Yesterday Mary Katharine Ham posted an article at Hot Air about how government regulations are impacting the Ocheesee Creamery in Florida.
The story reports:
Sometimes government’s dishonesty, incompetence, wastefulness, and misguided nannyism combine to make a perfectly ridiculous story. Today’s comes to us from Florida, where the Ocheesee Creamery is being forced to dump gallons upon gallons of good, natural skim milk because the state is requiring the business to label its good, natural skim milk “imitation” because they haven’t added anything to it.
Paul and Mary Lou Wesselhoeft have been fighting this in federal court with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs, which had formerly allowed them to sell their skim milk while calling it skim milk. No one seemed confused by this except the state government, which changed its requirements.
This is not the first time a state government or the federal government has regulated something in a way that defied common sense.
The article cites a 2012 Colorado case:
Communities lose jobs, entrepreneurs lose dreams, and consumers lose great products for the silliest of reasons. The story of the Wesselhoefts reminded me of the closing of Il Mondo Vecchio in Colorado in 2012— an “Old-World-style salumeria” similarly dedicated to natural processes. The FDA was having none of that, requiring that these sausage-makers, adored by Denver foodies, add nitrates, nitrites and preservatives to their meats.
I’m all in favor of keeping America’s food supply safe. I also like the idea of labeling products correctly. However, this is ridiculous.
On May 8th I posted an article about Lyndon McLellan, who owns and operates a local convenience store in Fairmont, North Carolina. Mr. McLellan was the victim of an IRS tactic called civil asset forfeiture, a tactic that allows the IRS to take the assets of a small business owner without charging them with anything. The procedure is unconstitutional, but that hasn’t stopped the IRS. I have posted a few articles on this practice. If you use the search engine on this site, you can find them. Basically, if a business consistently is making bank deposits of less than $10,000, the IRS accuses them of ‘structuring’ to avoid scrutiny (and paperwork) and seizes their assets.
The IRS seized slightly over $100,000 from Mr. McLellan. Mr. McLellan was told that if he went public, the IRS would make things worse for him (how much worse can it get after they have taken all of your money for no reason?). The IRS offered to give him half of his money back. Mr. McLellan went to the press.
The Daily Caller posted a follow-up on this story yesterday.
The Daily Caller reports:
McLellan went to the press anyway. The IRS quickly changed its tune and gave Lyndon McLellan back all $107,702 of his money.
“The government cannot turn Lyndon’s life upside down and then walk away as if nothing happened,” Robert Everett Johnson, a lawyer at the Institute for Justice who represents Lyndon, said in a statement. “Lyndon should not have to pay for the government’s lapse in judgment. And the government certainly should not profit from its misbehavior by keeping the interest that it earned while holding Lyndon’s money. We’ll continue to litigate this case until the government makes Lyndon whole.”
When you turn on the light, the cockroaches scatter.
Leadership flows from the top. If the leaders of our government respect their fellow Americans, that respect filters down to the state and local level. If our federal government is out of control, we can expect our local government to be moving in that direction.
Today’s Wall Street Journal posted an editorial (there is no link–it is subscribers only) entitled, “Disclosure as a Political Weapon,” The article relates the experience of Robin Ferris, a resident of Puyallup, Washington. Ms. Ferris campaigned to recall former Pierce County treasurer Dale Washam. She charged Mr. Washam with mistreatment of employees, abuse of government resources, and other misdeeds. There is a state law that limits the amount voters can donate to a recall campaign to $800. Ms. Ferris hired the Institute for Justice (IJ) to challenge the law on a pro bono basis. The IJ won the case., but that wasn’t the end of the story. The Washington state Public Disclosure Commission threatened to fine Ms. Ferris more than $500,000 for failing to report the pro bono work of the IJ as an in-kind contribution to her recall campaign, stating that the ‘contribution’ should have been listed in the campaign’s public disclosures. The Commission had previously threatened a pro-life group, Family Pac, with similar action after losing a referenda campaign in 2010.
So why should we be concerned about this? Keep in mind the recent Internal Revenue Service scandal regarding conservative groups, and consider that pro bono legal services as political contributions could cost many groups their 501 (c) (3) status. Organizations with the 501(c) (3) status are prohibited from direct engagement with political campaigns. Included in these groups are such politically diverse organizations as the ACLU and the ACLJ. Without these organizations, only wealthy Americans would be able to challenge the actions of the government.
The article concludes:
Democrats and their media allies have made a crusade of more disclosure as a way to discourage political spending by businesses. But as the Institute for Justices’s tax-exempt jeopardy shows, disclosure is a weapon that can be used to silence many groups, including those that fight for civil rights and legal due process. It’s another example of liberals trampling on liberal principles.
Those of us who are conservatives need to remember that we have to guard all of our rights all of the time. It seems that there are those in America who choose winning elections over free speech.
On Thursday the Institute for Justice website posted an article about the Motel Caswell, a family-run motel in Tewksbury. The government had attempted to take the motel away from the Caswell family, claiming that the motel facilitated drug crimes.
The article reports:
…But the court found that Mr. Caswell “did not know the guests involved in the drug crimes, did not know of their anticipated criminal behavior at the time they registered as guests, and did not know of the drug crimes while they were occurring.”
“This outrageous forfeiture action should never have been filed in the first place,” said Larry Salzman, an IJ attorney. “What the government did amounted to little more than a grab for what they saw as quick cash under the guise of civil forfeiture.”
Caswell said, “I couldn’t have fought this fight without the help of the Institute for Justice. It is hard to believe anything like this goes on in our country, but the government goes after people they think can’t afford to fight. But with IJ’s help, we put up a heck of a fight and have won. The public needs to stand up against these abuses of power.”
It is encouraging to see that the Caswells won their case and that there was an organization willing to stand with them to fight government overreach.
On Friday, George Will posted an article in the Washington Post about some recent events in Tewksbury, Massachusetts. It is a story of excessive big government–not Massachusetts government, but the federal government.
Russ Caswell owns a budget motel his father built in 1955. He is 68, and the motel provides his retirement income. The motel has seen better days, but still hosts tourists, some workers on extended stays and some elderly people who call it home. The 56 rooms rent for $56 a night or $285 a week.
The article reports:
Since 1994, about 30 motel customers have been arrested on drug-dealing charges. Even if those police figures are accurate — the police have a substantial monetary incentive to exaggerate — these 30 episodes involved less than 5/100ths of 1 percent of the 125,000 rooms Caswell has rented over those more than 6,700 days. Yet this is the government’s excuse for impoverishing the Caswells by seizing this property, which is their only significant source of income and all of their retirement security.
The federal government is now planning to seize the property, sell it (expecting to receive about $1.5 million) and give 80 percent of that to the Tewksbury Police Department.
The article reports:
The Caswells have not been charged with, let alone convicted of, a crime. They are being persecuted by two governments eager to profit from what is antiseptically called the “equitable sharing” of the fruits of civil forfeiture, a process of government enrichment that often is indistinguishable from robbery.
The lawsuit is titled United States of America v. 434 Main Street, Tewksbury, Massachusetts. The Caswells are represented by the Institute for Justice (IJ), described in the article as a ‘libertarian public-interest law firm.’ The IJ describes the civil forfeiture proceeding as something that was used against pirates to seize their booty. In this case the federal government is the pirate!