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Right to Record Federal Employees Gets Congressional Boost

Last week, Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, (KS-2), introduced a bill that would allow private citizens to record their conversations with employees of Executive Agencies. Called the Citizens Empowerment Act, the bill would amend current recording laws. A press release from the Congresswoman's office explained:

“In recent months, we have seen many examples of our nation’s bloated bureaucracy making life harder for Americans and their families. In meetings with folks across Eastern Kansas, and in testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee, I have heard story after story of federal regulators abusing their power,” said Congresswoman Jenkins. “The Citizen Empowerment Act will ensure all Americans are aware of their rights, give individuals a new tool to fight back, and allow citizens to protect themselves or their businesses when a government official comes calling.”

The Citizen Empower Act removes the 10 days advance notice requirement for individuals planing to record a meeting or conversation. The bill extends the right to record a conversation to an entire investigation as opposed to the first stage, which is what current laws allow.  The congresswoman is working with Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri to introduce companion legislation in the Senate.

This legislation is in direct response to recent revelations of the IRS's nefarious dealings with Tea Party and Constitutionally-based organizations.

Federal office holders and employees have shielded themselves from investigation in the laws they've passed on our watch. Title 18 of U.S.C. 1001 allows the federal government to fine or imprison individuals who lie, mislead or make other statements of "material falsehood" to federal employees whether in the course of investigation or otherwise. Of course the federal government isn't required to disclose this information, nor do they share this little tidbit with individuals in advance. A bill like the Citizen Empowerment Act would protect individuals, at least in part, from the statute that landed Martha Stewart behind bars. 

While the effort is noble and I'm glad someone is recognizing there's a pattern of egregious abuse of federal power, that a bill like this is now necessary to fix this problem is even more concerning. This does not read like a bill coming from an American legislative body. We should not need a tool to protect ourselves from our fedearl regulators, alas... At least someone is trying to pry our rights out of the hands of the power-lusting federal government. 

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