Lincoln * Institute

Ralph R. Reiland

Ralph R. Reiland

The B. Kenneth Simon Professor of Free Enterprise at Robert Morris University

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Reflections

Partisan 'Fairness'

by Ralph R. Reiland
 

"Every government is run by liars and nothing they say should be believed," pronounced I. F. Stone (1907-1989), American investigative journalist and iconoclastic author.

A current example of duplicitousness in government was put on display by Virginia's Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe, former chairman of Democratic National Committee, co-chair of President Bill Clinton's 1996 reelection campaign, and chairman of Hillary Clinton's 2008 Presidential campaign.

Boosting Hillary Clinton's odds in November of winning Virginia, a key battleground state in the presidential election, McAuliffe signed an executive order that mandates the re-enfranchisement of more than 206,000 felons, restoring voting rights for an ex-con assemblage of likely Democratic voters who are disproportionately pro-Clinton.

Twitted Hillary Clinton following McAuliffe's slick maneuver that opened Virginia's voting booths to nearly a quarter of a million felons, "Proud of my friend for continuing to break down barriers to voting."

Gov. McAuliffe, citing Virginia's "long and sad history" of suppressing the political participation of African-Americans, contends that this commanded add-on of new voters, a nearly four percent increase in Virginia's voter rolls, is about remedying past prejudice against blacks, not about Hillary and November's election.

Investor's Business Daily (IBD), in contrast, pointed to the obvious political implications of the McAuliffe-directed re-enfranchisement: "Since most are African-Americans, a core Democrat constituency, Hillary Clinton stands to gain most from this artificial injection of new voters."

Moreover, "McAuliffe's order makes no distinction between violent crimes and less serious offenses," reported IBD. "It will give gangbangers, violent crack dealers, murderers, rapists and child molesters not only the right to vote, but also the right to serve on juries, hold public office and notarize documents. They can all vote regardless of whether they've applied for a restoration of rights, and regardless of whether they've even paid court fees and restitution to victims."

In similar pro-felon news, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a dictate in April stating that landlords who have a ban on renting to people with criminal records could be charged with violating the federal Fair Housing Act.

The HUD 10-page directive puts landlords in a sued-if-you-do, sued-if-you-don't quandary, as made clear by business reporter Kathleen Pender at the San Francisco Chronicle in her "New HUD guidance on criminal records puts landlords in a bind" column.

Landlords who don't rent to people with criminal records could end up as HUD-defined criminals themselves, explains Pender, "while a landlord who fails to screen prospective tenants for criminal records and rents to one who robs or hurts a neighbor could be sued by the victim."

It's easy to foresee how landlords' wallets will be emptied in the courtroom. A tenant gets robbed, raped or assaulted by a neighboring ex-con and the landlord becomes a lawsuit target for "negligence" in "should have known" slackness in renting and "inadequate security" at the facility.

The federal Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate against renters or home buyers based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin, but the act does not protect people with arrest or criminal records. However, explains HUD, minorities, especially African-Americans and Latinos, "face disproportionately high rates of arrest and incarceration," causing a rental ban on those with criminal histories to have a racially discriminatory impact.

That's the official theory, except when the government is the landlord or providing rental housing assistance payments to private landlords. HUD's regulations regarding public and Section 8 housing require a lifetime ban on registered sex offenders and people who've manufactured methamphetamine in federally subsidized housing.

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Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.

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Ralph R. Reiland

Phone: 412-527-2199

E-mail: rrreiland@aol.com