“…is bad for the rule of law and for capitalism,” opines The Economist, saying regulation-through prosecution has become “an extortion racket,” from hundreds of millions in Google drug-ad settlement money spread among Rhode Island police departments, to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s muscling in to extract money from BNP Paribas in a settlement of legal offenses against U.S. foreign policy as distinct from New York consumers:
Who runs the world’s most lucrative shakedown operation? The Sicilian mafia? The People’s Liberation Army in China? The kleptocracy in the Kremlin? If you are a big business, all these are less grasping than America’s regulatory system. The formula is simple: find a large company that may (or may not) have done something wrong; threaten its managers with commercial ruin, preferably with criminal charges; force them to use their shareholders’ money to pay an enormous fine to drop the charges in a secret settlement (so nobody can check the details). Then repeat with another large company. …
Perhaps the most destructive part of it all is the secrecy and opacity. The public never finds out the full facts of the case, nor discovers which specific people—with souls and bodies—were to blame. Since the cases never go to court, precedent is not established, so it is unclear what exactly is illegal. That enables future shakedowns, but hurts the rule of law and imposes enormous costs.
“…They’d traded dignity for money. That’s what lenient retirement boards do to people.” An ex-fireman has drawn criticism by suing the city of Providence for $7 million, saying it unfairly cut off his check after a TV station filmed him “doing a muscular weightlifting workout,” calling his claimed shoulder-related disability into doubt. [Mark Patinkin, Providence Journal]
Reuters on the phenomenon of police harassment of local political opponents (earlier here, here, etc.) By no means are the reports limited to California:
There also have been allegations of intimidation by police in Cranston, Rhode Island.
On Jan. 9, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung announced that state police will take over an investigation into a flurry of parking tickets issued in the wards of two council members. The pair claim the tickets were issued as retribution after they voted against a new contract for police that would have given them a pay raise….
Major Robert Ryan, a spokesman for the Cranston Police Department, said: “The matter is under investigation, and pursuant to law enforcement’s bill of rights, no-one is going to comment on this.”
As readers may recall, those high-sounding “law enforcement bill of rights” gimmicks serve mostly to entrench law enforcement personnel against consequences or accountability for misbehavior, and thus have less than nothing to do with the Constitution’s actual Bill of Rights. More: Radley Balko.
Under first-in-the-nation legislation enacted by the legislature of Rhode Island this summer, it becomes illegal for landlords or employers, as well as many providers of public services, to “discriminate” against anyone because of their status as homeless. “Among other steps, the Rhode Island law would guarantee homeless people the right to use public sidewalks, parks and transportation as well as public buildings, like anyone else ‘without discrimination on the basis of his or her housing status.’” [Reuters] Churches and Brown University students took part in the campaign for the law, opening a soup kitchen within the statehouse building: “‘The whole idea was to put it in their face: this is homelessness,’ says Karen Jeffreys, Associate Director of the Coalition.” [Mother Jones] Rhode Island is the smallest U.S. state: “‘Now we’re a leader in something,’ said state Sen. John Tassoni, D-Smithfield.” [AP] In a sense, Rhode Island is already a leader in something: for the second year in a row, it holds the distinction of having the worst business climate in the country in CNBC’s annual survey, and it has ranked poorly in other business surveys as well. [Scott Cohn, CNBC; NFIB/Forbes; Tax Foundation] Also: Aaron Renn on the R.I. business and cultural climate.
“Cranston Mayor Allan Fung says he’s ‘utterly disappointed’ the school district ended the gender-based events after the state affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter of complaint last spring.” [CBS Boston]
P.S. Or, to sum up in a different way: “It became necessary to destroy the village in order to make it more inclusive.” (& Alkon)
I’ve got a new blog post up at Cato on the article in yesterday’s New York Times tracing how unsustainable police and fire contracts — the product, more specifically, of a pro-union state law imposing binding arbitration on municipalities — have driven the city of Central Falls to the brink of bankruptcy. Read it here. Matt Welch discusses the same article at Reason “Hit and Run.”
By a mostly partisan vote of 50 to 44, the U.S. Senate confirmed Rhode Island plaintiff’s lawyer and political kingmaker Jack McConnell to a federal district judgeship. McConnell made his Motley Rice law firm, based in South Carolina, into Rhode Island’s biggest political donor during the same period that state officials were hiring him to run, on contingency fee, what it was hoped would be a hugely lucrative suit against former makers of lead paint. The Motley firm, with associated law firms, is credited with having made billions from tobacco and asbestos litigation and has recycled large sums into the campaign coffers of state attorneys general and other friendly politicians. [Daily Caller, Plains Daily (North Dakota contributions), Politico, ShopFloor] Earlier here, here, here, etc.
The tourist-friendly town may fence off a famed scenic path after an adverse lawsuit ruling. [NYT]