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There's a story coming out of rightblogistan (see, for example, Richard Viguerie's take) that's raising some disturbing questions about S 1 - the senate lobbying reform bill.  Apparently, Section 220 of this bill may require that any group that talks politics to an audience of over 500 people (and tells them to contact Congress) would have to register as a lobbying organization, and meet some very burdensome requirements.  Vitter and Bennett (oi!) are launching an effort to scrub this section of the bill.  But here's the thing: I'm not a good enough legal scholar to test the validity of the Republican argument.  So, I figured this would be a good question to put before the community.  Any legal scholars around here know if there's anything to these claims?

More below the fold....

Here's Viguerie's reasoning (take the source as you will):

"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. Section 220 would amend existing lobbying reporting law by creating the most expansive intrusion on First Amendment rights ever. For the first time in history, critics of Congress will need to register and report with Congress itself."

Now, I'm really, really not a legal scholar - and my gut tells me not to trust right-wing sources on things like this.  However, the case they're making is apparently strong enough to get people over at MyDD to start asking some questions.  And, you know, leftblogistan is somewhat more convincing to me.

So I pose this diary as a question: have any of the legal folks here at dKos taken a look at Section 220 of S 1?  (The relevant text is available on the MyDD page linked, above.)  If this bill does what folks are claiming it does, that seems like it might pose something of a problem for all of bloglandia.  Is the right missing something, or should we be concerned?

(I'm at work, so I fear I won't be able to take as active a role as I might like in any discussion that follows.)

Originally posted to lyson on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 03:10 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Here's one more thing (14+ / 0-)

    I should note that Bennett was the crucial vote that broke ranks with Republicans to stop the flag burning amendment last summer, so he does have a history of taking speech issues seriously.

    Still not sure what to think, though.

  •  As I read the bill's languge, the provision (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    appears to be directed at "paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying," as opposed to "grassroots lobbying" itself, which appears to be unaffected.

    I can think of reasons both for and against regulating paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying.

    Katrina was America's Chernobyl.

    by lysias on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 03:14:12 PM PST

  •  Story is on Slashdot too (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lysias, terminal3, Winnie

    I was going to Diary this but I searched first to see if anyone else had found it.

    We need this recommended on the front page, it is serious news directly relevant to Dkos and should at the least be reviewed by the legal minded members for concern.

  •  I think the key word is "paid". (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tiponeill, buhdydharma

    If you're being paid to send out emails in an effort to influence legislation, or if you pay someone to do that you  must register the same as any other lobbyist.

    An example could be a group such as The American Family Association who raises money in order to lobby for legislation and in turn promotes a campaign of emails to legislators from the general public.

    The religious fanatics didn't buy the republican party because it was virtuous, they bought it because it was for sale

    by nupstateny on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 03:32:57 PM PST

  •  Doctor Dobson has been screaming about this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    for a week - he claims it would put too much of a burden on his Focus-on-the-Anus hate speech mass Emails

    He has been asking his marching morons to call their senators to stop section 220.

    I figures that since organizations like etc didn't seem concerned it was probably more related to the cash that he pockets from the till than anything else.

    We are powerless to act in cases of oral-genital intimacy unless it obstructs interstate commerce. - J. Edgar Hoover

    by tiponeill on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 03:52:03 PM PST

  •  Recommending (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Because it's such an interesting subject.  If it does affect those us who blog and send out call to actions, how will they measure the number of people?  Not all blogs are membership blogs and there's this little thing called forwarding.  Recently, I received an email of one of my own blog post--talk about surreal--that has apparently been going around.  How do you measure that?

    Black by popular demand!

    by fabooj on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 03:59:07 PM PST

  •  I've come across some good info on this... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Basically it appears to be something that mostly hurts right wingers and they've been trying to elicit some sort of bipartisan support for getting this pitched.

    This link from Democracy 21 is worth reading:

    Pre-order unConventional, the official photo documentary of YearlyKos 2006!

    by Raven Brooks on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 04:12:25 PM PST

    •  This is excellent - thank you! (0+ / 0-)

      Particularly seeing LWV endorsing that document, it has a lot of credibility.  So it sounds like this whole hubbub is really just astroturfers trying to claim they're average citizens speaking in the public square.  That's heartening news.

  •  Definitions, from the Bill (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    (a) Definitions- Section 3 of the Act (2 U.S.C. 1602) is amended--

    (1) in paragraph (7), by adding at the end of the following: `Lobbying activities include paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying, but do not include grassroots lobbying.'; and

    (2) by adding at the end of the following:

    `(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.

    Democratic Candidate for US Senator, Wisconsin, in 2012

    by ben masel on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 04:16:12 PM PST

  •  KA ching and a rec (0+ / 0-)

    What about magazine writers?
    I see the word "influence". Which speaks to intent, does that seem to be loophole or a gaurate (sp)? If my intent is journalism, not influence, I am in the clear, right? I guess I am grasping at straws?

    Are radio hosts trying to "influence"? Newpaper & Magazine writers?

    It seems to me that "influence" could be widely interpreted, to mean just about anything.

    Eff that, its free speech, just like Tom Paine & the pamphleters, now its blogging.

    FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

    by Roger Fox on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 04:41:16 PM PST

  •  It didn't pass! (0+ / 0-)

    It didn't pass!  Hooray!

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