David Lang is the President of the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire (PFFNH). The PFFNH has a mission, beyond the obvious one of representing fire fighters, and that is to elect Democrats and progressive (r)epublicans, the latter in places that are unlikely to vote for a ‘D.’
This is a union that has invested no small sum in cash and man hours to elect and keep Democrats in power in New Hampshire. So when I learned that the guy in charge of that union had just received the Nackey Loeb First Amendment Award I though it was a joke.
If you read the excerpted speech posted at the Union Leader, you’d think he was some kind of patriot fighting to ensure that a behemoth bureaucracy was not permitted to screw the little guy. And let’s be fair. He’s not wrong about the LGC. It has become no less intractable than any other bureaucratic edifice. But I laughed out loud at this (from Lang’s acceptance speech)…
“What became clear to me from this experience is that the First Amendment is crucial to an effective democracy because it allows any person to speak truth to power. You may not like what is being said or who is saying it, but facts are hard to ignore.”
…because while he did inevitably need the media to spread the message, the fight was never about free speech; the LGC stood like a sentinel between David Lang and what he wanted. Leverage.
David Lang only needed to go after the LGC because Unions are edifices too. An edifice needs money.
The more PFFNH members make the more they can collect in dues, the more they can use those dues to exert leverage–be it at the bargaining table, or the ballot box. And while we can appreciate the effort and the results (at least as far as 91-a and RTK are concerned), we cannot forget that David Lang and the PFFNH have spent significantly more time and money electing Union friendly politicians (Democrats and a smattering of progressive Republicans) whose mission it is and has been to erect the impenetrable edifice of the superstate.
Union’s (ones with public employees in particular) love a big government, well funded by a manifold of taxes, and heavily regulated by corpulent bureaucracies pregnant with police-state powers to ensure our ‘collective’ compliance. A government whose intricacies would be beyond the understanding or endurance of most citizens, capable of keeping a wealth of other public documents out of reach, making the cost to obtain them excessive, and even legislating unfavorable forms of political speech into a Rube-Goldberg maze of costs and compliance that would silence large numbers of Granite Staters.
That’s right. The guy who got the free speech award has long been an advocate for those who sought to silence it, and he even does us the service of mentioning some of these politicians for us in his First Amendment award speech.
House Speaker Terie Norelli, Senators Jackie Cilley, Deb Reynolds, Betsi DeVries and now Gov.-elect Hassan not only listened to what we were saying, but they did something about it, passing much-needed regulation and strengthening oversight of public risk pools in 2009 and 2010.
And that must be the punch line to the joke because these are all Democrats that supported Maggie Hassan’s attempt to silence first amendment speech.
Maggie Hassan wrote the oppressive and anti-free speech amendment to HB 1459 (May 2010) at her “kitchen table” with the help of Democrat Kathy “Lawsuit” Sullivan . The bill (with amendment) sailed through the Democrat Senate, and almost passed the Democrat House. Democrat governor Lynch had said he’d probably sign it if it got to his desk.
This is a bill that would chill political speech. It would intentionally silence thousands of people who might otherwise speak out. Anyone could challenge any speech they felt might have violated the new law. Any one could file suit against anyone they claimed had violated it independent of the AG even lifting his or her head off their desk. The mere shadow of the penumbra of this thing, had it become law, would have silenced political speech chasing everyone off the field but the very well funded experts with the resources to navigate the new ‘free speech’ landscape in New Hampshire–one of which I might add is a large well connected fire fighters union, run by the guy who just got the Free Speech award.
Even the Concord Monitor had to step and say it was a bit too much, even though the big business known as the pro left media was not in any danger from Hassan’s amendment.
I admit that I can’t find anything specific from Lang on it, but none of that really matters. PFFNH would have benefited from the final version. And it still almost became law thanks to Hassan and the support of all the Democrats Lang and PFFNH have and continue to support for public office.
After it barely failed, by the way, Hassan came back to tell us that she’d be keeping an eye on things. She didn’t bring it up much while running for Governor but I expect that the idea is still waiting somewhere in Hassan’s tool box, which Lang is happy to continue supporting.
So while David Lang may have spent the past ten years trying to pry public documents out of the Local Government Center, at the same time his union and its PAC have been supporting a party and even a Candidate–Maggie Hassan–who have actually attempted to use the police powers of the state to legislate away political speech they saw as inconvenient to their quest for political power.
Let us not stop there. We should also consider the players Lang lauds in the very context of his point.
In 2009/2010 these brave Democrats–and I’m quite certain HB 1393 (2010) is the “much needed regulation” to which he refers, managed their circus in much the way they always have. Maggie Hassan chaired the committee hearings on the bill. The evidence used was that collected by the PFFNH to the apparent exclusion of all others. So the LGC was probably subjected to an insiders witch hunt by these Democrats, as a favor to their good friend and political ally, David Lang and the PFFNH. Not because Democrats had any particular interest in public risk pools but more likely because Democrats wanted go back after the private JUA Risk pool fund surplus to put a $110 Million dollar finger in their $800 million dollar budget hole.
The very Democrats Lang praised lost that money when the New Hampshire Supreme court overturned a lower court ruling that would have allowed Governor Lynch to raid the $110 million from the private risk pool funded by doctors with their own money. So could HB 1393 give the state leverage in the future to go after it, not for the good of the towns or their citizens, or even fire fighters, but to hide budgetary incompetence? I didn’t read the whole bill but I feel I have a right to my suspicions becasue of this line from that bill.
II. Enables the secretary of state to investigate and bring actions against pooled risk management programs.
Whatever the case, no Republicans appear to have ever been mentioned by Lang, then or after, even though the GOP majority that followed tried in successive years to make sure that risk pool surplus dollars had to go back to their rightful owners…and isn’t that what Lang was after? Sure, Republican’s were specifically trying to protect private property from the threat of seizure by the very Democrats PFFNH supported, but the towns would have benefited from the same measures if that “property” was theirs by right.
Not a word about them though, which in itself reveals Lang for the creature of the left that he is and makes suspect his motivations and remarks.
There is likely more meat here regarding the focus of the LGC issue and legislation surrounding it but it is tangential to my primary objection. PFFNH and David Lang consistently support politicians who would (and have tried to) use the police powers of the state to silence political speech they object to. Knowing that, it is very difficult to see his having received a Free Speech Award as a serious endeavor, or the words of this acceptance speech in any other light than that of a Union boss dedicated to removing a barrier to the success of that union.
If you want to give him a 91-A Right to know award, I’m right there with you. If you’d like to thank the right wing blogosphere, which was happy to report Lang’s case against the LGC early and often, that’s fine. But suggesting that David Lang’s perseverance on this point obscures his complicity in a left-wing effort to stifle political speech is ridiculous. The PFFNH would welcome a legislated silence that left them with a bigger bull horn and little fear of challenges and that is exactly what Hassan the Democrats tried to do.
And now he’s got a Free Speech Award. Well isn’t that special?