With less than two months left before the
Advisory Commission on
Electronic Commerce
is due to
make its final recommendation to Congress on Internet taxes, House
representatives are — far more often than not — dispensing false or
misleading information to concerned constituents inquiring about the
issue of the Internet sales tax.

Pennsylvania resident Bob Flinn wrote his congressman expressing
opposition to “all attempts to tax or otherwise regulate Internet
commerce.”

Rep. Curt Weldon’s response to
Flinn: “Thank you for … your concern about the possibility of
Congress approving taxes on email or Internet use. Plain and simple,
this is a false Internet hoax, clearly begun by someone with too much
time on their hands.”

The Pennsylvania Republican’s spokesman, Pete Peterson, told
WorldNetDaily the response was a mistake — the congressman had been
referring to rumors circulating about a fictitious bill, “602P,” that
would allow the U.S. Postal Service to place a surcharge on all emails.
But constituent Flinn specifically had asked about “Internet commerce,”
an entirely separate issue.

Peterson said Weldon receives about 100 emails each week regarding
602P and taxes on email, and that one mistakenly sent email on the
Internet tax issue is statistically insignificant.

Though Peterson acknowledges efforts are under way to tax Internet
sales, the letter sent to Flinn makes no mention of such efforts.
Rather, there are only vague references to unspecified Internet taxes,
which the congressman condescendingly brushes aside.

Even Weldon’s own website, which includes a
page devoted to
“misinformation” circulating on the Internet,
makes no mention of the
E-commerce Commission or of other government agencies’ involvement in
regulating various sectors of the Web.

WorldNetDaily investigated the accuracy of the responses
representatives are providing constituents on Internet taxation
questions by contacting the offices of 25 U.S. congressmen and women.
Specifically, WND asked how representatives respond to “constituents who
write or call about Internet taxes.”

Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, sends
“Internet tax” inquirers a letter that identifies only Internet tax
rumors — but not the real thing. In the second-to-last sentence,
however, Boehner “call[s] on President Clinton to keep his pledge to
maintain the Internet’s status as a ‘global free trade zone’ and fight
international efforts to impose tariffs and taxes on e-commerce.”

Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New
Jersey, sends a letter to constituents which his aides say clarifies
rumors from fact. However, the four-paragraph document does not
accomplish that task.

Menendez’ letter simply says, “As we forge further ahead into the
computer age, I reiterate my support for the continued growth and
success of the Internet, and the continued availability and free flow of
information.”

Other offices were sorely lacking information — one aide did not
even know what e-commerce taxation is, let along the issues surrounding
it. The same aide, though, did know about 602P, immediately identifying
the fictitious bill as a false rumor.

By contrast, California Republican Doug Ose’s office explained various aspects of the
Internet tax debate without hesitation, noting which were rumor and
which stemmed from the work of the E-commerce Commission.

Unfortunately, most offices do not make such clarifications, leaving
constituents with the impression that all attempts to tax the Internet
are urban legends and Internet hoaxes.

All in all, very few of the 25 congressional offices contacted
bothered to distinguish between Internet rumors and what may be the
biggest tax proposal to face Congress this decade.

Based on WorldNetDaily’s survey, the vast majority of congressional
offices either direct constituents to their websites, send generic
letters regarding the fictitious 602P, provide vague statements to the
effect that their boss “thinks taxes should be fair” or “hasn’t taken a
position yet,” or are totally uninformed.

Rep. Bob Schaffer, R.-Colo.: Staff had no idea about issue.

Rep. Gary Ackerman, D.-N.Y.: Never heard of fake bill, has no
standard form letter.

Rep. Bill Archer, R.-Texas: Press coordinator said office doesn’t
have any response to Internet tax question.

Rep. Brian Baird, D.-Wash.: Still deciding issue.

Rep. John Conyers, D.-Mich.: Didn’t return call.

Rep. John Doolittle, R.-Calif.: Didn’t return call.

Rep. Bob Etheridge, D.-N.C.: Didn’t return call.

Rep. Tillie Fowler, R.-Fla.: Didn’t return call.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D.-Ill.: Didn’t know about Internet taxation,
said majority of constituent calls were about fake bill.

Rep. Dennis Hastert, R.-Ill.: Didn’t return call.

Rep. Ernest Istook, R.-Okla.: Favors Internet tax.

Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D.-Texas: No position on issue yet.

Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D.-Ohio: Didn’t return call.

Rep. Jim Kolbe, R.-Ariz.: Opposed to Internet taxes, responded to
hundreds of letters on fake bill.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif.: No position on issue yet.

Rep. Ken Lucas, D.-Ky.: Didn’t return call.

Rep. Sue Wilkins, R.-N.C.: Has received lots of questions about fake
bill, staff did not return call as to position on Internet taxes.

Rep. Robert Menendez, D.-N.J.: Sent WND form letter on fake bill.

Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga.: Said would send copy of form letter, but
never did.

Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn.: Directed WND to website that exposes
fake bill.

Rep. Thomas Petri, R-Wis.: Sent form letter, opposes Internet taxes.

Rep. Nick Rahall, D.-W.V.: Didn’t return call.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif.: Knows about fake bill, would not
share constituent letters, opposes Internet taxes.

Rep. Bob Schaffer, R-Colo.: Staff did not know difference between
hoax and real tax proposal, has received 400 letters against Internet
taxes, said would email WND reply letter, but never did.

Rep. John Tierney, D.-Mass.: Against access taxes, but not Internet
sales taxes.

Observers trying to explain congressional ignorance cite the fact
that, by relegating discussion of e-commerce taxation to an advisory
commission, Congress has remained ignorant of the true debate at hand,
instead focusing on Internet-related rumors.

Others simply blame the voluminous inquiries congressmen receive on a
multitude of subjects for the confusion.

Either way, the result is that just weeks before it is expected to
consider its Advisory Commission’s recommendation on e-commerce
taxation, Congress cannot articulate fact from fiction when it comes to
Internet taxes.

 


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