Georgia is headed into its primary runoff for the 10th District in a race for the seat vacated by Rep. Paul Braun. The contest between candidates Dr. Jody Hice and Mike Collins has recently been elevated by one sided mudslinging and thuggish political tactic.
Paramount in recent weeks is the fact that Democrats have been funding mailers encouraging their party members to register as Republicans for the runoff to support Mr. Collins. But what’s worse is the report that Mr. Collins staff members have been spotted gloating on Twitter about the candidates’ endorsement from their Democratic opposition.
Multiple flyers from Mr. Collins have resorted to outright lies and distortions in order to gain support from the electorate including uncited claims that Dr. Hice has endorsed absolving veteran’s benefits, that he has no experience running a business or setting a budget and that he is a career politician. Collins has additionally distorted remarks by Dr. Hice in order to insinuate that he opposes female elected officials and desires to restrict the First Amendment.
There are two claim in particular that one should take concern with considering the demographics of the 10th District and the current state of affairs in our country.
As a businessman, Mr. Collins has placed blinders on to the notion that an individual working in the private sector would be the only type of individual capable of understanding our current economic and jobs crisis. In their latest assessment, Georgia Center for Nonprofits, estimated that the states non-profit expenditures reached $43 billion – 11% of the state’s gross state product – and ranked 11th in total employment in Georgia. That is a sizeable employment base and a sector that has a valued effect on the state economy.
Dr. Hice has served at the helm of several large organizations to which any rational individual understands have to balance budgets, manage a staff, and execute programs in a similar fashion as a business. It certainly begs the question as to how the districts many large organizations and mega-churches manage million dollar revenue streams without balancing a budget or having business minded organizational structure. One certainly hopes this wasn’t just an indictment against pastors.
The congressman from the 10th District will represent a massive number of constituents who work in non-profits of all types. Collins’ claim indicates that these people are not talented or smart enough to balance budgets, run a business, or even represent their districts in Congress. The claims are frankly disparaging.
The second and more troubling of Collins’ claims is his remark that Dr. Hice has been involved in a “failed fight against the IRS to allow preachers to endorse political candidates from the pulpit…” The irony of this claim is its association with the indictment that Dr. Hice believes in restricting First Amendment rights.
In this era of the IRS strong arming U.S. citizens, someone fighting the IRS for the citizenries unalienable rights should not be something Mr. Collins opposes.
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, tried by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010 prohibits any government intrusion into the affairs of a business in the restriction of independent expenditures in politics. The USSC has ruled here that contributions and endorsements to political campaigns are a type of free speech. That free speech should not be limited to companies and businessmen, but extended to all people of all professions. Opposition to this is the actual restriction on First Amendment rights, and the fault lies with Mr. Collins.
Further, Mr. Collins does not seem to be aware of why political endorsements cannot be made from behind the pulpit. This is because churches fall into the tax code regulated by tax-exempt organizations. This tax code is not a long standing regulation in our country’s history, but rather comes from the 1954 passage of the Johnson Amendment.
The Johnson Amendment had nothing to do with churches or any ideas on the separation of church and state. Rather due to growing opposition to Lyndon Johnson’s reelection campaign, Johnson wanted to shut down powerful Texas non-profit organizations from endorsing his opponent. By way of preventing these non-profits from endorsing candidates, the amendment unwittingly shut down churches and pastors from endorsing candidates as they fell under the same tax code.
As noted scholar James D. Davidson of Purdue University writes, “From a constitutional perspective…American churches have had every right to endorse or oppose political candidates.”
This fight against the IRS is far from failed. It has never been tried. Over the last several years, pastors including Dr. Hice, have preached sermons point blankly in opposition to the Johnson Amendment. Not one of these pastors has been taken to task by the IRS because they know full well the amendment is unconstitutional and strips freedom of speech from the individual and will be struck down by the USSC. Collins’ lack of concern and indictments on this issue indicate that it is he who stands for limiting the First Amendment rather that Dr. Hice.
The current political climate demands the leadership of honest, professional, knowledgeable men and women across this country to dig us out of the mess under which we are currently buried. This is not the time for lies and deceitful tactics used to gain power, as that methodology will not end in Georgia at the close of the poles, but will continue within the halls of Congress. The choice on Tuesday, July 22nd should be clear and unmuddied by the leadership test that Collins has already failed.