Katie McAuliffe

Circus at the Antitrust Hearing

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Posted by Katie McAuliffe, Laurel Duggan on Thursday, July 30th, 2020, 3:03 PM PERMALINK

Congressional hearings of tech CEOs Sundar Pichai (Google), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), and Tim Cook (Apple) devolved into an hours-long circus as Democrats used the opportunity to create reelection campaign fodder.

The purpose of this hearing was to investigate alleged anticompetitive behaviors of dominant tech companies. About 25% of the questioning was somewhat related to antitrust policy—and this is a generous estimate. The remainder of questions revolved around partisan talking points like online hate speech, YouTube radicalization, and conservative censorship.

Antitrust law under the consumer welfare standard is designed to protect consumers from harm by monopolistic companies, not to protect companies from each other. None of the companies called before the Antitrust Subcommittee can be considered monopolies. Every one of them competes with other companies, tech or otherwise, both small and large, for revenue. And they are not using their strong positions in the market to harm consumers. Rather, they have each been using their resources to provide better products and slash prices.

Representative Armstrong (R-N.D.) wisely noted the harms of sweeping expanses of government power targeting certain companies, rather than going through the Federal Trade Commission’s already existent enforcement authority under the consumer welfare standard that operates on a case by case basis:

“When we try to hurt large companies, we entrench large actors and lock out new, smaller competitors."

On the rare occasion that Democrats’ questions were related to antitrust, the line of questioning belied the entire premise of the hearing: that concentration in tech is harming consumers. Time and time again, members of Congress asserted that Amazon and Facebook’s competitive strategies were harming their competitors by driving down prices. But the purpose of antitrust is to protect consumers, not competitors.

The mere fact that Apple was called to testify tells us that the hearing is not about antitrust; the hearing is about anger. Anger at tech for a number of reasons, but mostly because they are big.

Apple is in no way a violator of competition policy. Their primary business is hardware and software, not advertising, not data. They only hold 20% of the smartphone market13% of the personal computer market, and 28% of the tablet market. Tablets are the only personal device market in which Apple is dominant, and their share of that market is shrinking. As for operating systems, Android has more than double the market share as compared to Apple.  

“Apple does not have a dominant market share in any market where we do business. That is not just true for iPhone; it is true for any product category." ~Tim Cook

Apple created the entire App environment. Rather than keeping it as a closed system, they allowed individuals to create Apps which, once in line with certain conditions that provide security and support, can be downloaded by anyone on the App store. Some have complained that Apple’s App store discriminates against Apps that are not its own, but that opinion can’t be held for very long after looking into Apple’s policies, which they are very transparent about.

If Apple is a gatekeeper, what we have done is open the gate wider. We want to get every app we can on the Store, not keep them off.” ~Tim Cook 

In a particularly misguided line of questioning, Rep. Cicilline (D-R.I.) harangued Jeff Bezos for Amazon’s treatment of third-party sellers. “You say Amazon is only focused on what’s best for the customer. How is that possible when you undercut your prices and compete directly with third-party sellers?” Rep. Cicilline sees a conflict of interest between hosting outside retailers and offering low prices to consumers. He somehow fails to see that the diversity of retailers on Amazon drives down their prices, making products cheaper for consumers. 

Rep Cicilline went on to accuse Amazon of a litany of abusive business practices against retailers on its own site. He, along with several other members of Congress, claimed that Amazon exploited the small businesses it hosts through predatory pricing, and claimed that these businesses had no option other than Amazon.

There are 1.7M small & medium-sized businesses selling in Amazon’s stores. 200,000+ entrepreneurs surpassed $100,000 in sales in our stores in 2019. We estimate that third-party businesses selling in Amazon’s stores have created over 2.2M new jobs. ~Jeff Bezos 

In reality, Amazon has to compete with all retail, including Target, Costco, Kroger and Walmart, in addition to numerous online platforms that host third-party retailers, including Etsy, Facebook Market, EBay and Google Shopping. Even if this wasn’t the case, Amazon would have no obligation to host retailers on its privately-owned platform, and retailers have no obligation to use their services.

Like any retailer, Amazon could have chosen to keep their stores a closed system, selling only their own products. Instead, they opened the platform to hundreds of thousands of third-party retailers, many of whom are small businesses.

20 years ago, we welcomed 3rd-party sellers into our stores & enabling them to offer their products alongside our own. We didn’t have to invite third-party sellers into the store. We could have kept this valuable real estate for ourselves.” ~Jeff Bezos

Rep. Raskin (D-Md.) complained that Amazon’s Alexa was a monopoly, since it holds a 60% share of the smart speaker market. But if you define any market this narrowly, you’ll find monopolies everywhere you look. If you define your neighborhood as a market, your local gas station is a monopoly. Of course, Alexa devices compete in a much broader market than that; the device competes with smartphones, tablets, and personal computers, all of which conduct most or all of the same functions.

Rep Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Rep. Neguse (D-Colo.) both incorrectly called Facebook a monopoly. Not only is Facebook not a monopoly, they are not even the dominant firm in their market—the largest social media platform is YouTube. Additionally, Facebook’s primary revenue source is advertising. They aren’t dominant in that market either; Google beats them out by a wide margin.

In many areas, we are behind our competitors. The fastest growing app is #TikTok, and the largest messaging app is iMessage.” ~ Mark Zuckerberg

To provide one example, the cost of online advertising has plummeted 40% in the last decade. If Google has monopolistic power in the advertising realm, why aren’t they raising prices? The obvious answer is that there is robust competition in online advertising. Google competes with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Comcast, and countless others for ad revenue. 

“Competition in ads — from Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Comcast & others — has helped lower online advertising costs by 40% over the last 10 years, with these savings passed down to consumers through lower prices.” ~ Sundar Pichai 

Democrats were also hostile to acquisitions and mergers, which they claimed were harmful to both consumers and competitors somehow. Rep. Neguse questioned Zuckerberg about acquisitions, condemning how successfully Facebook had acquired and improved various products and services. Never mind that these acquisitions improved the apps’ privacy and security features while making more apps free to the public. If the success of American businesses makes Democrats uncomfortable, then by all means we should let them weaponize antitrust law to beat private businesses into submission.

Those who want to expand government power favor a narrow definition of tech markets because they have no real evidence in terms of demonstrable consumer harm or rising prices. It allows them to build an antitrust case out of bitterness, and little else.

The presence of four companies—all of which compete with each other—should be sufficient evidence that there is no risk of monopolization. Competition in tech—from hardware to software to advertising—is robust. 

Photo Credit: POMED


The 4th Amendment is a Right - No Need to EARN IT

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Posted by Katie McAuliffe, Laurel Duggan on Monday, July 27th, 2020, 2:44 PM PERMALINK

It is easy for those in power and the broader public to see new technologies—the telephone, email, cloud storage, or end-to-end encryption—as somehow exempt from the privacy laws which govern other communications. But as technologies become more widely used for business and personal communication, we all come to understand the need to protect our interactions from surveillance.

Encryption is not a force for evil. It is used by businesses across the country to prevent online attacks and theft. It is common practice for hackers to target retailers in the U.S. to steal customer data and access their bank accounts, but attacks like these are largely impeded by encryption. When hackers stole the banking information of millions of customers in Target’s infamous data breech, the victims’ bank accounts were protected because their PINs were encrypted.

Encryption also promotes innovation. Businesses and individuals have little incentive to create and discover if their intellectual property will simply be stolen by criminals or foreign actors.  Innovation requires protection of proprietary data.

Building in a systemic weakness, while it may make law enforcement’s job easier, does not make anyone safer. Creating backdoors for law enforcement to get around encryption would weaken the technology as a whole; backdoors can be exploited by criminals to access users’ personal data.

The tension between the Fourth Amendment and Law Enforcement goals is not new and is important to preserve. Officials claim that encrypted data is “warrant-proof,” but this misrepresents the purpose of a warrant. Search warrants allow law enforcement to search for evidence, but do not guarantee that they will find evidence supporting or leading to any conclusions.

Encryption doesn’t just protect us from criminals; it protects us from the prying eyes of the government. The FBI has waged a years-long battle against encryption, which it views as an impediment to investigations. The federal government has been intercepting electronic communications for as long as it has been possible; federal agents began wiretapping phone calls in the 1920s. It tends to take the government years to adjust to changes in communications technology; it took decades for the Supreme Court to place limits on warrantless electronic surveillance.

Following years of unsuccessfully pressuring tech companies to give the government a backdoor to encrypted data, Congress and the Department of Justice changed their strategy. A high profile letter sent by U.S. intelligence agencies and numerous international allies linked end-to-end encryption with child sexual exploitation, claiming that Facebook would be harming children by offering encryption on its messaging services.

Reframing the encryption debate around the most heinous crimes imaginable is dishonest; it posits that, because criminals use their privacy to exploit the most vulnerable people in society, no one has a right to privacy. This line of thinking also presupposes that Big Brother is unfailingly benevolent; the FBI will have a backdoor to all online communications, but not to worry: they will only spy on you if you deserve it.

In a misguided attempt to address the very real problem of online child exploitation, Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) introduced the EARN It Act. The legislation has honorable goals, but in practice would limit the ability of tech firms to offer encryption to users. This would restrict the ability of all Americans—including survivors of abuse—to protect their privacy and personal safety while online.

After a firestorm of criticism from across the political spectrum, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a manager’s amendment to the EARN It Act. The amendment resolves the aspects of the original bill that would have threatened encryption most seriously: businesses cannot be held liable simply for failing to take actions that would undermine encryption services, and offering encryption will not be automatic grounds for liability for child sexual abuse material (CSAM). Critics point out that the amendment provides only a defense against liability, not immunity; the threat of litigation will still be sufficient to discourage tech companies from providing secure end-to-end encryption.

The amendment removes the legal authority initially granted to the commission created in the bill; the commission’s standards will be recommendations, not legal requirements. It also extends the amount of time that providers can preserve the contents of a report, which will help with the development of algorithms made to detect CSAM. 

However, the manager’s amendment brings a new set of problems to the table. It allows states to penalize companies with both civil and criminal liability. In addition to balkanizing the legal landscape for a business model that naturally crosses state lines, this would leave American tech businesses vulnerable to a firehose of destructive lawsuits. Endless litigation would likely lead to the end of America’s global leadership in tech. 

The amendment also revokes tech companies’ liability protection based on “actual knowledge” of the existence of CSAM. This is a step up from the “recklessness” standard in the earlier version of the bill, but it still creates perverse incentives that discourage tech companies from investigating CSAM. When knowledge triggers liability, companies will avoid learning about potential CSAM cases. This will lead to less, not more, action by tech companies to stop the spread of CSAM.

The ability to use privacy services provided by a private business is part of what makes our country great and distinguishes us from authoritarian countries like China, where the government is entitled to the private data of citizens. Efforts by the government to weaken encryption should raise red flags and inspire a continued effort to protect encryption.

Photo Credit: Jonathan McIntosh


Coalition Supports Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act

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Posted by Katie McAuliffe on Tuesday, July 21st, 2020, 4:33 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform has released a coalition letter with 19 signers supporting the Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act. The full letter can be read below, and here.

 

Support S. 765 & H.R. 1725 the “Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act of 2019”

Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, and Republican Leader McCarthy,  

We urge you to support the Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act of 2019, introduced by Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Representatives Steve Cohen (D-TN) and John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) as S. 3581 and H.R. 7058 respectively. This legislation would set up a framework for states to prevent duplicative and discriminatory taxation on the digital economy, if and only if, a state chooses to tax such commerce.

It is important to clarify that this bill would not mandate any state to tax a digital good or service, nor would it establish any sort of national sales tax on digital commerce. The framework provides legal certainty for how and when state and local taxes can be applied to the digital economy. The state in which a customer legally resides would determine the tax status of the digital transaction. It would also eliminate confusion for consumers and businesses by ensuring the taxation of a digital song or software downloads is the same as the tax rates imposed on music or software CDs purchased at the local store.

Given the unique way digital commerce is transacted, it is currently possible for multiple states to claim the right to impose taxes on a given digital transaction, leaving the consumer potentially subject to multiple and duplicative taxes. Congress has previously addressed a very similar disruptive tax situation with the use of mobile phones by clearly identifying which state has the right to tax wireless services. The existing state laws governing interstate commerce are outdated to the point where they cannot adequately address the complexities that surface in digital sales. Considering how rapidly the digital market is growing, the need for this legislation is imperative to provide a clear roadmap for states to follow, if they so choose, to fairly impose taxes on digital goods and services in today’s new economy.

This bill would also prevent discriminatory state and local taxes that single out digital goods and services merely because they are transmitted over the internet. Right now, states can choose to impose higher tax rates on digital subscriptions than are imposed on physical subscriptions. For example, a state could tax an online newspaper subscription at 5% and a physical subscription at 3%. If a product is subject to tax collection, it should not matter whether it is received digitally. This type of tax discrimination unfairly penalizes people participating in the digital economy.

Accordingly, we urge you to enact the Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act of 2019 before the end of this Congress.

 

Respectfully,

 

Grover G. Norquist

President

Americans for Tax Reform 

 

Lisa B. Nelson

CEO

ALEC Action

 

Steve Pociask

President / CEO

American Consumer Institute

 

Ryan Ellis

President

Center for a Free Economy

 

Andrew F. Quinlan

President

Center for Freedom and Prosperity

 

Curt Levey 

President

Committee for Justice

 

Matthew Kandrach

President

Consumer Action for a Strong Economy

 

Tom Shatz

President

Council for Citizens Against Government Waste

 

Katie McAuliffe

Executive Director

Digital Liberty

 

George Landrith

President 

Frontiers of Freedom

 

Mario H. Lopez

President

Hispanic Leadership Fund

 

Bartlett Cleland

Executive Director

Innovation Economy Institute

 

Andrew Langer

President

Institute for Liberty 

 

Seton Motley

President

Less Government

 

Pete Sepp

President

National Taxpayers Union

 

Karen Kerrigan

President & CEO

Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council

 

David Williams

President

Taxpayers Protection Alliance

 

James L. Martin

Founder & Chairman

60 Plus Association

 

Saulius “Saul” Anuzis

President

60 Plus Association

Photo Credit: Marco Verch


Coalition Opposes SCRIPT Act

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Posted by Katie McAuliffe on Wednesday, July 15th, 2020, 1:39 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform has released a coalition letter with 16 signers opposing the SCRIPT Act. The full letter can be read below, and here

 

July 15, 2020

RE: Stopping Censorship, Restoring Integrity, and Protecting Talkies Act, SCRIPT Act, S. 3835

Dear Senators:

Conservatives and libertarians are rightly concerned about censorship. While we must be zealous in guarding our 1st Amendment rights at home, conservative and libertarian leaders are also right to be deeply concerned about totalitarian regimes around the world and the restrictions they impose on freedom of thought -- from the Great Firewall of China to social media censorship in the Middle East to Russian threats to freedom of the press.

As a part of this justified vigilance, some have expressed concerns that China’s role in American filmmaking may result in censorship that extends even beyond China’s borders. This worry is most clearly expressed in S.3835, the SCRIPT Act, introduced by Senator Ted Cruz. 

The SCRIPT Act would sever all federal government cooperation for at least three years with any production company found by the Department of Commerce to have edited a film for any reason, no matter how innocuous, in order to exhibit it in China. 

While we share the Senator’s concern with reports about Chinese censorship of American films, we think this legislation will do more harm than good for two main reasons: first because the remedy suggested would have a negative effect on the interests of the US military, and second because the legislation itself uses as its remedy the application of a government penalty toward artists, which ironically would impinge at least on the spirit of our freedom of expression.

Filmmakers rely on cooperation with the government for basic production needs – not just access to fighter jets and battleships. For example, filming with drones is subject to Federal Aviation Administration rules, and filming on public lands requires permits from the Department of the Interior. These and other unglamorous – but commonplace and vital use cases – would be jeopardized by the SCRIPT Act.

The military’s involvement with Hollywood is not guaranteed. The DoD regularly denies requests from filmmakers to allow access to bases, training or equipment. However, sometimes the DoD does choose to assist in filmmaking and when it does, it is reimbursed for its time and provides valuable portraits of American military achievements that are both more realistic and engaging for audiences, while safeguarding classified or sensitive information. These accurate but vetted depictions, and the resulting favorable treatment of the US military, benefit our military recruitment and is conducive to fostering an American culture that looks favorably on military service. Withholding this cooperation for any reason would not be in the interests of the United States military.

It should also be considered that this bill itself ironically directs government action regarding the decisions filmmakers make on the cutting room floor. Bringing this coercion, however mild, and for whatever reason, to bear on this process from the United States seems ill-advised in our effort to tear down the walls of censorship erected by totalitarian regimes. 

China admits very few films into its market, but when it does, scenes that many Americans take for granted - plentiful grocery stores, assembled protests, university experiences, dinners out - present the benefits of democracy and capitalism in ways that are both understandable and relatable to international audiences. These scenes have been effective historically in influencing populations around the globe, for example in the former Eastern Bloc. 

These new regulations would handicap one of America’s leading export industries into all international markets, including regimes practicing censorship, to the benefit of their foreign competitors. Today, the U.S. film and television industry accounts for a $9.4 billion trade surplus, more than telecommunications, transportation, insurance, or health services. This policy would ultimately weaken America in the long-term economic competition with our international rivals.

Censorship internationally is a legitimate concern and we support efforts to address these issues. However, solutions should honor American free-market and limited government principles. It is China, after all, that routinely intrudes on the private dealings of business and suppresses private sector success.

We respectfully oppose the SCRIPT Act, and instead suggest lawmakers focus on stronger more direct solutions to the economic, cultural and geopolitical challenges represented by China and other totalitarian regimes.

 

Sincerely,

 

Grover Norquist

President

Americans for Tax Reform

 

Phil Kerpen

President

American Commitment

 

Krisztina Pusok

Director of Policy Research

American Consumer Institute

Center for Citizen Research

 

Andrew F. Quinlan

President

Center for Freedom and Prosperity

 

Jeffrey Mazzella

President

Center for Individual Freedom

 

Ashley Baker

Director of Public Policy

The Committee for Justice 

 

James Edwards

Executive Director

Conservatives for Property Rights

 

Matthew Kandrach

President 

Consumer Action for a Strong Economy

 

Thomas Schatz

President

Council for Citizens Against Government Waste

 

Katie McAuliffe

Executive Director

Digital Liberty

 

Hance Haney

Senior Fellow

Discovery Institute

 

George Landrith 

President & CEO

Frontiers of Freedom

 

Mario H. Lopez

President

Hispanic Leadership Fund

 

Tom Giovanetti

President

Institute for Policy Innovation

 

Brandon Arnold

Executive Vice President

National Taxpayers Union

 

David Williams

President

Taxpayers Protection Alliance

Photo Credit: Vincent Diamante

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ATR Supports Reconfirmation of Mike O'Rielly to FCC

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Posted by Katie McAuliffe on Tuesday, June 16th, 2020, 2:45 PM PERMALINK

​​​​​ATR President Grover Norquist has released a letter in support of the reconfirmation of Commissioner Michael O’Rielly to the Federal Communications Commission.

 

June 16, 2020

The Honorable Roger F. Wicker

Chairman United States Senate Committee

on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

555 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

 

Re: Support of Nomination of Michael P. O’Rielly, Federal Communications Commission

Dear Chairman Wicker & Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

I write in support of Michael O’Rielly’s re-nomination to the Federal Communications Commission.

Since his first nomination in 2014, he has proven his commitment to American leadership in communications. He has a strong record of defending American interests globally and promoting economic development domestically, and his leadership will be essential to American efforts to win the race to 5G in the coming years. 

Free market principles and American leadership have been central to Commissioner O’Rielly’s work at the FCC. He has successfully pushed to make more C-Band spectrum commercially available, allowing the United States to come out ahead of China in the race to 5G. This is of vital importance both economically and in terms of national security. He also been a leader in many other spectrum proceedings, including TV white spaces, 6 GHz, 5.9 GHz, and 900 MHz.

Commissioner O’Rielly’s regulatory policy is grounded in Constitutional principles. He has promoted regulatory modernization efforts which emphasize economic freedom and limited government. Regulatory reform efforts have facilitated broadband expansion across the United States and allowed our industries to become globally competitive. The success of these efforts had been evident throughout the COVID-19 crisis, as our networks supported record internet traffic. Commissioner O’Rielly’s work in recent years set up our country for a rapid transition to telehealth, remote work, and distance learning.

While at the FCC, Commissioner O’Rielly has reduced waste and fought against corruption, abuse, and fraud. He demanded increased accountability from the International Telecommunication Union, shed light on states’ misuse of 911 funds, and drew attention to the abuse of the USF Lifeline Program.

Among the commissioner’s most important achievements at the FCC is his fight against the misuse of 911 funds by state governments. Several states habitually diverted money from 911 funds to pay for unrelated expenses in violation of the law. The abuse was egregious, with New Jersey diverting over 90% of its 911 funds to its general fund. Corruption on this scale damages public safety and erodes the public’s trust in our institutions. By shedding light on this issue, Commissioner O’Rielly has proven his commitment to fighting corruption and advancing government transparency.

Commissioner O’Rielly has proven himself to be a principled and effective leader. He has a vital role to play in the implementation of 5G and the modernization of communications regulation in the coming years. Americans for Tax Reform urges the reconfirmation of Commissioner O’Rielly to the FCC. 

 

Onward,

Grover Norquist
President, Americans for Tax Reform

 

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

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Coalition Urges Passage of Gig Economy Workers Act of 2020

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Posted by Katie McAuliffe on Friday, July 31st, 2020, 10:00 AM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform today released a coalition letter with 20 signers supporting the Helping Gig Economy Workers Act of 2020. The full letter can be read below:

 

July 30, 2020

RE: S.3733 and H.R. 6988, the Helping Gig Economy Workers Act of 2020

Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Majority Whip Thune & Senator Cornyn: 

The undersigned organizations, representing millions of taxpayers, thank you for your insistence that the next COVID-19 relief bill include liability protections for businesses, schools, and nonprofits in compliance with public health guidelines. Unless Congress acts, a tidal wave of frivolous lawsuits could dampen our already fragile economic recovery. 

In particular, we are grateful that Senate Republicans have embraced protections for app-based platform companies that work with independent contractors. Senators Braun, Cassidy, Loeffler, and Scott, and Representatives Miller and Cuellar have introduced S.3733 and H.R. 6988, the Helping Gig Economy Workers Act of 2020, and Senate Republicans included similar protections in the SAFE TO WORK Act for joint employment and independent contracting, which is also included in the HEALS Act. These measures would provide app-based platform companies that provide PPE and other worker protections with a safe harbor for the length of the pandemic.  

As families increasingly rely on delivery and ride-sharing platforms to access supplies, groceries, take-out meals, and prescriptions, app and internet-based businesses have proven critical throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. These platforms have also provided flexible earnings opportunities for hundreds of thousands of Americans during these challenging economic times. 

During the pandemic, many app-based platform companies – like countless others across the country – have proactively provided workers with sick pay, personal protection equipment like masks and hand sanitizer, and access to health services. Without tailored legal protections, we are concerned that opponents of these companies will sue and seek to use these actions as evidence of an employer-employee relationship under federal law. Special interests have utilized state laws like the disastrous AB5 in California to try and eliminate the app-based platform business model entirely. Congress should not follow California’s path at the federal level. 

In addition, we believe Congress should focus on protecting the freelance economy in the face of sustained attacks on the left.Independent contracting has been in the crosshairs in state capitals around the country. The ultimate goal of these efforts is to force companies to reclassify independent contractors as employees. If other states follow California's lead and erect barriers that impede commerce, Congress may need to step in and create a federal standard. Without robust protections, both independent contractors and the millions of Americans who depend on them will be harmed as these goods and services disappear forever. 

We strongly support your efforts to ensure that liability protections for innovative companies are included in any final agreement on COVID-19 relief. 

 

Sincerely, 

 

Grover G. Norquist 

President 

Americans for Tax Reform  

 

Pete Sepp 

President 

National Taxpayers Union 

 

Jessica Anderson 

Executive Director 

Heritage Action 

 

Tom Schatz 

President 

Council for Citizens Against  

Government Waste 

 

Adam Brandon 

President 

FreedomWorks 

 

Carrie Lukas  

President  

Independent Women’s Forum 

 

Heather Higgins 

CEO 

Independent Women's Voice 

 

Eli Leher 

President 

R Street Institute 

 

Krisztina Pusok 

Director of Policy and Research 

American Consumer Institute 

 

Ralph Benko 

Chairman 

The Capitalist League 

 

Ryan Ellis 

President 

Center for a Free Economy 

 

Andrew F. Quinlan 

President 

Center for Freedom and Prosperity 

 

Ashley Baker 

Director of Public Policy 

The Committee for Justice 

 

Katie McAuliffe 

Executive Director 

Digital Liberty 

 

Dave Wallace, II 

President 

FAIR Energy Foundation 

 

Andrew Langer 

President 

Institute for Liberty 

 

Karen Kerrigan 

President & CEO 

Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council 

 

James L. Martin 

Founder / Chairman 

60 Plus Association 

Saulius "Saul" Anuzis 

President 

60 Plus Association 

 

Dick Patten 

President 

American Business Defense Council 

 

CC: Senators Braun, Cassidy, Loeffler, Tim Scott, Congresswoman Carol Miller, Secretary Mnuchin, Mark Meadows

Photo Credit: Lara Eakins


ATR Supports Senator Tim Scott's "JUSTICE Act"

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Posted by Katie McAuliffe on Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020, 4:34 PM PERMALINK

Today, Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist released a letter in support of S. 3985, the JUSTICE Act, sponsored by Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.) 

You can find the full letter below and linked to here

Dear Senator Scott,

I write in support of your bill S. 3985, the JUSTICE Act, and urges all Senators to support this legislation. This legislation will improve relationships between police and their communities by providing commonsense solutions to transparency and accountability issues.

The practice of “precinct shopping” by officers who violate the rights of citizens must end. Accurate and transparent reporting of an officers’ conduct, disciplinary actions, and uses of force, will properly inform other law enforcement agencies, who may be considering a new hire.

Transparency measures outlined in the JUSTICE Act will expose abuses of power that destroy public faith in the police. Tensions between police and their communities are a detriment to the safety of both. By requiring reporting on no knock warrants, weapon discharges, and use of force, this legislation will improve police transparency and help restore public faith.

The bill requires federal, state and local units to report use-of-force incidents to the FBI’s National Use-of-Force Data Collection. This includes use of police force resulting in fatality or serious bodily injury to a civilian, as well as events in which a firearm is discharged by a civilian towards an officer and any deaths or serious injuries of law enforcement officials caused by civilians. Accurate, transparent and publicly available data on these incidents will shed light on departments and individuals that fail to provide equal justice.

The JUSTICE Act ends the use of police chokeholds, increases body camera use, and provides training and hiring resources to police departments. The bill will put more body cameras on the streets, which has been shown to reduce violent encounters, and also requires that departments are properly using and storing their body camera data.  

The JUSTICE Act is a very strong first step in reforming police behavior towards citizens. Much more needs to be done.  For example, police officers must be able to do their jobs and they cannot if their local governments turn them into tax collectors through abusive fines and fees measures and civil asset forfeiture exercised on individuals who have not been proven guilty. That said, this bill is an excellent place to start.

I urge all Senators to support this legislation. Should you have any questions or concerns please reach out to me or Katie McAuliffe, kmcauliffe@atr.org.

Onward,

Grover Norquist
President, Americans for Tax Reform

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore


Norquist Slams ‘Policing for Profit’ in Chicago Tribune Op-Ed

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Posted by Katie McAuliffe on Thursday, June 18th, 2020, 9:00 AM PERMALINK

ATR President Grover Norquist published an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune, calling for an end to ‘policing for profit’ that has led to conflict between local communities and police. 

Norquist pointed out that many cities have turned police officers into tax collectors, where police spend more time collecting fines, fees, forfeitures and traffic tickets than they do keeping the community safe. 

This was fully exposed in 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, after the death of Michael Brown at the hands of police. 

Norquist said:

“A key reason Ferguson police were despised is that the politicians had turned the police into tax collectors for the city. Not sales taxes and income taxes, but fines, fees, forfeitures and traffic tickets.

The reports released by the Department of Justice and the Commission on Civil Rights confirmed that officers’ primary use of arrests and tickets were not for public safety, but as revenue generators.”

However, the problem is not confined to Ferguson. As Norquist goes on to say:

“this tendency of cities to derive a substantial portion of their annual revenue from citations and fines handed out by law enforcement agencies is poison nationwide. Access to courts and due process should not depend on race or income, and court-imposed financial penalties should consider a person’s ability to pay.”

The practice of suspending drivers licenses for unpaid fines and fees, and non-driver safety-related offenses needs to stop.

“In modern America, how do we expect anyone to earn money to pay for traffic fines if one is under effective house arrest and unable to drive a car to work?”

The article includes statistics and information about the practice of policing for profit in Ferguson, Chicago, and California, and what has subsequently been done to curb this abuse.

Read the full piece here.

Photo Credit: Tony Webster

More from Americans for Tax Reform


Coalition of 36 Support President Trump's Deregulatory Executive Order

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Posted by Katie McAuliffe on Monday, June 1st, 2020, 9:50 AM PERMALINK

ATR today released a coalition letter signed by 36 organizations in support of President Trump’s Regulatory Relief to Support Economic Recovery Executive Order. The coalition applauds President Trump for making deregulation the centerpiece of the Administration’s Coronavirus response and encourages him to make this deregulation permanent wherever possible.

ATR President Grover Norquist praised the executive order, saying:

President Trump’s executive order to slash red tape and directing all agencies to use their emergency powers to ‘rescind or temporarily waive damaging regulations’ is key to recovery. 

President Trump and the Republican congress brought us strong growth, job creation and increasing wages by reducing taxes and the regulatory burden.

We can return America to prosperity the same way.

The Democrat congress opposes tax reduction, but President Trump is leading on executive orders reducing the cost and unnecessary delays caused by overregulation.

President Trump’s drive for more deregulation—first to fight the virus and second to restore growth — is moving full speed ahead.

The full letter can be found below, and a downloadable copy here.

Dear President Trump, 

We write in support of your Regulatory Relief to Support Economic Recovery Executive Order (EO). As the focus turns toward restarting the economy and society, this EO will give businesses the flexibility they need to reopen their doors, create jobs, and safely get Americans back to work.

Instead of using the pandemic as an excuse to consolidate more power, you have made deregulation the centerpiece of your Administration’s Coronavirus response. This regulatory relief has streamlined our national response to the Coronavirus, leading to over 500 waived rules and regulations nationwide.

Most importantly, the Order directs agencies to review the impact of any regulations that they have waived or suspended during the pandemic and determine if they are necessary to reinstate. Permanently repealing these regulations – most of which were never necessary in the first place – will help grow our economy long after the pandemic has run its course.

Authorizing agencies to use the same emergency authority they have used to fight the Coronavirus to also waive regulations that stand in the way of our post-pandemic economic recovery will promote job creation, economic growth, and reduce the cost and unnecessary delays caused by overregulation. 

The Order not only directs agencies to temporarily waive or suspend any rules or regulations that inhibit economic growth as we recover from the Coronavirus, but also establishes a “Regulatory Bill of Rights,” to provide businesses with more certainty and direction. 

The “Regulatory Bill of Rights” directs agencies not to over-enforce when American businesses are clearly working in good faith to follow the law and keep their customers and employees safe. It is a set of ten regulatory principles that direct agencies to be fair and transparent in enforcing against any potential violations of law should there be an administrative proceeding.

Before the Coronavirus crisis, your pro-growth agenda of tax cuts and regulatory relief kickstarted one of the strongest economies in American history. We can return America to prosperity the same way.

As our country reopens, your new regulatory relief EO will jumpstart the economy and give businesses the flexibility and confidence they need to safely get Americans back to work.

We encourage you to continue removing regulations that stand in the way of private sector and government assistance during the crisis and to make as many of these regulatory waivers, suspensions, and adjustments permanent where possible.

Sincerely,

Grover G. Norquist
President 
Americans for Tax Reform

Phil Kerpen
President
American Commitment

Steve Pociask
President & CEO
The American Consumer Institute

Lisa B. Nelson
CEO
American Legislative Exchange Council

Brent Wm. Gardner
Chief Government Affairs Officer
Americans for Prosperity

Robert Alt
President & CEO
The Buckeye Institute

Garrett Ballengee
Executive Director
Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy

Andrew F. Quinlan​​​​​​​
President
Center for Freedom & Prosperity

Thomas Schatz​​​​​​​
President
Citizens Against Government Waste

Chuck Muth​​​​​​​
President
Citizen Outreach

Curt Levey​​​​​​​
President
The Committee for Justice

Clyde Wayne Crews Jr.
Vice President of Policy & Senior Fellow
Competitive Enterprise Institute

Katie McAuliffe​​​​​​​
Executive Director
Digital Liberty

Patrick Purtill​​​​​​​
Director of Legislative Affairs
Faith and Freedom Coalition

Rick Watson
Florida Center/Right Coalition

Adam Brandon
President
FreedomWorks

Annette Meeks
CEO
Freedom Foundation of Minnesota

George Landrith​​​​​​​
President
Frontiers of Freedom

Andresen Blom​​​​​​​
President
Hawaiian Values

Jessica Anderson
Executive Director
Heritage Action for America

Wayne Hoffman
President
Idaho Freedom Foundation

Seton Motley
President
Less Government

Ann Schockett​​​​​​​
President
National Federation of Republican Women

Pete Sepp​​​​​​​
President
National Taxpayers Union

William L. O’Brien
Co-Chair
New Hampshire Center Right Coalition

Jeff Kropf​​​​​​​
Executive Director
Oregon Capitol Watch Foundation

Daniel J. Erspamer​​​​​​​
CEO
Pelican Institute

Jim Vokal​​​​​​​
CEO
Platte Institute

Eli Lehrer​​​​​​​
President
R Street Institute

Paul Gessing​​​​​​​
President
Rio Grande Foundation

Karen Kerrigan
President & CEO
Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council

Tim Andrews
Executive Director
Taxpayers Protection Alliance

Sara Croom​​​​​​​
Executive Director
Trade Alliance to Promote Prosperity

James L. Martin
Founder/Chairman
60 Plus Association

Saulius “Saul” Anuzis​​​​​​​
President
60 Plus Association

Maureen Blum
Executive Director
USA Workforce Coalition

Carol Platt Liebau​​​​​​​
Yankee Institute
Connecticut

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore


Tax Collection Business Threatens Internet Tax Freedom

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Posted by Katie McAuliffe on Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020, 12:03 PM PERMALINK

In 2016 Congress passed the Internet Tax Freedom Forever Act, meaning Americans will never face the threat of internet access taxes. On April 14, Bloomberg News published an article sympathetic to taxing Internet access.

With such a decisive victory for internet freedom, and while America is heavily relying on broadband networks to maintain some semblance of normalcy through COVID-19, why would this idea rear its ugly head? The supposed news hook is that six states with grandfathered access taxes – Hawaii, New Mexico, South Dakota, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin -- must quit collection in July. But it isn’t the states, who have been preparing for this since 2016, raising the specter. It hardly accounts for 2% of their tax revenue.

The article includes quotations from left-leaning think tanks and professors and, curiously, from Avalara’s VP of U.S. Tax Policy. Avalara makes more money when the tax code becomes more burdensome and complicated. Internet access tax collection would be an opportunity to sell more tax collection software. Previously, Avalara promoted an online sales tax scheme that caused small businesses to suffer through the most complicated iteration of online sales tax collection possible.

The article did not quote any taxpayer groups.

When Congress initially passed the 1998 Internet Tax Moratorium, the internet was understood to have transformative potential and lawmakers actually practiced regulatory humility — “they knew what they didn’t know” —  and rightfully decided to hold off on regulating it at the level of other familiar technologies, like landline phones. In the past two decades, the internet delivered on its potential and now practically every action that makes the economy tick involves the internet in some form.

Allowing states to tax internet access would set a dangerous precedent and could lead to a slippery slope of new taxes. If California can tax an individual’s access to the internet, a fundamental necessity in job searches, can they tax each email an individual sends once they get a job? As unreasonable as this sounds, California attempted to tax text messages as recently as 2018.

One look at the increases in wireless taxes, surcharges and fees makes clear that the internet would suffer much the same. Private sector competition has pushed wireless prices down 24 percent since 2018, but wireless taxes have increased by 44 percent, displacing competitive benefits. In 2019, people will be subject to an estimated $17.1 billion in taxes, fees, and government surcharges, a $1 billion increase from 2018. Wireless taxes slow down network infrastructure development and disproportionately hurts the poor, 67 percent of whom live in wireless households.

The Internet Tax Moratorium is about fostering the backbone of everyday life as the COVID-19 crisis dramatically proves. Congress repeatedly acknowledges that reliable internet access is fundamental for economic growth. It is necessary for work, school, or practically anything in modern society. Since 1998, Congress reauthorized the Internet Tax Moratorium more than a half-dozen times before making it permanent in 2016. Additionally, the FCC removed short-lived so-called net neutrality rules. While these rules were in effect from 2015-2016, annual capital investments declined for the first time since 2008-2009. After the repeal, broadband providers immediately increased investment with approximately $80 billion poured into the networks in 2018 alone.

Through light-touch regulation generally, the U.S. created broadband networks that are far superior to the rest of the world. Fortunately, going in to this crisis, as of mid-2018, 98.6 percent of Americans had access to a fixed network, and 99.8 percent had access to a mobile network.

COVID-19 caused a huge uptick in internet traffic. 

Wireline broadband providers report that total traffic increased by a range of 17.3% to 37.4%, with an average increase of 25.5%. Major wireless carriers report mobile voice traffic increases during COVID-19 between 7% and 24.3%, while mobile data traffic usage has increased between 0.7% and 9.2%. For example, AT&T reported wireless voice up 28% and Wi-Fi calling minutes up 84% from the pre-crisis average usage baselines.

Our hugely successful internet connectivity comes from, among other policies, not taxing access and realizing the internet’s value increases as more people get online. It is unbelievable that Avalara, with the help of Bloomberg’s media empire, would promote the idea of increasing internet costs to Americans during COVID-19 for their own gain.

Photo Credit: Geoff Livingston (Flickr)


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