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Censorship Government Politics

Political Bloggers May Be Forced to Register 658

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the papers-please dept.
Thebes writes "Under Senate Bill S.1, political bloggers with a readership of over 500 who comment on policy matters or hope to incite 'grassroots' action amongst their readers would be forced to register with the Federal Government as lobbyists."
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Political Bloggers May Be Forced to Register

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  • by udderly (890305) * on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @04:45PM (#17653260)

    Huh. I thought it was only the Republicans who were after our 1st Amendment rights. But here are the Democrats [loc.gov] assaulting our freedoms again [slashdot.org] by trying to control who says what [cbn.com].

    <sarcasm>Oh, never mind, they just want to make sure we have "our papers in order" before we can criticize them.</sarcasm> And we thought that they would be for our rights. But it looks like they are just interested in using the power to stay in power.

    It's time to lose the naivte and realize that politicians (whether Republicans or Democrats) are only interested in one thing--getting re-elected.


    • Well basically the problem with any ethics or campaign finance reform is that there is no "clean" way to control the influence of the American Enterprise Institute and other various well-financed corporate think tanks without also regulating mymothersbasement.blogspot.com. Otherwise it wouldn't be "fair" and has no hope of passing.
      • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:18PM (#17654058)
        Well basically the problem with any ethics or campaign finance reform is that there is no "clean" way to control the influence of the American Enterprise Institute and other various well-financed corporate think tanks without also regulating mymothersbasement.blogspot.com. Otherwise it wouldn't be "fair" and has no hope of passing.

        We really went wrong when we (or the SCOTUS, really) decided that corporations had "rights" just as if they were real people. Really big, rich, immortal people. Most of our campaign finance problems could be curbed if we overturned that finding. Make the government accountable to natural persons only. Sure, the rich would still have an advantage over the poor, but at least we'd control the inhuman sociopaths that we call corporations.

    • by heroofhyr (777687) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @04:54PM (#17653476)
      The key here is "Paid attempts." Bloggers who don't receive an income in exchange for their work aren't affected. By the way, take a look at the person TFA cites as the source. It's bullshit FUD from Richard A. Viguerie [wikipedia.org], whose bread and butter is fundraising conservative causes and blogging about right-wing lobbying interests. The only people who will be affected by this legislation are BS-peddlers like him and all the fake think tanks and policy-pushing "advocacy groups" he raises money for.
      • by Chibi Merrow (226057) <mrmerrow@@@monkeyinfinity...net> on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:05PM (#17653746) Homepage Journal
        Bloggers who don't receive an income in exchange for their work aren't affected.

        So if I use ads and merchandise to support my site and try to make something of a living off of my writing I have to register as a lobbyist? Then why shouldn't news anchors/columnists have to do the same? One of the things that (supposedly) led to the American Revolution was the stamp tax. Any attempt to restrict the free press is bad, no matter the consequences. And nothing is more "free press" than a private citizen deciding to write down their thoughts and distribute them to people, for profit or otherwise.
        • by Speed Pour (1051122) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:29PM (#17654298)
          This makes sense...Of course the government wants to register bloggers as lobbyists. It's the same as re-branding people against the invasion of Iraq as unpatriotic. The word 'lobbyist' is seen so negatively that it instantly detracts from any respect a blogger has.

          Just imagine that first article written in the New York Times that mentions a blogger with a small letter note beside the name saying Registered Lobbyist #958970. Good-bye reputation...

          Or the first unregistered blogger who says something the government really doesn't like...fines, jail time, mandatory censorship? After all, they broke laws that lobbyists must conform to. This is a simple and systematic way to quiet down the people that aren't under control.
        • by bockelboy (824282) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:41PM (#17654612)
          So if I use ads and merchandise to support my site and try to make something of a living off of my writing I have to register as a lobbyist?

          No, if you get paid by a political campaign to influence a large number of people, you have to register as a lobbyist. However, the people writing the article see this as a bad thing. To me, it smells like they don't want *their* employeers revealed.

          Grassroots organizations that are paid for by the GOP / Dems just look pathetic. On the other hand, a witty anonymous blogger paid for by the GOP / Dems can present themselves as credible and balanced; in the scheme of campaigns, this is not legal.

          And yes, courts have held up campaign laws as reasonable limits on free speech over and over again. Are you really saying "being paid to write and distributing a pamphlet" is so fundamentally different from "being paid to write and distribute a pamp^H^H^H^H BLOG! ON THE INTERNET!" that it should abide by a second set of laws?

          To put things in perspective, Slashdoters often complain there's fundamentally no difference in "doing X" and "doing X ON THE INTERNET!" so they shouldn't be patentable. Why did we suddenly decide "being a lobbyist" and "being a lobbyist ON THE INTERNET!" are so fundamentally different?
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by rolfwind (528248)
            However, I and probably many other never agreed that putting these limits on the freedom of speech was correct - whether or not courts uphold, and whether or not it is done in the realworld or the internet.

            I certainly don't agree with it - just like I don't agree that protesters have to register at City Hall or whereever in many places beforehand, or the infamous "Free Speech" zones. I don't like lobbyists, but I don't think registration is necessary unless they donate to politicians. Let the media/intern
          • by RareButSeriousSideEf (968810) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @07:18PM (#17656188) Homepage Journal

            ...Are you really saying "being paid to write and distributing a pamphlet" is so fundamentally different from "being paid to write and distribute a pamp^H^H^H^H BLOG! ON THE INTERNET!" that it should abide by a second set of laws?
             
            To put things in perspective, Slashdoters often complain there's fundamentally no difference in "doing X" and "doing X ON THE INTERNET!" so they shouldn't be patentable. Why did we suddenly decide "being a lobbyist" and "being a lobbyist ON THE INTERNET!" are so fundamentally different?
            From a readership perspective, I don't see the difference between pontificating on the internets and doing so elsewhere, nor between doing so for free and doing so for profit. If we accept this regulation, how do we measure whether an employer is of the sort that requires registration of its journalist employees? Are only the DNC & RNC covered? What about the NRA or PETA? CBS news? Fox news? How about The Heritage Foundation, or MoveOn.org? What about the Church of Scientology, or Richard Stallman...? Where does one draw the line between regulated and unregulated sponsors of published opinions?

            Political speech is exactly the kind of speech the First Amendment is meant to protect. If a regulation usurps the freedom to publish political speech anonymously or pseudonymously, then that's not reform, it's a cancer.

            I guess onion routers aren't just for Chinese dissidents anymore...

            (By the way, I don't think bloggers and pundits should really be called "lobbyists." Lobbyists are generally folks who cajole the elected officials themselves into doing things.)
        • by TheGreek (2403) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:42PM (#17654634)
          So if I use ads and merchandise to support my site and try to make something of a living off of my writing I have to register as a lobbyist?
          No. Here's why:

          `(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.
          You will have to register as a lobbyist if somebody cuts you a check to post, on your blog, a call to the public to write government officials requesting specific official action.

          For example, if ExxonMobil pays me $1000 to write a blog post that urges my (over 500) readers to write their Congressional delegation to vote in favor of a bill that opens up ANWR, I would have to register as a lobbyist.

          This bill is intended to call fake grassroots astroturfing what it is--lobbying.
        • by flaming error (1041742) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:45PM (#17654710) Journal
          In reading clause 220 [loc.gov], I don't see what the fuss is about. As far as I can tell, this really is about regulating those who are paid specifically to generate "grassroots" action. From the text of the bill:
          (18) PAID EFFORTS TO STIMULATE GRASSROOTS LOBBYING-
          `(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),....
          `(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.
          ...
          `(19) GRASSROOTS LOBBYING FIRM- The term `grassroots lobbying firm' means a person or entity that-- `(A) is retained by 1 or more clients to engage in paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying on behalf of such clients; and `(B) receives income of, or spends or agrees to spend, an aggregate of $25,000 or more for such efforts in any quarterly period.'.
      • by Dan Slotman (974474) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:16PM (#17654000)
        Unopposed distribution of political speech, including the distribution of political pamphlets, has always been legal. At the very least, this law will cause a "chilling effect" on political bloggers, paid or otherwise. At its worst, it could rob our generation of our Johnathan Swifts, our Thomas Paines, and our James Madisons, all of whom published political pamphlets anonymously or under a pseudonym. Certainly this law would not prevent anonymous contributions to political thought, but my point is that political speech should not be infringed, regardless of its motivation. Stopping FUD is not worth sacrificing unopposed free speech.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Walt Dismal (534799)
        Speaking of paid attempts, this could make Microsoft astroturfing more visible. Which is a good thing. I wonder how many fake blogs they have sponsored to achieve their (non) regulatory needs?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by blowdart (31458)
          If that were the case then slashdot would loose half its stories from certain editors who are content to accept slashvertisements. Oh the horror!
    • It's time to lose the naivte and realize that politicians (whether Republicans or Democrats) are only interested in one thing--getting re-elected.

      Quoted for truth. One of the purposes of SB 1 is to help the Democrats consolidate power. There aren't any restrictions on groups like MoveOn.org or Unions. Yes, this will impact both liberals and conservatives, but the Democrats are banking on the fact that it will affect conservatives disproportionately.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by shofutex (986330)
      Well, according to the text of the actual bill this only applies to bloggers who are paid by lobbying firms. So, no. In this particular case, you need your papers in order if someone pays you to criticize them.
    • >Huh. I thought it was only the Republicans who were
      > after our 1st Amendment rights. But here are the
      > Democrats assaulting our freedoms again by trying
      > to control who says what.

          Like virtually all liberal talking points, that is ridiculous. But I think you can count on a veto, assuming it passes in the next 2 years.

              Brett
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nomadic (141991)
      But here are the Democrats [loc.gov]

      ...he says, as he lists both Democrats AND Republicans.

      It's time to lose the naivte and realize that politicians (whether Republicans or Democrats) are only interested in one thing--getting re-elected.

      Generalizations are rarely a good approach to take. There are a lot of shady, unscrupulous politicians. There are also good ones who try and do the best they can in what are usually difficult jobs.

      By dismissing every elected official in the country you basical
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Doc Ruby (173196)
      No, this is a bipartisan attempt at totalitarianism.

      You linked to "the Democrats", but that list (which doesn't indicate the party of its cosponsor senators) is of both parties (I added their parties):

      Republican Sen Bennett, Robert F. [UT] - 1/4/2007
      Democrat Sen Brown, Sherrod [OH] - 1/8/2007
      Democrat Sen Cantwell, Maria [WA] - 1/4/2007
      Republican Sen Collins, Susan M. [ME] - 1/4/2007
      Democrat Sen Durbin, Richard [IL] - 1/4/2007
      Democrat Sen Feinstein, Dianne [CA] - 1/4/2007
      Democrat Sen Lautenberg, Frank R. [N

    • Quote from the parent post: "But here are the Democrats assaulting our freedoms again..."

      Quote from the article: "That amendment was introduced by Senator David Vitter (R-LA)." The person who introduced the bill is a Republican.

      I notice that those who call themselves Republican are often dishonest and more interested in expressing their own anger than in managing government. See my summary of Republican corruption [futurepower.org]. I encourage you to write your own summary and send it to members of Congress.
  • well, yeah (Score:4, Funny)

    by bunions (970377) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @04:46PM (#17653264)
    how else would Congress know where to send the checks?
  • by AusIV (950840) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @04:47PM (#17653304)
    Even if this passes, I can't imagine a judge would uphold it in court.
    • Even if this passes, I can't imagine a judge would uphold it in court.

      I can imagine PLENTY of judges that would uphold this in court. Judges are statists too. Even if they wouldn't, why should you go through the financial & emotional hardship of trying to fight for your freedom of speech?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Ucklak (755284)
        Good luck enforcing it.

        Web hosts aren't going to do it.
        ISP's aren't going to do it.

        If the heat gets turn up for the above to police it, this registration will die.
        • Good luck enforcing it.

          It will be enforced selectively, just like most "crimes" of conscience are.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lotus_anima (862243)
      I don't really want to leave my future up to your imagination.

      Anyway, this is the attitude that's letting these things pass...
  • BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

    *cough* *choke*

    If this isn't just an internet rumor, let it stand as further proof that no one in DC understands the "intertubes." As if we needed further proof. Gah.
  • This would be a good thing. Just think of how 99% of all blogs would then disappear, freeing up HUGE amounts of wasted bandwidth and reducing the Google Index by 1 good 2/3rds!
  • I mean, it's not like lobbyists don't exist elsewhere...tobacco? Oil? Gun ownership? Various unions? Alcohol?

    What about all the "bloggers" (holy vaginal discharge I hate that word) who would be considered a lobbyist under this new rule? Do they have to register as well?

  • /. editors bay be forced to work soon.
  • Our civil servants are committed to being our uncivil masters.

    The one upside to the US is that the process is documented and public *as* *it* *happens*.

    I would encourage all /. members who can to vote "NO" to *anything* regarding McCain, and hope that this poor little non-accomplisher can exit to the well-deserved status of non-entity.
  • Readership of 500? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Turken (139591) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @04:53PM (#17653470)
    So how exactly are you supposed to accurately count the readership of a blog? By the number of web hits? Comments? "Friends"? Death threats? What if the two people who do read your blog print off your rants and distribute them to thousands of people that you have no idea are reading your blog?

    Maybe it's just a common sense judgement because the 500 people figure falls in the valley between having a blog that anyone cares about, and having a blog that you really, really, wished anyone would care about.
    • 500 is about the ideal number they can bump the 'readership' up to by changing the homepage of everyone in the FBI to a given blog. Then you can get any extremist nutter on this law and if they claim "ha! I've only got about 50 readers" they can say "na-aah, everyone at the FBI who started their web browser read your blog this morning, now you've got 534 readers, minimum". 500 means that you don't get slammed for not chasing everyone but can easily catch people who you want to be able to catch. It's a giant
  • by redelm (54142) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @04:55PM (#17653484) Homepage
    Just what are the "Federalist Papers" but a pre-electronic version of what we currently call a 'blog? Anonymous free political speech has a long and revered tradition in the US. One which concerns about campaign finance "reform" cannot override.

  • Each of my blogs (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Russ Nelson (33911) <slashdot@russnelson.com> on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @04:55PM (#17653502) Homepage
    Each of my blogs has only 499 users.

    But if one of my blogs did indeed gain an extra reader, how would they ever know?
  • FUD (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bacon Bits (926911) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @04:57PM (#17653550)
    This has nothing to do with free journalism.
    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.
    Translation: If you want to be a lobbyist, you must follow the rules for being a lobbyist. If you're lobbying 500 or more people, you fit the description of a lobbyist no matter how you're do it. Internet grassroots lobby movements are not just as susceptible to oversight as the DC Congressional dinner party lobbyists.

    The bill just redefines what it means to be a lobbyist, and seeing as this comes from a grassroots lobbyist, I would argue that this exact article is exactly the type of lybbying the Senate wishes to be kept informed of.

    • Re:FUD (Score:5, Insightful)

      by amliebsch (724858) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:02PM (#17653682) Journal
      "Lobbyists" are the guys who attempt to persuade politicians directly. This is about persuading voters. Shouldn't there be a difference?
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      If you want to be a lobbyist, you must follow the rules for being a lobbyist. If you're lobbying 500 or more people, you fit the description of a lobbyist no matter how you're do it.

      A lobbyist is "a person who tries to influence legislation on behalf of a special interest; a member of a lobby." Guess what? Any person who tries to bring anyone around to their political viewpoint is a lobbyist. Does that mean that if I want to stand in front of Wal-Mart and suggest to people that Bush should be impeached,

      • This bill is about paid lobbyists. The only bloggers that will need to register are those that are being paid for their posts and have a readership of 500+. The article author didn't read the bill itself or at the very least misread it.
        • Re:FUD (Score:5, Informative)

          by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:37PM (#17654494) Homepage Journal

          This bill is about paid lobbyists. The only bloggers that will need to register are those that are being paid for their posts and have a readership of 500+. The article author didn't read the bill itself or at the very least misread it.

          Oh yeah? FTFA:

          "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."

          Here is Section 220 of 2007 S.1 [loc.gov]. It says it modifies 2 USC 1602 [cornell.edu]. Section 220 appends certain clauses to 2 USC 1602. You are somewhat correct in that appended to item 7 of that code is the line "Lobbying activities include paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying, but do not include grassroots lobbying." It also adds the following item: "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." This would SEEM to indicate that if you're not getting paid, you're not who they're talking about. But then you have to examine 18 (C) which is also appended to that section of the US Code, because it defines the meaning of registrant. I quote:

          `(C) REGISTRANT- For purposes of this paragraph, a person or entity is a member of a registrant if the person or entity--

          `(i) pays dues or makes a contribution of more than a nominal amount to the entity;
          `(ii) makes a contribution of more than a nominal amount of time to the entity;
          `(iii) is entitled to participate in the governance of the entity;
          `(iv) is 1 of a limited number of honorary or life members of the entity; or
          `(v) is an employee, officer, director or member of the entity.

          Thus if you speak on behalf of, say, a political party of which you are a member, you are a member of a registrant as well (because the party would be required to register.) Also if we look at both 2 USC 1602 and 2007 S.1 Section 220, which deal with definitions, neither one defines "paid"! Kind of a serious oversight there given that now we have to ask the supremes (eventually) whether ad revenues count or not. The closest it gets is the following text:

          `(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.

          This is where the number 500 comes from. Incidentally, this particular item (B) is a particularly bad loophole in this law! It says that as long as you are not trying to influence more than 499 people at once, it's not a paid attempt to influence the general public. This is not good, not good at all.

          Jump back to 2 USC 1602 for a moment with me and look at the government's definition of Lobbyist prior to any adoption of this bill.

          The term "lobbyist" means any individual who is employed or retained by a client for financial or other compensation for services that include more than one lobbying contact, other than an individual whose lobbying activities constitute less than 20 percent of the time engaged in the services provided by such individual to that client over a six month period.

          So currently if you receive any compensation for lobbying more than one person you are a lobbyist, unless your lobbying is less than 20% of the time spent working for the individual who hired you to lobby for them. That means they could pay you minimum wage for 101 hours; for 81 of those hours you sit on your ass and read the funny papers, the other 20 hours you

    • by ray-auch (454705)
      "lybbying" - isn't that spelled "libbying", as in scooter ?
  • but before i begin, i'd like to ask the 501st of you who are reading this comment to stop right now. thanks

    i think that the us government...

    wait, what?! why are you still reading!?

    OH NOES I'M DOOMED
  • Dear Senators: (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hsmith (818216) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @04:58PM (#17653594)
    Go fuck yourselves. Hard.
  • by Assmasher (456699) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @04:59PM (#17653620) Journal
    ...or news commentators have to do this? This is, pardon the crassness, total and unmitigated bullshit.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by thirty-seven (568076)
      I think a newspaper columnist would need to register as a lobbyist, if they were being paid by some group to write a column telling their readers to contact their congressmen about some political issue. As I understand it, that would be the circumstance under which a blogger would need to be a registered lobbyist. A blogger just talking about political issues, with greater than 500 readers, would not need to register.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by QuantumFTL (197300)
      This is, pardon the crassness, total and unmitigated bullshit.
      Apologies for crassness from someone named "Assmasher"? Only on slashdot...
  • by Sciros (986030) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:00PM (#17653652) Journal
    500 is such a low number that it's clear all the government wants to do is keep tabs on bloggers. Lobbyists are required to file reports of their activities quarterly. Other laws regarding lobbying are mostly to do with spending money on a politician (not really relevant here, since bloggers *aren't actually lobbyists* and so they probably don't do that anyway). Also, politicians are banned from becoming lobbyists for 2 years. That means that politicians wouldn't be able to keep political blogs (since I assume their readership would be > 500) for two years after leaving office. How is that a good thing? While lobbying reform from earlier in 2006 was mostly a good thing, it also emphasized that being a lobbyist was worse than not being one from a number of perspectives. What the proposition aims to do is effectively restrict the freedom of political bloggers. Some might indeed be in need of some restricting, especially if their viewpoints clash with mine :cough: but really it's just too sweeping of a suggestion.
  • by zappepcs (820751) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:02PM (#17653684) Journal
    The good folks at M-W.com http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/lobbyist [m-w.com] have this to say about lobbyists:

    intransitive verb : to conduct activities aimed at influencing public officials and especially members of a legislative body on legislation
    transitive verb
    1 : to promote (as a project) or secure the passage of (as legislation) by influencing public officials
    2 : to attempt to influence or sway (as a public official) toward a desired action

    Shouldn't this then mean that when a blogger has 500 or more public officials as readers?

    If a blogger is being paid by a lobby group, it simply makes them a shill, and has no more influence on lawmakers than actual public opinion might. This is, after all, how public opinion is formed, by listening to our peers, the news, and other sources and making up our own minds.

    Should political magazines be required to register as lobbyists? Would a preacher/priest/etc. be required to register as a lobbyist if he mentions politics from the pulpit and the church has more than 500 members? This would cause tons of problems for certain demographic groups in the US.
  • by trianglman (1024223) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:03PM (#17653700) Journal
    For those who would like the full text of this bill see here [loc.gov]. The article is just a bunch of FUD. The actual text that has the author so concerned, about a readership of greater than 500 counting as paid, is actually being misread. The actual text is "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." (from here [loc.gov]). This means that you can be paid for grass roots lobbying and not have to register if you have less than 500 readers, which actually protects your rights.
    • by gillbates (106458) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:21PM (#17654130) Homepage Journal

      So, my grassroots lobbying is ok as long as nobody is paying attention? And if I do post something which gathers a political following, suddenly I've got papers to fill out?

      Why would anyone bother in the first place? The point of grassroots lobbying is to influence a large number of people. Paid lobbyists, OTOH, are paid instead to influence only a handful of very important people. IOW, this bill would effectively stifle citizens groups fighting for their rights in favor of corporate lobbyists.

      So, by all means pass this bill! Then act surprised when DRM becomes a mandatory component of computers. Act outraged when Corporate America(TM) patents everything short of tying your own shoes. Protest the tax breaks given to Big Oil. But don't dare blog about it unless you can be certain that nobody cares about your stupid opinion (they probably don't anyway, but one can hope).

      Nothing like stifling democracy by restricting fourth amendment freedoms.

      • by trianglman (1024223) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:33PM (#17654380) Journal
        no, your grassroots lobbying is ok as long as eithernoone is paying attention or you aren't getting paid for the blog posts. Thus Joe Shmo blogger who personally supports the EFF is free to post all he wants in support of the EFF as long as they don't pay him, or, if they do pay him, as long as he doesn't have more than 500 readers. This bill is made to ensure transparency in our government, so one can at least follow the money like in all other forms of lobbying.
  • by MarkusQ (450076) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:03PM (#17653704) Journal

    The article is rather misleading. The section in question [cbn.com] 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.

    (18) PAID EFFORTS TO STIMULATE GRASSROOTS LOBBYING-

    (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.

    ...so it explicitly does not apply to what we normally think of as bloggers.

    --MarkusQ

  • Questions for the federal government-


    What's the penalty for not registering? Fines?
    Are you actually going to go out into cyberspace and make sure people do it?
    How are you going to make sure we have 500 readers? Are the hosts going to be subpoenaed for page views?
    Is 500 readers mean per day? Per post? Per month?

  • It is my personal belief that your government has been subverted by traitors to the American way. One hopes they will step down as required by law in two years, but this regime's callous disregard in that matter is certainly cause for alarm.
  • by superwiz (655733) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:06PM (#17653768) Journal
    Suffice it to say that anyone who wants to post to slashdot would definately have to register. Aaah... sweet civil disobedience of posting as AC. Won't that just ruin the moderator system?
  • 500 what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by OglinTatas (710589) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:08PM (#17653814)
    500 hits per day? 500 unique readers in a ten year span? 500 "friends" linked on your myspace page? 500 links from incestuous follow-backs or google bombs?

    Free speech is one of the most important rights we have; why is the government so keen on regulating it? You can't regulate a right, it is a right. I can understand regulating the lobbyists for organizations, corporations, and interest groups--groups are not citizens. But individuals who ARE citizens have inalienable rights. A hearty "Fuck Off!" to those who seek to "regulate" individual rights.
  • 500 is way too low (Score:3, Interesting)

    by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:46PM (#17654732) Homepage
    The line between lobbying and blogging could get fuzzy, but "readership of 500" is not the line. Heck, my neighborhood association (of 1100 homes) invited our Congress member to come to our meeting, and issues like federal funding of transportation were raised. This meeting was announced on the association's website.

    Readership is not even the right axis of measurement. Controlling lobbying used to be about controlling money spent to make sure people couldn't just buy elections. Now that the Internet allows the dissemination of ideas for next to nothing, they're trying to control speech with "readership of 500". The cat's out of the bag with this bill's text -- "controlling lobbying" is all about those in power wishing to remain in power by controlling ideas, and not about keeping the fat cats at bay.

  • Better links please! (Score:5, Informative)

    by kinglink (195330) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:54PM (#17654898)
    Come on Slashdot, I'm getting sick of the way I'm being lead around by my nose. At the very least this is a knee jerk reactionary piece of drek, at best it's a forebearing to a law that isn't even out yet and has been misproven multiple times in this comment section already (read the law is the simple key).

    Next time you want to bitch about a law LINK THE LAW not what some idiots have on a website.

    Finally would someone explain why idiots who want to do grassroots style work doesn't want to be labeled as a lobbyst. HINT THEY ARNT JAILING THEM! THEY ARE TELLING THEM TO BE LISTED AS A LOBBYST IF THEY ARE PAID FOR THEIR BLOGGING WORK AND HAVE MORE THEN 500 READERS! IF THEY DONT AND KNOW THEY SHOULD BE LISTED THEN THEY ARE JAILED.

    Being a lobbyst doesn't mean you're guilty of a crime, except maybe lying to your public. At least it'll prove who is being paid and who is actually doing the work they actually support, which is perhaps the only reason this is being met by so much resistance because they are afraid they'll be found out to not be so alturistic as they claim to be.
  • Lets start off.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @07:02PM (#17655988)
    By saying:
    -----
    Amendment I

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
    -----

    Where in this statement does it say that political or corporate statements should be regulated by any law? Speech is done by people, even if paid by someone else. Why is there a standard of "who can say what" when it concerns corporate speech and political speech?

    Now, repercussions can result from said speech, and that is a separate issue (libel, slander, threatening...).
  • by akohler (997911) <kohler.a@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @07:47PM (#17656612) Homepage Journal

    After reading the entire legislation [loc.gov], including section 220, several things become apparent to me:

    1. This does not include people talking to each other, blogger, etc. about politics - "Lobbying activities include paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying, but do not include grassroots lobbying."
    2. This bill does not affect unpaid citizen journalists. - "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"
    3. This bill does not affect blogs that are directed towards members of an organization - except that such term does not include any communications by an entity directed to its members, employees, officers, or shareholders.

    It seems to me that in the spirit of lobbying transparency, this bill is a step in the right direction. However, due to the vagueness of Section 220, with respect to several terms, and the fact that there does not appear to be an explicit exclusion for paid bloggers who maintain "official" blogs that are open to public viewing for organizations, I would recommend that anyone who is concerned about the freedom to engage in grassroots lobbying, to oppose section 220 until it addresses these concerns.

    You can do this by contacting your senators and telling them to support the Bennett amendment to remove section 220 from S. 1..

    If I have misread anything, please correct me.

  • by Froomkin (18607) <froomkin@@@law...miami...edu> on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @08:35PM (#17657178) Homepage

    Democracy 21 has the correct facts. Bloggers are fine, unless they are paid astroturf shills:

    Q. Who is covered and who is exempted from the ''Astroturf'' disclosure provision?

    A. The ''Astroturf'' disclosure provisions would require professional ''Astroturf'' lobbying firms to register and report the amounts they receive to conduct ''Astroturf'' lobbying campaigns, and would also require lobbying organizations already registered under the law to report the aggregate amount they spend on ''Astroturf'' lobbying efforts, if the amount spent is significant -- more than $25,000 per quarter.

    The disclosure provision would not apply to any individual or organization that is not otherwise required to register and report as a lobbyist or lobbying organization, other than currently unregistered professional ''Astroturf'' lobbying firms.

    The provision also would not require registered lobbying organizations to report any of the money they spend to communicate with their own members urging them to lobby Congress (traditional grassroots lobbying campaigns).

    Instead, the disclosure provision would only apply to money spent by professional ''Astroturf'' lobbying firms and registered lobbying organizations on paid media and other public communication campaigns to urge the gene l public to lobby Congress on legislation. (professional ''Astroturf'' lobbying campaigns).
  • Bullshit (Score:4, Informative)

    by illuminatedwax (537131) <stdrange@@@alumni...uchicago...edu> on Thursday January 18, 2007 @02:25AM (#17659888) Journal
    This is bullshit. The press release is by Richard Viguerie, who is the head of American Target Advertising. This basically affects his business because his business is astroturfing. So he seems to have started his own little astroturfing campaign to stop this bill from being passed:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Viguerie [wikipedia.org]
    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=America n_Target_Advertising [sourcewatch.org]

    Read the bill. Pretty much everything in the press release is a lie. Shame on you, Slashdot.

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