Advice Goddess Blog
« Previous | Home | Next »

Fred Thompson On Being OverFed
Fred Thompson writes that there are too many federal crimes:

When I served as a federal prosecutor, there were not all that many federal crimes, and most of those involved federal interests. Since the 1980’s, however, Congress has aggressively federalized all sorts of crimes that the states have traditionally prosecuted and punished. While these federal laws allow Members of Congress to tell the voters how tough they are on crime, there are few good reasons why most of them are necessary.

For example, it is a specific federal crime to use the symbol of 4-H Clubs with the intent to defraud. And don’t even think about using the Swiss Confederation’s coat of arms for commercial purposes. That’s a federal offense, too.

Groups as diverse as the American Bar Association and the Heritage Foundation have reported that there are more than three thousand, five hundred distinct federal crimes and more than 10,000 administrative regulations scattered over 50 section of the U.S. code that runs at more than 27,000 pages. More than 40 percent of these regulatory criminal laws have been enacted since 1973.

I held hearings on the over-federalization of criminal law when I was in the Senate. You hear that the states are not doing a good job at prosecuting certain crimes, that their sentencing laws are not tough enough, that it’s too easy to make bail in state court. If these are true, why allow those responsible in the states to shirk that responsibility by having the federal government make up for the shortcomings in state law? Accountability gets displaced.

Now, there are plenty of areas in criminal law where a federal role is appropriate. More and more crime occurs across state and national boundaries; the Internet is increasingly a haven for illegal activity. A federal role is appropriate in these and other instances. But today the Federal Bureau of Prisons has quadrupled in size in little more than 20 years.

Perhaps the clearest example of federal over-involvement in state and local responsibilities is public education. It’s the classic case of how the federal government buys authority over state and local matters with tax-payer money and ends up squandering both the authority and the money while imposing additional burdens on states.

No, as Ilya Somin points out over at Volokh, the clearest example of federal over-involvement would be in the drug laws:

He is right to note the massive growth in the federal prison population over the last 20 years, but fails to point out that most of that growth is due to the War on Drugs. As I explained here, convicts incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses make up 55% of the total federal prison population. And it was the War on Drugs that led to the Supreme Court's 2005 decision in Gonzales v. Raich, which largely gutted constitutional limits on federal power. Any serious effort to reverse the federalization of criminal law must include cutting back on the War on Drugs; by comparison, the laws making it a crime to misuse the symbols of the 4-H Club and the Swiss Confederation are utterly insignificant. Is Thompson willing to advocate that? Will he promise to nominate judges committed to overruling Raich? I'm not holding my breath. But if he does, he'll certainly win my endorsement - the same priceless political asset that carried Nancy Pelosi to victory back in November:)!

Posted by aalkon at July 29, 2007 7:57 AM


Umm, copyright law involves interstate commerce. It might be out of line to talk about Federal protection of trademarks and other material so covered.

Rather than the federalization issue, it would be better to notice the activities of Congress, via, and the tendency to make more things felonies. When the public cries to be protected from thugs, they don't care how it's done - producing this mess.

Posted by: Radwaste at July 29, 2007 10:36 AM

The Republican Party establishment sees clearly that Ron Paul is the only candidate catching fire, and Fred Thompson is their stalking horse out to co-opt Paul's message.

Good luck.

Posted by: Buckwheat at July 29, 2007 12:56 PM

Right. Ron Paul at 0.05% and falling. Really on fire.

This country is not going to elect a xenophobic, isolationist, anti-Zionist to run things.

The fact that most of his support is among the truthers is only going to make it worse for him. I suspect that even if he doesn't get into the presidential primaries, he's out of office in his next election cycle.

Thompson, unfortunately, has a snowball's chance in hell as well. The Party has already chosen their anointed one. Everything from this point forward is kabuki. They did it in 2000 with Bush, they've done it this time with either Romney or Giuliani. You'll know which one by the time of the primaries, because he'll tack hard-right on abortion, as that's the only issue that those running the GOP care about.

Posted by: brian at July 29, 2007 2:08 PM

Thompson, unfortunately, has a snowball's chance in hell as well.

Fine by me. Thompson's a cypher. He's got some people excited because the rest of the Republican field sucks. He's a former unaccomplished Senator, a passable actor, and reasonably clever with a phrase. He's a former lobbyist for anti-abortion groups who's trying to pass as an authentic social conservative. His big contribution in his early years in Washington was passing along everything he learned in the Watergate investigation to Nixon's team. And this makes him a person whose character qualifies him for the White House how?

Posted by: justin case at July 29, 2007 9:17 PM

I'm with justin.

Posted by: PurplePen at July 30, 2007 10:27 AM

I know Michael Vick is behind Fred Thompson 100% on this.

Posted by: moe99 at July 30, 2007 11:53 AM

Leave a comment