Saturday, December 16, 2006

Pelosi aims to regulate advocacy spending

Last year, the republican-controlled house and senate never quite acheived results on ethics reform. Part of the problem was the democrat's unwillingness to go along, hoping instead to use the issue (successfully) in the fall election.

But another problem was finding that line between necessary reforms (which mostly needed to be targeted at the representatives) and unwanted interference in the rights of individuals trying to petition government for redress of grievances (part of first amendment that gets short shrift).

A great example is cited by Human Events magazine. It's part of Pelosi's failed legislation from last year, and is expected to be part of her proposal this year.

From the article Pelosi Targets Grassroots Freedom of Speech:

House Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) has pledged to take up a lobbying reform proposal that would impose new regulations on speech by grassroots organizations, while providing a loophole in the rules for large corporations and labor unions.

The legislation would make changes to the legal definition of “grassroots lobbying” and require any organization that encourages 500 or more members of the general public to contact their elected representatives to file a report with detailed information about their organization to the government on a quarterly basis.

The report would include identifying the organization’s expenditures, the issues focused on and the members of Congress and other federal officials who are the subject of the advocacy efforts. A separate report would be required for each policy issue the group is active on.

This could mean that, if a blog is run by an organization (Raising Kaine?), and they have more than 500 "readers" that aren't part of the "organization", and they write a post that says "Call Representative "X" about this issue", they would fall under federal reporting, supposedly aimed at stopping "corruption" in government.

But this has nothing to do with government corruption:

A coalition of grassroots organizers, including David Keene of the American Conservative Union, Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America and Terrence Scanlon of the Capitol Research Center, have written an open letter calling on Public Citizen to renounce its efforts, which they called “flawed to the point of hypocrisy.”

“This bill would apply to those who have no Washington-based lobbyists, who provide no money or gifts to members of Congress, and who merely seek to speak, associate and petition the government,” it said. “Regulating the speech, publishing, association and petitioning rights of citizens is not targeted at corruption in Washington, as Public Citizen and its supporters would believe. Instead, it is targeted directly at the 1st-Amendment rights of citizens and their voluntary associations.”

Also, the law as being proposed would specifically exempt most major organizations, who could communicate to their own members without falling under the law, which would apply ONLY to communications to people OUTSIDE the group's membership:

Under the bill, communications aimed at an organization’s members, employees, officers or shareholders would be exempt from the reporting requirement. That would effectively exempt most corporations, trade associations and unions from the reporting requirements—but not most conservative grassroots groups, which frequently are less formally organized.

Larger, well-funded organizations are also currently eligible for a “low-dollar lobbyist exemption” that Pelosi’s bill does not give to grassroots organizations. If an organization retains a lobbyist to contact lawmakers directly at a cost of $2,500 per quarter or less, or employs a full-time lobbyist at a cost of $10,000 per quarter or less, the organization does not have to report to the government.

This would be a major attack on the rights of people to band together to attempt to influence government policy:

“Right now, grassroots groups don’t have to report at all if they are communicating with the public,” said Dick Dingman of the Free Speech Coalition, Inc. “This is an effort that would become a major attack on the 1st Amendment.”

Who is behind this effort?:

Public Citizen, a liberal “government watchdog,” is taking credit for helping Pelosi craft the legislation and expects the final draft of the bill to closely resemble Pelosi’s Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2006, which contains these provisions.

Craig Holman, a lobbyist for Public Citizen, said the changes would help “streamline” how grassroots organizations are regulated by the IRS and other laws.

Public Citizen is not some small grassroots organization that would be effected by this legislation:

Public Citizen’s public IRS 990 disclosure forms show that it raised more than $3 million in 2005. That year, the group spent $297, 431 on mail and $178,182 on consulting and professional fees.

Ethics legislation should be aimed at keeping money from flowing to the coffers of election committees in exchange for votes. It should stop the pork-barrel spending representatives use to buy support from various organizations and individuals. It should improve public access to information about who is getting money from where.

But too often, "reform" is used instead to punish political adversaries. the 2002 Campaign Finance bill made it a crime for private citizens to spend their own money against a candidate by name near an election. This bill would put onerous reporting requirements on small associations who have an interest in legislation and simply try to get other citizens to let the politicians know how they feel.

I'm sure that members of congress don't like getting a lot of phone calls from citizens telling them how they should do their job. But how is that "corrupting"?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It seems the dhimi's have short memories. The recently elected Webb dissed the president and now he's dissed all of the Veteran in Hampton roads. Losers will never become winners.

Firefighter 16