State Department Special Interest Program for Archaeologists
by Peter Tompa
Politicos within the Obama State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and Diplomats from the Italian Embassy take note: a recent FOIA request reveals that CPAC only received thirteen (13) public comments in support of controversial import restrictions on "coins of Italian type."
Not that there really was any groundswell of public support for renewing the Italian MOU in the first place. Indeed, CPAC received only about one hundred (100) comments in favor of renewing the MOU at all.
Who supported the renewal of the MOU? The American public? Well, maybe only one or two individuals identified themselves as such. No, as one might expect, virtually all the support came from archaeologists who excavate in Italy, their students or their "trade associations."
And who supported restrictions on coins? Well, the AIA, Lawyer's Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation, a few professors and students from NYU (Home of Pro-Restriction CPAC member Joan Connelly) and foreign bloggers like David Gill and Paul Barford.
Contrast this with the one thousand eight hundred (1,800) plus public comments opposed to the extension of import restrictions on ancient coins.
Given this disparity, one can only ask: What gives? Why has the State Department disadvantaged the interests of American collectors and the small businesses of the numismatic trade by imposing hard to meet documentation requirements when the support for such restrictions is so limited?
And more to the point, has State Department Cultural Heritage Center staff told the political appointees at State and the diplomats at the Italian Embassy how thin the support actually is for restrictions?
Thirteen public comments in favor of import restrictions on Italian coins out of more than 1900 total comments received. Only 100 comments, slightly more than five per cent of the total, favored renewing the MOU at all. These almost all came from the "archaeology lobby" and allied interest groups. What amazing statistics!
Far more amazing still was the manner in which these 1900 comments were simply ignored. The American people were asked to present their opinions regarding the proposed Italian MOU extension. They overwhelmingly rejected it, especially its controversial expansion to include ancient coins. The State Department merely went ahead with their plans on the supposition that they could keep the official comment statistics secret, just as they attempt to keep all other details of their "management" of the CPIA secret. This is not democracy, nor is it the American way.
The ACCG's FOIA lawsuit and appeal of the FOIA ruling have not resulted in disclosure of all the dirty details, nor even most of them, but enough has finally come out to make it crystal clear that the State Department is definitely pursuing an ideological agenda contrary to the desires of the American people, and the interests of the US collecting community. There is in fact a great deal of fire behind the "smoke screen" the State Department seeks to hide behind. That conflagration threatens to consume important aspects of our individual liberty, and to set a very dangerous precedent in demonstrating how a cabal of unelected bureaucrats colluding with small special interest groups and foreign governments can thwart the will of Congress and stealthily pursue covert ideological objectives that lack any real public support and could never be enacted into law.
This isn't just about collecting ancient coins, any more than the American Revolution was about a tax on tea. It must be stopped.