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RSC Caves to Member Pressure, Fires Derek Khanna

Tim Carney breaks [1] the news that Derek Khanna, the RSC staffer who authored the memo [2] criticizing the current framework of copyright law, has been fired:

By Saturday afternoon, the RSC had pulled the memo from its website and officially retracted it. The reason, according to two Republicans within the RSC: angry objections from Rep. Marsha Blackburn, whose district abuts Nashville, Tenn. In winning a fifth term earlier in the month, Blackburn received more money from the music industry than any other Republican congressional candidate, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Blackburn’s office did not return calls seeking comment.

Lobbyists for the music and movie industries also called the RSC to express disapproval, according to Republicans involved.┬áThe staffer who wrote the memo, an ambitious 24-year-old named Derek Khanna, was fired — even before the RSC had decided on other staffing changes for the upcoming Congress. The copyright memo was a main reason.

Needless to say, members weighing in on staffing decisions is very unusual. Also, Blackburn isn’t just on the industry’s take. Her chief of staff [3] is a former RIAA lobbyist [3].

[Update: Tim Lee says [4] the firing “will only further raise the memo’s profile.” Khanna offered no comment for this piece.]

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#1 Comment By Mikhail the History Grad Student On December 6, 2012 @ 10:51 am

Did I miss something? Did Khanna say something truly outrageous in the memo, something that simply crossed the line?

Oh yes, he challenged copyright wisdom. Which is apparently enough to get purged. I wish I could say that this is outrageous, but it appears to be typical. Stifling dissent, expelling loyal employees who even sniff around challenging the orthodoxy…

#2 Comment By Matt H. On December 6, 2012 @ 11:01 am

This is a truly disheartening turn of events. The GOP is suicidal.

#3 Comment By K. W. Jeter On December 6, 2012 @ 11:02 am

As Tom Snydor has demonstrated ( [5]), it was a crap paper, illogical and full of misrepresentations and distortions, and Khanna embarrassed the RSC by putting it out. If the content industry helped push Khanna out the door, good for them, since he should’ve been fired anyway.

#4 Comment By Ampersand On December 6, 2012 @ 1:22 pm

Corporations are in charge of the GOP (and slightly less in charge of my own Democratic Party). As such, the GOP will be responsive to Obama’s eventual “path to citizenship,” because that’s what Big Business wants. The GOP will also serve up another social moderate in 2016, because their wealthy backers just aren’t that into the whole fire-and-brimstone thing.

#5 Comment By hetzer On December 6, 2012 @ 3:48 pm

If I had the money I’d buy out a middle-sized Republican thinktank and give Khanna a job…

#6 Comment By Ethan C. On December 6, 2012 @ 4:10 pm

That’s a shame. I’ll bet the young man lands on his feet somewhere, though. Maybe Cato or another libertarianish outfit will hire him on. The paper itself was a good sign, and its withdrawal has been a perfect example of what’s known as the “Streisand Effect”.

#7 Comment By jamie On December 6, 2012 @ 6:57 pm

“Did I miss something? Did Khanna say something truly outrageous in the memo, something that simply crossed the line?”

To someone in the entertainment industry, saying “we need copyright reform” is a lot like a Cuban telling someone at Chiquita banana in 1955 “we need land reform.” People who depend on that income pay very close attention.

#8 Comment By Nunya Bisnes On December 6, 2012 @ 11:34 pm

Mr Jeter, considering the absurd amount of ad hominem attacks and lack of actual arguments in Tom Snydor’s so-called rebuttal, I think you’ve mistaken which piece is crap. Derek Khanna’s paper could have revitalized the republican party’s standing with youth voters who see our current copyright system for the preposterous waste that it is. As it is, they seem destined to finish the collapse they’ve begun, and eventually disappear into history much like the federalists and the whigs.

#9 Comment By DavidT On December 7, 2012 @ 12:23 am

Ampersand: ” The GOP will also serve up another social moderate in 2016…”

What do you mean, “another?” The GOP has nominated *ex*-social moderates who manage to convince the primary electorate that their social moderation is a thing of the past. (See, e.g., GHW Bush’s flip-flop on abortion in 1980 and Mitt Romney’s after 2006). But never a *current* social moderate.

#10 Comment By K. W. Jeter On December 7, 2012 @ 8:51 am

Really, Nunya Bisnes? The big example in Khanna’s paper about the horrors of the present copyright regime is that it somehow has prevented the development of a DJ mixtape industry that’s as “vibrant” as the one in Turkey — without, of course, giving any numbers as to what constitutes “vibrant.” You really think you’re going to win any elections by attempting to whip up public concern about the mixtape gap between the US and Turkey?

And as to Snydor’s paper — quote what you think is an ad hominem argument in it. Basically, Snydor took this kid apart like a two-dollar watch.

#11 Pingback By Incoming RSC Chair Tries to Push Copyright Back Under the Rug | Tony Johnson On December 12, 2012 @ 11:16 pm

[…] at a panel at AEI, I asked the incoming chair of the Republican Study Committee whether he thought firing staffer Derek Khanna because of a controversial copyright memo was a wise decision for a party that […]

#12 Comment By Ray On December 13, 2012 @ 12:01 am


What about Ford? (And Nixon, for that matter?)

#13 Pingback By Ahh. Order is restored in the intellectual-property court. Plus, we got to fire a bright 24-year-old and keep your drugs expensive. Cool! « Blog on the Run: Reloaded On December 13, 2012 @ 6:46 pm

[…] Before the weekend was out, the report had been retracted, ostensibly because it had not been subjected to “adequate review.” (Insert your own euphemism here.) And not long afterward, Khanna was fired. […]

#14 Comment By Dorothy On March 16, 2013 @ 6:20 pm

Hey GOP. When the heck will you start working WITH US? I am Joe Public, and I want you guys to represent US.