A recent SCOTUS decision legalizing previously corrupt practices impacts many special interests, including the movement to end motorcycle profiling.
With no media attention, the Supreme Court of the United States this summer issued McDonnell v. US (2016), a decision that makes the ability for corrupt special interest lobbyists and politicians to legally peddle influence. Although this impacts all Americans in some way because special interests touch a broad range of issues, why is this decision particularly important to the movement to end motorcycle profiling? Because the law enforcement lobby consistently opposes anti-profiling laws, is one of the most powerful lobbying groups at both the state and federal level, and the Supreme Court has just legalized lobbying practices that have historically been considered corrupt and illegal. The solution is a grassroots manpower driven movement combined with targeted lobbying strategies to overcome a politically powerful opposition.
How SCOTUS Legalized Corrupt Lobbying Practices
As explained by the Court, former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell, and his wife, Maureen McDonnell, were indicted by the Federal Government on fraud related to their acceptance of $175,000 in loans, gifts, and other benefits from Virginia businessman Jonnie Williams, while Governor McDonnell was in office. A jury convicted the McDonnell’s and the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court’s conviction. But the Supreme Court disagreed and reversed the conviction.
The Supreme Court decided that “every action that is within the range of official duty” is not to be considered an “official act”, “contrary to the well-settled understanding of the term established by the Supreme Court a century ago, and followed by the federal courts ever since.”
Under the Court’s new interpretation, “setting up a meeting, calling another public official, or hosting an event” does not, standing alone, qualify as an ‘official act.’ The Court reasoned that this interpretation was less wide open and vague.
This decision further opens the door to legalized influence peddling to special interest lobbies. In simple terms, these previously corrupt and illegal acts are now considered legal. It stands to reason that lobbyists will seize the opportunity and freely operate inside the Court’s newly drawn lines.
Interestingly, the unanimous 8 to 0 decision was neglected by the media on a news day distracted by other events.
Law Enforcement Lobby Opposes Anti-Motorcycle Profiling Laws
The Motorcycle Profiling Project, which is involved in the grassroots movement to pass anti- motorcycle profiling laws nationwide, has found that the law enforcement lobby consistently opposes the motorcycle community’s efforts to address discrimination. In both Washington State and Maryland, the only 2 states to have laws addressing the issue, the law enforcement lobby denied that profiling was occurring and opposed the law. This was particularly true in Washington State, where the law enforcement lobby heavily opposed the bill, even in the face of an irrefutable pattern of evidence.
In other states attempting to pass the law, the police lobby has voiced similarly clear opposition. In Minnesota, for example, the law enforcement lobby testified against the measure and even released statements to the media denying that motorcycle profiling was occurring. The law enforcement lobby was effective and the bill failed to pass out of committee.
Considering the power of the law enforcement lobby, it should come as no surprise that it’s been very difficult to implement basic protections for motorcyclists in most states.
Although police officers may lead the public to believe they don’t create the laws, they just enforce them, this is not truly the case. According to retired Lt. Commander Diane Goldstein, in statements made to Mint Press News (May 29, 2014), “Capitalism is alive and well in politics” and over the years law enforcement has created an “incredibly powerful lobby”.
The Supreme Court’s decision provides more avenues of influence for an already powerful lobby that stands in opposition to laws addressing profiling. So how should motorcyclists respond? What strategies should the motorcycle rights movement employ to overcome this opposition in the legislature?
Solutions- Overcoming Powerful LE Opposition
Although the law enforcement lobby is strong, and the Supreme Court has just strengthened the political influence for cash market, an organized grassroots movement can still be successful.
The issue of police accountability is an ongoing societal concern and the need for reform is seen by many legislators. But proper preparation must be employed to overcome the opposition’s influence.
With a proper pattern of evidence documenting tangible incidents of profiling, motorcyclists can overcome the powerful LE lobby and successfully pass anti-profiling laws. In Washington State and Maryland, video evidence obtained through public information requests provided incontrovertible proof that profiling was occurring and motorcyclists were being targeted based on association and appearance. Without this type of evidence legislators are not going to be willing to defy the lobby.
In terms of strategy, gaining the endorsement of legislators with law enforcement experience can be an important tool to overcoming the law enforcement lobby. These legislators are in a unique position of having both LE experience and the perspective of a law maker. In Washington, legislators with LE experience sponsored the anti-motorcycle profiling legislation. And every legislator with LE experience in Washington and Maryland voted “yes”, in every committee and on the floor, unanimously passing the legislation into law.