For those who have purchased the Cliff Notes edition to obtain an elementary understanding of libertarianism, detractors will usually mock libertarians for using the tools of government. They resort to the lowest common denominator by asserting that your disdain for the state should encourage you to isolate yourself from society and live off the grid. The logic behind this statement is about as strong as the old Simpsons gag: Yeah, if you enjoy eating a carrot, why don’t you marry it then?
The Crown Juul
Juul Labs is dropping bags of money on the doorsteps of Capitol Hill. Increasingly facing legal and regulatory threats from politicians and bureaucrats, the e-cigarette maker is spending a fortune on campaign donations and initiating a lobbying blitzkrieg.
According to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) data, the company allocated $1.95 million to lobbying efforts in the first half of 2019, topping its 2018 total of $1.64 million. Juul also established a political action committee (PAC) and the group has contributed $100,000 to lawmakers so far this year, on pace to top the $225,000 during the 2018 election cycle.
Democrats, not the Republicans, appear to be the main target of Juul’s initiative. Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) was the top recipient with $7,500, followed by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) with $5,000. The Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus PACs were also given $5,000 apiece.
It has been reported that Juul is working with well-known Washington firms. The e-cig brand awarded KDCR Partners and S-3 Group with $180,000 and $160,000 lobbying contracts, respectively.
Juul disputed critics who say it is trying to tilt rules and bills in its favor. Ted Kwong, a corporate spokesperson, insists that the company is partnering with policymakers to diminish teen vaping:
“We have grown our team to engage with lawmakers, regulators, public health officials and advocates to drive awareness that JUUL exists to help adult smokers switch from combustible cigarettes and is committed to keeping JUUL products out of the hands of underage people. That is why we have taken the most aggressive actions of anyone in the industry to combat youth usage.”
From a constitutional conservative or libertarian perspective, should Juul’s attempts be lauded or should they be a cause for concern?
Eating Lobbyster on K Street
Lobbying has metastasized into a four-letter-word. And, perhaps, rightfully so.
Considering our cynical perceptions of the modern-day politician, you cannot fault the public for being pessimistic about the nature of lobbying. Whatever letter is followed by an elected representative’s name, the voter cannot entrust a politician to even look after a baby who has candy in his or her hands.
That said, using government weapons available at your disposal might be the only way to survive in a landscape dominated by the market interventionists. Lobbying is just another tool.
Is Juul manipulating the legislative process by seducing power-hungry politicians with campaign dollars? Critics would say yes. But some might also posit that Juul is attempting to reverse unconstitutional restrictions by engaging with policymakers and using the only means Swamp creatures can fathom – Benjamins.
This is the primary problem with big government, however. When it is an all-encompassing behemoth that imbibes everything in its path, private enterprise has no other choice but to continue feeding the beast. Since it is downright impossible to shrink the size and scope of the state, whether a Republican or Democratic leadership is running the show, businesses need to play the game. Otherwise, they risk falling victim to the club of the state.
It is safe to say that most reasonable people detest all the sins of government – lobbying, pay-for-play, and pandering. Yet, studies continually find that more Americans are in favor of expanding the state and giving away an ample supply of goodies, from Medicare for All to so-called free tuition. This largesse will only breed the iniquities of the state, not curtail the improprieties.
It is not hypocritical for the anti-government crowd to take advantage of what is available in front of them. Just because a libertarian may write a 7,450-word essays on what is wrong with government roads does not mean he or she cannot drive on the highway. A conservative might grieve about the US Post Office, but that does not necessarily suggest he or she cannot send a letter. An anarcho-capitalist loathes taxes, but this individual will not risk going to prison by evading the taxman.
There are all sorts of things that are detestable about government, but aside from penning white papers and blog posts, there is not much the average person or business can do about eliminating many state apparatuses. So, can you fault Juul for spending millions on lobbying and campaign contributions?
Once you become wealthy, you don’t litigate the law – you simply have it altered.