Is This Right?

I am really reluctant to post stuff like this without some independent vetting, because so many groups out there will distort reality into pretzels.  That being said, anyone know if this is accurate?  Or maybe point us all to a better source and/or debunking in the comments?

    "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.

    "The bill would require reporting of 'paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying,' but defines 'paid' merely as communications to 500 or more members of the public, with no other qualifiers.

    "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.'

Mark Tapscott covered this issue here, but I am still not sure I have an accurate read on all this.

Update:  See comments.  As I feared, the above may distort the issue.  Brandon Berg thinks the law kicks in when you communicate to 500 or more members of the public on policy matters and get them to contact Congress.  It is not at all clear why I should have to register to perform such an activity, but this is narrower than implied in the press release above.

Update #2:  I am becomming increasingly convinced that Lieberman and McCain are the same guy.  Even down to their desire to protect incumbent politicians from political speech.

Update #3:  Jacob Sullum is also skeptical that the law is really as broad as advertised above.

  • http://catallarchy.net/blog/ Brandon Berg

    Go here to see the text of the legislation. Here's the money quote (pun premeditated):

    "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."

    So as far as I can tell, this means that you're only covered if a client pays you to urge 500 or more people to try to contact government officials. Furthermore, it seems (at a cursory glance) that this only applies to grassroots lobbying firms, which is defined as an entity which is paid or has expenses of at least $25,000 in any given quarter to stimulate grassroots lobbying.

  • http://politics.lel-hosting.com/ Matt

    It's almost a shame they won't be throwing thousands-to-millions of bloggers in prison over this. We need an atrocity of that magnitude to get the 1st Amendment back.

  • http://www.catbirdseat.typepad.com Ray G

    Hmmm, . . . might this be an offshoot of that guy from Ohio trying to bring back the "Fairness" rules, whatever they were called? (I'm busy multi-tasking, sorry for my abbreviated prose.)

  • http://CaseySoftware.com/blog Keith Casey

    "this only applies to grassroots lobbying firms, which is defined as an entity which is paid or has expenses of at least $25,000 in any given quarter to stimulate grassroots lobbying"

    This one is going to be brain-dead simple to get around. For example, if you had some sort of holding company (slush fund) that was simply paying independent contractors (1099's) to blog on the behalf of candidates, etc. Since the contractors are accepting less than $25k/quarter, no disclosure would be required. Since the slush fund isn't blogging, no disclosure would be required.

    It will be the Deaniacs all over again.