Yeah, I know, I know: merely asking this question feeds into the entire weird (and sometimes sewage-tinged) false narrative that the Koch brothers run the Tea Party. Blame Mitt Romney for that: after all, if this Examiner article is correct (via Ben Domenech’s Transom) then Mitt Romney seems to believe that the Koch brothers run the Tea Party, and he’s acting accordingly. You tell me how to ignore a conspiracy theory when a Presidential candidate refuses to.
Seriously. I spent a good part of the morning trying to come up with a way to do that, and failing.
But let’s backtrack a little and go over the background. As you’ve probably heard, Team Romney is going gangbusters over Governor Rick Perry’s supposed weaknesses on immigration, particularly his opposition to a national E-Verify system. See Ramparts 360 and RightWing News for Perry’s actual views on the subject (and immigration in general): to summarize, Perry is as about as impressed at the federal government’s current ability to run a country-wide identification database as he’s impressed at its ability to run pretty much anything else; which is to say, Perry is not particularly impressed. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney is actually pretty hardline on E-Verify.
For the moment, at least. Whether this survives the weekend may be an open question. Because, again, comes this news that Mitt Romney – everybody put down their coffee cups, by the way – is planning to court the Tea Party – and the Koch brothers.
Less than two months before the Iowa caucuses, Romney is skipping a major Iowa event Friday — where every other GOP hopeful will be — to deliver a keynote speech on fiscal policy to the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity.
Americans for Prosperity is led by billionaire Republican donor David Koch, whose endorsement Romney seeks. An Oct. 4 internal Romney campaign memo obtained by The Washington Examiner describes Koch as the “financial engine of the Tea Party” even though Koch “denies being directly involved.” Koch endorsed Romney for president in 2008 and his well-funded group is credited with electing dozens of Republicans to Congress in 2010 and creating a network of Tea Party loyalists who are critical to Romney’s chances of winning the nomination, political strategists say.
Which is Romney’s privilege to do, of course – and good luck with that, by the way: Tea Party Nation co-founder Judson Phillips’ observation that “Romney’s problem with a lot of Tea Party voters, myself included, is at this point I don’t know what he believes and I don’t care — because even if he tells me: ‘When I get to the White House I’m going to be fiscally conservative,’ he will probably change his mind, depending on which way the political winds are blowing.” is also held by a lot of other people. Including me. And I expect a lot of people at Americans for Prosperity. But, hey, maybe Mitt Romney can manage a little magic. What’s more risible is that, according to the above article, Romney is also angling an endorsement for AFP founder’s David Koch (apparently, Romney buys into that weird ‘Koch brothers run the Tea Party narrative’ thing). And that’s… interesting, because David Koch is well-known as being a pretty strong libertarian. Sufficiently so that he’s on the Board of Directors for the Cato Institute, which is well-known for being a top-rate libertarian think-tank.
And Cato hates Romney’s stance on E-Verify.
[Romney’s] describing an expanded E-Verify system, and the biometric national identity system that has been proposed for it. That system would not only be used for controlling employment, of course. Like the Social Security number did when it caught mission creep, the national ID Romney talks about would come to be used to control access to housing, to financial services and credit, gun ownership, health care and medicine, the list goes on and on.
It’s technically possible to have a biometric card that solely indicates one’s qualification to work under federal law, but as I wrote in my paper, “Franz Kafka’s Solution to Illegal Immigration,” there is almost no chance that the government would limit itself this way. E-Verify requires a national identity system, and Mitt Romney wants that national identity system.
Click the link above (or here) as to why Cato and other libertarian groups bristle at the phrase ‘national identity system:’ to sum up, they are dubious that E-Verify would do anything to cut down much on illegal immigration – but it’d be absolutely stellar at creating the need for a National ID card that could be subject to all sorts of bureaucratic shenanigans, both deliberate and accidental. At this point, some people are muttering that the Cato Institute is just another bunch of open-border, pro-amnesty shills, anyway – and, yeah, Cato’s pretty forthright about the fact that they’re, well, libertarian when it comes to immigration policy. But that’s not really the point… or, I suppose, the question.
The question is, Does David Koch feel like making Mitt Romney dance like a organ-grinder’s monkey over E-Verify? – After all, Romney apparently wants Koch’s support, not the other way around. If David Koch wants to put a price tag on that support, precisely what’s going to stop him? Aside from a desire not to be mean; I have had it pointed out to me privately that Romney changing his stance on a point of immigration reform as a price for more libertarian support might be seen as being kind of small potatoes. Which is a fair point, but, well, National ID does tick off a lot of libertarians, and E-Verify is about the only thing that I can think of that Romney hasn’t bailed on yet under the slightest pressure. If David Koch feels like being too nice a guy to make Romney dance on it then that’s his lookout – but honestly, if it was up to me I’d start the next meeting by handing Mitt a fez.
Because, remember: the question up there in the title was not “Would Mitt Romney abandon e-Verify, in exchange for the Koch brothers’ support?” – mostly because I assume that my readership is of at least average intelligence, and thus are perfectly capable of answering “Mitt Romney would do that so fast that he’d leave vapor trails” all on their own. Although I have to admit that I almost envy the people who don’t acknowledge that unfortunate truth about the former governor, even in the privacy of their own hearts: I imagine that their internal world must be very nice. Soft-edged. Fluffy…
PS: On the subject of a National ID card itself I am more agnostic than your average libertarian-leaning Republican, mostly because I already have one and I’m used to using it while paying something via a check, buying age-controlled substances, getting on airplanes, interacting with my private health care provider, and of course driving in the state of Maryland*. Personally, I think that the current ad hoc system of relying on various state/territorial driver’s license systems handles what we might actually need National ID for well enough, while simultaneously making the addition of ‘helpful’ extra features sufficiently complex to effectively prevent bureaucratic creep. If my more libertarian colleagues are correct, though – and they have a lot of empirical evidence on their side when it comes to bureaucratic creep – I won’t enjoy a biometric ID system.
*Oddly, however, I don’t need it to vote. Weird, huh?