "

OPEDNEWS: (tapping on a laptop) But the votes these days are counted using invisible electrons on hard drives.

NORQUIST: "I never thought about that before." [..] "It needs to be transparent -- however they do that...."

Given Norquist's stated distrust of the taxing authority of the government and his comments in favor of transparency, his instincts were clearly headed in the right direction: a preference for visually observable vote counts that is broadly consistent with norms of democracy. That preference was echoed by an August 2006 Zogby poll that this author helped pay for (together with Michael Collins of and Nancy Tobi of that found that up to 92% of the American public preferred an observable vote count to proprietary corporate vote count. However, it is quite surprising that the principles of global transparency in elections is something Norquist never really thought about much before.

In light of this exclusive short interview by opednews, perhaps one factor probably influencing Norquist's preference for "small government" is his need to have ideas like "government" presented in small, manageable packages so he can torture and kill them in a bathtub somewhere. Norquist, lecturing election advocates and experts from all over the country yet not being familiar with the idea that the *entire* election system has to be transparent before transparency can really work well, proved that his knowledge of transparency in elections was, er, shallow.

Because Norquist also announced Friday that he is pushing a constitutional amendment to prohibit immediate family members (such as a son, daughter, or spouse) from taking federal office immediately after another immediate family leaves the same office, we can hope that everybody related to Norquist by blood or marriage that gets into the field of election reform policy will have a similar 2 to 4 year waiting period.

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Paul Lehto practiced law in Washington State for 12 years in business law and consumer fraud, including most recently several years in election law, and is now a clean elections advocate. His forthcoming book is tentatively titled DEFENDING (more...)

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