Mike Lee

Here are the 3 reasons why it’s time to end mandatory sentences for nonviolent drug offenders

There has been a big, bipartisan push in Congress to right a wrong in the United States’ approach to the drug policy. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mike Lee (R-UT) have introduced the Smarter Sentencing Act (S. 1410), a measure that would end mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenses. Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) has introduced companion legislation in the House.

Unfortunately, this much-needed, fiscally responsible reform has been stalled in both chambers thanks to leaders from both parties who haven’t accepted that the War on Drugs has been an abject failure.

Criminal law professor Alex Kreit explains why Congress should wise up, giving three reasons that mandatory minimum prison sentences are bad policy in the latest video from Learn Liberty, a project of the Institute for Human Studies.

Kreit’s first reason is that relative to other crimes, drug-related sentences are proportionally too long. For example, someone who has sold marijuana a couple of times and is reported to have had a gun will receive twice as much time as someone who hijacks an airplane or is convicted of second-degree murder.

Rand Paul’s Justice: Why the fight to restore felon voting rights is a noble cause for conservatives

Rand Paul Voting Restoration

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul continues to make advances in the realm of criminal justice reform and in minority engagement, populations which are disproportionately affected by the criminal justice system.

By confronting mandatory minimum sentencing and making sincere attempts to have a conversation with black Americans, Paul is making steady yet significant progress. Earlier this year, it was reported that the NAACP was interested in having Sen. Paul address their members in the future.

Paul is picking up conservative allies, too. Just last week, former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli penned an editorial in the Washington Post imploring conservatives to re-evaluate excessive incarceration for nonviolent crimes. Utah conservative Senator Mike Lee is co-sponsoring the “Smarter Sentencing Act,” which tackles federal mandatory minimum sentencing.

Now Paul’s latest attempt to make meaningful connections with minorities is an effort to restore voting rights to some felons.

POLITICO reports:

Conservatives should oppose “preferential policymaking.” That includes crony bills backed by billionaire casino owners.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) has been one of the most vocal critics of cronyism between politicians and special interests, laying out what he calls a “positive case for conservatism” that outlines policies and reforms that the political right supports rather than focusing so much on what it opposes.

“Freedom doesn’t divide us. Big government does. It’s big government that turns citizens into supplicants, capitalists into cronies, and cooperative communities into competing special interests,” Lee said at an April 2013 speech at the Heritage Foundation. “Freedom, by contrast, unites us. It pulls us together, and aligns our interests.”

Lee, who was elected in 2010 with strong Tea Party support, was talking about a problem that has long-plagued Republicans. The GOP is seen as the “party of big business,” one that kowtows to whatever its wealthy donors want them to do, including taxpayer-funded, market-distorting subsidies, bailouts, and competition-suppressing regulations.

“The first step in a true conservative reform agenda must be to end this kind of preferential policymaking,” Lee said. “Beyond simply being the right thing to do, it is a prerequisite for earning the moral authority and political credibility to do anything else.”

Lee is, of course, absolutely right. If conservatives want to change the perception of the Republican Party and the free-market philosophy, they have to take on the special interests that are using the political process for carve outs and to undermine competition.

The Washington Establishment is “concerned” Dave Brat’s win could “empower” conservatives… and they should be.

Peter King concerned

Wouldn’t you know it, Establishment Republicans like Congressman Peter King are “uncomfortable” with the success off grassroots-backed conservatives like Dave Brat, who shocked Washington on Tuesday night when he defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor by a pretty wide margin.

Brat ran a truly grassroots campaign against Cantor’s crony capitalist tendencies.

His success has reinvigorated Tea Party-endorsed Republicans, according to The Hill:

Tea Party-backed senators eyeing White House bids in 2016 are encouraged by the victory of an underfunded challenger to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.), a grandee of the GOP establishment.

Their glee comes as mainstream Republicans are wringing their hands about what the historic upset means for the future of their party, fretting that it could signal a larger Tea Party uprising.

Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) argued David Brat’s 11-point win showed that conservative principles can triumph over fundraising might and special-interest backing.

Cruz declared the surprise development demonstrates “the conservative base is alive and well.”

Rubio praised Brat as “very impressive” and noted the similarities between their views.

Paul pointed to the role played by “liberty” voters who are leery about government surveillance.

Conservatives are leading on criminal justice reform to bring Americans together and solve the problem of prison overcrowding

Criminal Justice Reform

Did you know you probably break the law every day, most likely without even realizing it?

James Duane, a Regent Law School professor and former defense attorney, said in a 2008 lecture titled Don’t Talk to Police: “[T]he Congressional Research Service cannot even count the current number of federal crimes. These laws are scattered in over 50 titles of the United States Code, encompassing roughly 27,000 pages.”

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, dissenting in Robert Rubin v. United States, writes:

[T]he complexity of modern federal criminal law, codified in several thousand sections of the United States Code and the virtually infinite variety of factual circumstances that might trigger an investigation into a possible violation of the law, make it difficult for anyone to know, in advance, just when a particular set of statements might later appear (to a prosecutor) to be relevant to some such investigation.

With countless thousands of laws on the books that could land anyone of us in jail at virtually any time, reasonable voices on both sides of the aisle are looking toward criminal justice reform as a way to bring Americans together and solve the problem of prison overpopulation.

Grover Norquist, usually a champion against tax hikes, has strayed into this debate. Writing at the Huffington Post:

Reagan was right! The Ex-Im Bank subsidizes cronies on the backs of taxpayers, and that’s why Congress should end it

Cronyists in big business are ramping up their efforts to save Export-Import Bank from extinction. They’ve begun a big PR campaign months ahead of a vote in Congress to reauthorize the Bank and are trying to appeal to Republicans by invoking Ronald Reagan in their messaging.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has trotted out a 1984 letter signed by Ronald Reagan congratulating the Export-Import Bank on its 50th anniversary, in which he wrote that the New Deal-era agency “continues to be a valuable part of the international financial structure.”

Reagan is revered by conservatives and Republicans and the Chamber is, obviously, trying to play this letter up to win support in Congress to keep one of its favor factories around. The Bank’s supporters are feverishly trying to set a narrative that reauthorization “is good for business.” But that line isn’t working.

Cronyism — the collusion between big business and big government — has come under greater scrutiny. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Rep. Jeb Hensarling, and many other conservatives and Congress understand that free enterprise doesn’t mean taxpayer-funded handouts that allow the government to pick winners and losers in the marketplace — it means creating an atmosphere in which businesses can succeed on their own.

Try as they may to invoke Reagan, the Export-Import Bank’s crony friends would like conservatives to ignore that the Great Communicator criticized the Bank on various occasions.

There’s a groundswell building against cronyism, and the Tea Party movement can lead the way

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) has been pushing conservatives to take a new angle in the pursuit of limited government by targeting Washington’s cronyist culture, and it’s a message that the Tea Party movement could carry, as Jennifer Rubin explains:

Alternatively, the tea party might transform itself into a single-issue group. Whatever you think of one-issue politics, the right has a number of successful groups. On the right, the National Right to Life Committee and the National Rifle Association have been influential for years. Likewise, Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform has reinforced the right’s no-tax-hike policy in election after election and in key budget standoffs. What issue could the tea party adopt?

The ideal movement, missing on the right, would be one devoted entirely to anti-cronyism. It is a popular position on the right and among all voters. The removal of special goodies in the tax code and budget that distort the market and reward entities that can manipulate big government is sorely needed. And although Republicans talk a good game, there has been comparatively little progress on issues such as too-big-to-fail bank subsidies, energy tax breaks and ag subsidies. Moreover, the original issue that lifted the tea party to prominence was the mortgage bailouts, a prime example of favoritism (not only for irresponsible borrowers but also for the lenders). Devising a pledge as stringent as the no-tax-hike pledge to stop new crony capitalism endeavors and to begin rooting out existing ones would be one way to approach the issue.

Get Washington out of the way: Let states decide how transportation dollars will be spent

There another showdown on spending looming on Capitol Hill. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee gave its stamp of approval this afternoon to reauthorize the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act, the six-year, $265 billion transportation bill:

This bill reauthorizes the federal gas tax, which collects $34 billion a year. That would provide $204 billion over the next six years, which is not enough to pay for the projects the panel wants to fund.

The Senate Finance Committee will have to look at other funding mechanisms to make up the difference. 
The Senate measure would prevent the gas tax from expiring in the in the fall, if it is approved by the House and signed into law.

The House, however, has yet to take significant action on a transportation bill, and some observers are skeptical a deal could be carved out.

It’s less than the four-year, $302 billion transportation bill that President Barack Obama proposed in February. That proposal would have paid for the funding shortfall through the closing of corporate tax loopholes. Both proposals, however, are problematic because they still push a centralized approach to transportation, one that’s obviously broken given that the federal Highway Trust Fund doles out more than it receives in federal gas tax revenue.

The Republican Party needs a new Ronald Reagan to sell the message of liberty

Sometimes being a conservative in the Republican Party is like being Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day. You get up each day, go through the same motions, and watch disaster strike over and over again, never seeming to grasp the underlying truths necessary to make a clean break from a checkered past and take acquired knowledge and use it to progress.

It is all the more infuriating because, no matter how many times you watch your party leadership do idiotic things, you know that there is not really anyplace else for you to go if you want to realize your dream of a limited, constitutional government based on the principles of the Founding Fathers.

As a conservative, you know that your principles have been applied to policy for hundreds of years, and when applied properly they have led to spectacular the expansion of financial prosperity, and the securing of individual liberties.

This is why you work within the Republican Party. This is why you spend your Saturdays knocking doors for candidates you support. This is why you stay informed on history, politics, economics, and current events. This is why you attend monthly party meetings, Precinct Mass Meetings, and multiple party nominating conventions each year. This is why you freeze half to death in the middle of the night the first week of every other November, driving around the district and putting out yard signs at the election precincts. This is why you do phone banking and fundraising. This is why you do the hundreds of little things that you do each day, each week, each month, and each year, to do your best to do your part to advance the cause of liberty in the best way you know how.

A winning message for the GOP: Separate big business and state

Barack Obama

Republicans are poised for another successful mid-term election, the reasons for which are voter dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama and Obamacare, his signature domestic achievement. In other words, voters are, to this point, flocking to Republicans not because of any agenda they’ve put forward, but rather because they’re the lesser of two evils on the ballot.

After 50-plus votes to repeal, delay, or defund the law, voters know that Republicans oppose Obamacare, though, the haven’t yet seen party leaders rollout out a replacement. They know that the GOP believes in limited government, fewer taxes and regulation, but leaders haven’t effectively communicated that message to the public.

There are some conservatives, however, who are pushing the party to adopt a positive reform agenda, one that advances opportunities for all Americans. One of the most notable aspects of this message is that it targets cronyism — the collusion between government and big business that rips off taxpayers through bailouts and subsidies.

Among the issues that Republicans could use to advance this message with voters are the Obamacare’s $5.5 billion bailout for health insurance companies and reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, known as “Boeing’s Bank,” which is seeking to raise its borrowing limit to $610 billion over the next four years.

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