January 17, 2007
by: jovial_cynic
I'm a big fan of grassroots movements to influence politicians and to create positive change for the community, since... in theory, grassroots movements start with the community itself. And in the spirit of "by the people, for the people," grassroots movements symbolize the very way our government was designed to run. Hooray for grassroots movements.

As a result of my inclination towards grassroots movements, I tend to be a little knee-jerk when it comes to legislation that restricts normal citizens ability to organize and criticize. So, when I ran across this article on slashdot, I immediately followed the links and found my way to Grassroots Freedom, where they've set up a petition to stop legislation that forces bloggers critical of Congress to register... with Congress.

Here's some text from that page:

In the first few days of the new session of Congress, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and big Washington insiders such as Public Citizen and Common Cause will try to silence critics by regulating us through quarterly reports to Congress. Failure to report would result in civil and potential criminal penalties.


Pelosi & Company's lobbying legislation "reform" would define political communications to and even between citizens as "lobbying." This turns the definition of lobbying on its head and is in violation of the First Amendment.

PR Newswire, linked directly from the slashdot article reports:

For the first time in history, critics of Congress will need to register and report with Congress itself.


Section 220 of S. 1, the lobbying reform bill currently before the Senate, would require grassroots causes, even bloggers, who communicate to 500 or more members of the public on policy matters, to register and report quarterly to Congress the same as the big K Street lobbyists.


On January 9, the Senate passed Amendment 7 to S. 1, to create criminal penalties, including up to one year in jail, if someone 'knowingly and willingly fails to file or report.'

The idea of regular citizens and grassroots movements having to register to be critical of the government is lunacy. Absolute lunacy. And how does one determine if a blogger has 500 readers? What if they have 499? This is stupid, and it doesn't help anybody but the politicians. It sounds like a way to silence public criticism.

If you're pro-grassroots (and generally anti-government, like myself), you're likely foaming at the mouth at this proposed legislation. However... a careful reading of the bill (and bleah, they're never written in real english anyway) makes it clear that traditional bloggers have nothing to fear.

MarkusQ, a careful reader of the text and slashdot commenter, points out the following:

The article is rather misleading. The section in question [] applies to astroturf operations, not bloggers:

Lobbying activities include paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying, but do not include grassroots lobbying.

(17) GRASSROOTS LOBBYING- The term `grassroots lobbying' means the voluntary efforts of members of the general public to communicate their own views on an issue to Federal officials or to encourage other members of the general public to do the same.


(A) IN GENERAL- The term `paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying' means any paid attempt in support of lobbying contacts on behalf of a client to influence the general public or segments thereof to contact one or more covered legislative or executive branch officials (or Congress as a whole) to urge such officials (or Congress) to take specific action with respect to a matter described in section 3(8)(A), except that such term does not include any communications by an entity directed to its members, employees, officers, or shareholders.

(B) PAID ATTEMPT TO INFLUENCE THE GENERAL PUBLIC OR SEGMENTS THEREOF- The term `paid attempt to influence the general public or segments thereof' does not include an attempt to influence directed at less than 500 members of the general public. it explicitly does not apply to what we normally think of as bloggers.

So there you have it. It's always a good idea to read a bill and understand it before you take a position on the issue described. It's pretty clear that the bill prevents corporate lobbyists from side-stepping regulation. The bill helps create a more level playing field for interest groups. Sounds reasonable to me.
np category: politics


The Conservative Manifesto said:
Interesting. Good post!
January 18, 2007

jovial_cynic said:
You know me... always trying to provide a fair and balanced view.
January 18, 2007

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