An Open Letter to the 85 Republicans who Voted for H.R. 1586

Dear Congressmen and Congresswomen (list available at the bottom of this letter):

I really ought to preface this letter by saying that it is not actually intended for every single one of you. Let’s face it: some of you can not spell out your names without using R-I-N-O. In fact, I give you permission, Don Young of Alaska, to quit reading right now. Your Republicanism has never been in question, because no one has believed for a generation that you are a Republican. Your vote on the subject of retroactive taxation on bonuses paid to employees of financial services firms can hardly be considered a letdown, as your entire career in Congress has been a letdown. No, this letter is meant for those of you that either have decent voting records, or in a few cases, excellent voting records. It is my firm belief that you have cast the worst vote of your Congressional career, and you deserve to hear from a mortified citizen.

I think it is fine that society is so mad that executives at AIG are receiving bonuses. I have a sneaking hunch that citizens are far angrier about the $150 billion their government has pledged to the defunct company than they are a $1 million bonus here and $2 million bonus there to senior managers in the firm who had nothing whatsoever to do with the company’s demise, but I can appreciate the fact that there is a legitimate populist rage out there. Of course, in times past, some would have argued that Constitutional principles were not to be violated even at the whims of the people, but let’s just pretend the people are as mad as you think they are, and are mad for the reasons you think they are. I want to ask you a couple of questions.

Do you or do you not believe that this is a nation of laws? Put differently, do you take seriously the rule of law or not? Before I get to the subject of every company not called AIG out there, do you or do you not appreciate the fact that these bonuses were agreed to by the executive branch of the federal government six months ago? Are you aware that men and women with families and house payments have worked for free for six months based on the promise of this bonus, turning down lucrative job opportunities along the way to complete their contractual duty? Who in the world do you think you are to run roughshod over the contractual commitment made to these innocent people? Now, I suppose I am begging the question when I use the word, “innocent.” Were these people a part of the problems at AIG or not? We both know the answer to that – in 95% of the cases, they were as far removed from it as the janitor. Even in the cases of the employees who worked in the department involved in generating credit default swap arrangements, these retained individuals were there to clean up the mess that long departed employees made – primarily by making the taxpayers their money back through selling off the assets of AIG in an efficient and profitable manner. It is counter-intuitive to the core to think that people without a hefty financial motive would be the best choices to assume this task. Remember, you guys have AIG into us for $150 billion. As Larry Kudlow has said, do you want the D minus students working on paying us back?

But I am tired of talking about this as an AIG initiative, because as a matter of law, it is not. Perhaps it was a few days of AIG rage that caused you to throw any iota of Constitutional principle you have out the window, but we both know that you did not pass a resolution that only spoke to $160 million of bonuses to AIG employees. No, for in a day and age where lawmakers who chartered Fannie Mae are not held culpable for the mortgage disaster, and in a day and age where homeowners who took on a debt (after lying through their teeth on their mortgage application) that they could never possibly afford are not held responsible, and in a day and age where risk-takers (culprits) are held out as victims, you have decided to join in the lunacy that blames the present financial crisis on an unidentifiable group of people called “Wall Street executives”; no further information required. Needless to say, some key executives at major Wall Street firms have committed some unpardonable sins in recent years. But you don’t really believe those same people are still at those same firms, because you are well aware of the fact that the 10-15 people per firm who committed the worst errors of risk pricing in securitization models have been long dismissed. No, you are not punishing anyone still in the employ of the firms that have actually been the primary culprits in what happened to these firms. What you have done, and I dare say, done knowingly, is pass a piece of legislation intended to punish people that you know did nothing wrong. In most cases, the punishment you have prescribed would be financially murderous, as virtually this entire industry functions off of bonus-style compensation (whether it be in stock or cash). I consider it heinous enough that you would ever dare consider using the tax code as a weapon in any capacity, but to use it as a weapon of mass destruction against people who are not even considered to have done anything wrong, and in fact are in many cases the heroes of this epidemic, is sickening, repugnant, and shameful.

You do not have in your power as an elected official the right to ruin people’s lives, particularly people who are law-keeping citizens of this country. You do not have the right to spit in the face of the Constitution of the United States that you are sworn to uphold just so you can avoid being labeled by a leftist media as “pro-Wall Street”. This has nothing to do with Wall Street; it has to do with the rule of law. You are prohibited from passing bills of attainder by the law of this land. You are not allowed to take a person, or a group of people, that has become unpopular, and create laws to hurt those people. This is a gross violation of your oath as a lawmaker. This vote is unconscionable.

Let me tell you about the typical person who would be devastated by the far-reaching effects of this perverse legislation. They are technology executives who are creating the systems that make our financial markets run. They are product specialists aiming to bring new vehicles to market that help investors navigate through these painful financial times. They are private client financial advisors who have spent the last six months of their lives working 14 hours per day to desperately help people through the most painful time in the capital markets since the Great Depression. Who do you want on that wall, Mr. or Mrs. Congressman? Someone who will work for 10% of their income commitment? Someone from a European bank? I am asking you: what do you really think this vote does to help anyone whatsoever?

It is rank class warfare, banking on the arrogant calculation that people are too stupid to realize that guilty people would not be affected by this bill, and innocent people actually would be. This vote is cowardice, pure and simple. It is the cowardice that comes from a minority party who refuses to draw a line in the sand and tell Charlie Rangel and Barney Frank, “Enough is enough.” Demonization of rich and productive people is not going to cease at the end of this crisis, and it did not first surface at the beginning of this crisis either. And to the extent that a few derogatory comments about wealthy people can help you win a few votes in this covetous culture, I can look the other way. But this resolution takes everything I have ever half-heartedly joked could happen one day, and makes it a reality. The selective punishment of a class of people in this country is unforgivable. The income seizure that this bill represents is absolutely unfathomable. There is nothing good in this bill at all. I am profoundly disappointed in what you have done.

I am well aware of the political realities underneath this. You didn’t really think even the Obama administration would let something this insidious become law, right? You knew that the Senate would punt this, and even if they didn’t, surely the President would. Your vote gave you the ability to stay off a Huffington Post list of “Wall Street supporters”, and yet without any real risk that your actions would ever become law. So well done, my fearless leaders. You have played your political cards right. But you miscalculated badly on one thing: the small, growing remnant of American people who actually value freedom over expediency, and principle over perception. I wish that a bill like this could be repudiated because of the mere lameness of it – the total lack of meaningful positive consequence that it represents. I wish even more that it could be rejected because of a systemic return to the principles of our founding, where actions like this would be vilified. But apart from the masses, what I am publicly writing to tell you now is that there is a remnant of us who are mortified by what has happened to the country in the hands of politicians who lack the principle to do their job the way they swore they would do it. I would not take lightly the feelings of this remnant. The future belongs to those who have learned from the past. What I learned on March 19 is that eighty-five leaders in my own party ought to re-think what they profess to stand for. This is the United States of America. I plead with you to vote like that means something to you.

With regards,
David L. Bahnsen
Newport Beach, CA
Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL-4)
Rep. Michael Rogers (R-AL-3)

Rep. Don Young (R-AK-AL)

Rep. John Boozman (R-AR-3)

Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA-50)
Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA-45)
Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA-44)
Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA-24)
Rep. Wally Herger (R-CA-2)
Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA-41)
Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA-4)
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA-46)
Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA-40)

Rep. Michael Castle (R-DE-AL)

Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL-9)
Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL-5)
Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL-13)
Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL-4)
Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL-21)
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL-25)
Rep. John Mica (R-FL-7)
Rep. Adam Putnam (R-FL-12)
Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL-16)
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL-18)
Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL-6)
Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-FL-10)

Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL-13)
Rep. Timothy Johnson (R-IL-15)
Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL-10)
Rep. Donald Manzullo (R-IL-16)
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL-6)
Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL-18)
Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL-19)

Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA-4)

Rep. Jerry Moran (R-KS-1)

Rep. Geoff Davis (R-KY-4)
Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY-2)
Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY-5)
Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY-1)

Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-LA-5)
Rep. Anh Cao (R-LA-2)
Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA-6)
Rep. John Fleming (R-LA-4)

Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI-4)
Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI-3)
Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI-2)
Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI-10)
Rep. Michael Rogers (R-MI-8)
Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI-6)

Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO-7)
Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO-8)

Rep. Dennis Rehberg (R-MT-AL)

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE-1)

Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV-2)

New Jersey:
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ-11)
Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ-7)
Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ-2)
Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ-4)

New York:
Rep. Christopher Lee (R-NY-26)
Rep. John McHugh (R-NY-23)

North Carolina:
Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC-3)

Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH-2)
Rep. Patrick Tiberi (R-OH-12)
Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH-3)

Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR-2)

Rep. Charles Dent (R-PA-15)
Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA-6)
Rep. Todd Platts (R-PA-19)

South Carolina:
Rep. Henry Brown (R-SC-1)

Rep. John Duncan (R-TN-2)
Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN-1)
Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN-3)

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX-6)
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX-10)
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX-21)

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA-7)
Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA-4)
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA-6)
Rep. Robert Wittman (R-VA-1)
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA-10)

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-5)
Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA-8)

West Virginia:
Rep. Shelley Capito (R-WV-2)

Rep. Thomas Petri (R-WI-6)
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI-1)