Question: What happens when you lie to Congress? Answer: Apparently you get your legislation approved.
We recently wrote about the means by which business sometimes happens in Congress, and dissected the practice where star power and money intersect, leading to immense influence over the legislative process.
Many of us are fairly naïve about the process. We understand that our representatives in Congress make very important decisions that affect millions of people. We hope that those decisions are based on truthful testimony and accurate facts.
Unfortunately, the reality is that lying seems to be the means by which the ends are met. We have just experienced a presidential season where the accusations of lying were hurled back and forth between the candidates, and where fake news sites have become the reality. It is difficult for the average Joe to distinguish between whose truth is THE truth. Heck, one talking head even went so far as to suggest that if enough people believe the lie, it becomes the truth no matter the facts.
At a recent senate hearing on Senate Bill 3183, the BOTS Act of 2016, Mr. Jeffrey Seller, the producer of Hamilton, was invited to testify. During that testimony, he stated that “he has received countless letters from children and parents appealing to me to help them access tickets to Hamilton. They have simply been unable to obtain tickets at our regular prices.” This is a result of the popularity of that musical. In the real world, if you have an event where you only sell 100 tickets, and 200 people want to attend, a lot of folks will be left out in the cold, and those that do get in will pay a lot more than the “regular price.” But that reality, the simple economic theory of supply and demand, did not fit the script being written by Mr. Seller and Senators Chuck Schumer and Richard Blumenthal, two main senate backers of the bill. So they wrote another script, where now the ticket resellers were responsible for the lack of tickets to these “children and parents”.
Mr. Seller, when questioned by the committee as to what was the regular price, he gave the ticket face value of $199. That testimony appears to have been a LIE, a FALSEHOOD, or as my mother would say, a FIB. Perhaps when the show first began buyers may have found a few at that level, but we know, looking at an official sales site, those tickets do not exist. In fact ticket prices for the Hamilton performance on November 4, 2017, nearly a year away, range from a low $250.60 for the Rear mezzanine (which are already sold out) to a high $1188.60 for the Premium Orchestra (click on the screenshot to the right). One reason for these high prices is the additional 40% fees charged by an official Broadway sales site.
Far above Mr. Seller’s testified to LOW $199, and out of reach of most average ticket buyers.
The committee accepted the this stated ticket price as fact. Why? Perhaps because they seemed to forget to invite actual opponents of the bill, who would have called the testimony for what it was, peppered with untruths. Or maybe it was because all the senators seemed to fall over themselves hinting at their desires to get Hamilton tickets.
The strategy used by Mr. Seller and the proponents of this bill has been genius in its simplicity; tell the lie over and over again and eventually it becomes the truth. This lie was one of many, which we will discuss further in a follow up to this article, Part 2 – The Fleece Continues.
The Atlantic Magazine a few years back penned a piece in The Dish titled “The Big Lie,” describing current national politics as “the era of the Big Lie,” lamenting that a lot of little lies are “designed to concoct a false narrative so simple and so familiar it succeeded in getting into people’s minds,” sacrificing “intellectual honesty for the cheap thrills of enabling power-grabs.”
Senate Bill 3183 has been approved in the House and Senate chambers and is now on its way to President Obama to be signed. For the future the big question is, can the Congress ever handle the truth, or will they continue to sacrifice honesty for power-grabs?
We reached out to Senators Schumer and Blumenthal for comment. We specifically wanted to know when they became aware of the possible untruthful testimony at the senate hearing, and did the committee plan to investigate the truthfulness of the testimony given by Mr. Seller and the other witnesses. Additionally we asked why they did not invite any opposition witnesses to testify.
As of print we have not received a reply.
Make sure to come back to see how a lot of little lies become the truth, in Part 2 – The Fleece Continues.