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Florida Congressman Wants Blogging Critic Fined, Jailed 549

Posted by timothy
from the gov't-we-deserve-is-a-canard dept.
vvaduva writes "Florida Rep. Alan Grayson wants to see one of his critics go directly to jail, all over her use of the word 'my' on her blog. In a four-page letter sent to [US Attorney General Eric] Holder, Grayson accuses blogger Angie Langley of lying to federal elections officials and requests that she be fined and imprisoned for five years. Her lie, according to Grayson, is that she claims to be one of his constituents. Langley, Grayson says, is misrepresenting herself by using the term 'my' in the Web site's name."
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Florida Congressman Wants Blogging Critic Fined, Jailed

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @02:28PM (#30526326) Journal
    I am not a lawyer. From the letter [foxnews.com] the complaint seems to be divided into two parts (note that "the Committee" refers directly to MyCongressmanIsNuts.com):

    As explained below, Ms. Langley and the Committee falsely represented to the Federal Election Commission that the Committee "supports or opposes more than one candidate." In fact, however, the committee name corresponds to a website that attacks me and only me, while soliciting contributions to be used against only me. Moreover, Ms. Langley has falsely depicted herself as a constituent, in order to further this scheme.

    Although you may claim it's just another stupid technicality that Florida Rep. Alan Grayson clings to in order to shut down a website that is probably too painfully close to the truth for his comfort, there is another complaint other than the use of the word 'my.' Now, if you visit the about us page [mycongressmanisnuts.com] on the committee in question's site you can find:

    Central Floridians formed My Congressman Is Nuts PAC as a response to the outrage and embarrassment within Central Florida over Alan Grayson's liberal positions and childish approach in Washington, D.C. We could no longer sit by and accept his inappropriate behavior and leftist big government agenda. He does not represent the values of Central Florida.

    Emphasis mine. Now a key part to the argument is that since it is a PAC with pac registration [fec.gov], it receives taxation status benefits from the government making it subject to the law of United States Code Title 18 Section 1001 [cornell.edu].

    I mean, he might have a case here if that US code applies to PACs. I'm not sure. Were I in his shoes, I would have instead taken the angle of attack related to the title line of the site which is "Alan Grayson is Nuts" and proven that I am not legally insane. Actually, I wouldn't have done anything. As Barbara Streisand might have pointed out that before this news I had never heard of nor visited My Congressman Is Nuts but now I have scanned the entire site out of curiosity.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by chris mazuc (8017)

      You can read the Statement of Organization on the FEC's website [nictusa.com]. Note that Grayson has accused Mycongressmanisnuts.com of checking box f instead of box c, thus misrepresenting the function of their PAC and violating the law [cornell.edu]. Additionally Grayson has alleged the PAC is in fact a connected committee due to her status as the former head of the Lake County Republican Party. They will haul you away if you file your taxes improperly, and this isn't any different. The FEC even gives you a guide [fec.gov] to filling out the

    • Shouldn't the title of this article be "Florida woman attempts to fraudulently raise campaign funding"?
  • So... two people acting like children, one takes it way too far?

    Color me surprised. Not that it doesn't belong here, but this is less tech story and more a human story.

    • Re:Cliffs Notes (Score:4, Informative)

      by smitty777 (1612557) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @02:39PM (#30526536) Journal

      Not that it doesn't belong here, but this is less tech story and more a human story.

      I agree with you. But one interesting (somewhat) relevant aspect of this article is the fact that it was online. Does it make a difference that it was a blog? Would he have any different legal footing if she had said this on television or on the radio? The web version certainly does leave a quite tangible trace of the "crime". Finally, if anything becomes of this, will it set a precedent? These are certainly interesting topics to explore.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by snowgirl (978879) *

        Not that it doesn't belong here, but this is less tech story and more a human story.

        I agree with you. But one interesting (somewhat) relevant aspect of this article is the fact that it was online. Does it make a difference that it was a blog? Would he have any different legal footing if she had said this on television or on the radio? The web version certainly does leave a quite tangible trace of the "crime". Finally, if anything becomes of this, will it set a precedent? These are certainly interesting topics to explore.

        Actually, the "crime" here is that she organized a PAC with legal status with the FEC in order to solicit funds to defeat Grayson in the next election. Only, PACs must endorse more than one candidate or be against more than one candidate.

        The reason the word "my" comes into play here is that she is not one of his constituents although she is soliciting money and funds from people under the misrepresentation that she is.

        This isn't about whether Grayson is trying to censor opposing viewpoints, this is about i

  • by mariox19 (632969) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @02:31PM (#30526380)

    According to the article, the blogger criticized the congressman for his "childish approach" towards governing.

    Well, he sure showed her!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by klaun (236494)

      According to the article, the blogger criticized the congressman for his "childish approach" towards governing.

      Of course that's the rub. The article and the Slashdot summary misrepresent the complaint that is in the letter. It is actually about the Political Committee the woman organized to raise funds to support election campaigns. And while she is referred to here as a blogger, she was a former employee of the Republican National Committee. One of the things Congressman Grayson points out in his lett

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @02:32PM (#30526388)

    Where political speech can land you in jail.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I've always been bothered by the idea that voters who elect representative officials are limited to talking to just those officials on matters that have national scale and scope... in other words, just about everything the federal government does.

    I mean, why shouldn't I as a citizen of the state of Abstraction be able to ask the Senator from the state of Facts to vote for a proposal that is in the best interests of the American people?
    g=

  • by wiredog (43288) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @02:32PM (#30526406) Journal

    Is lying, in a political context, a crime? If the Vice President lies about wmd in Iraq, is that a crime? If Monsanto lies about their political contributions, is that a crime? If a blogger lies about her relationship with a Congressman, is that crime?

    • by Trepidity (597) <<gro.hsikcah> <ta> <todhsals-muiriled>> on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @02:46PM (#30526652)

      Lying in a political context is hard to prosecute, unless it rises to the level of libel, which has a pretty high bar for public officials, and an even higher bar for political speech about public officials.

      Lying on forms filed with the government is illegal, though, under a blanket "don't lie to the government" law. The jail part of the complaint seems to be for allegedly misrepresenting the PAC on the filing documents with the FEC: the filed documents claim the PAC isn't aimed at any particular opponent, but the website clearly is aimed at one opponent.

    • by CrazedWalrus (901897) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @02:53PM (#30526772) Journal

      Besides, the domain name makes sense from a different context: the viewer's. When a viewer in his district goes there, it would be ostensibly be *their* congressman. It's like "MyFreeCreditReport.com" or "MyCorporation.com" or whatever. They're not claiming ownership -- they're offering service for the viewer, with a name relative to the viewer.

      Should we sue Intuit because they're claiming ownership of corporations created at mycorporation.com?

    • by Tangential (266113) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @03:09PM (#30527032) Homepage
      If we are going to treat lying as a crime (and IMHO breaking campaign promises is clearly lying) then there are going to be a whole lot of people going to jail. I foresee lots of openings in Washington. I won't name any names, but there would be 435 vacancies in the House of Representatives, 100 in the Senate and 2 in the Executive Branch.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tibman (623933)

      That depends on what your definition of "is" is

  • by NaCh0 (6124) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @02:36PM (#30526472)

    He can also be a jackass. Jail for a website?

    If only congress had people like him who were standing up on the right side of the issues. This and other comments (health care == Holocaust??) show he's a nut.

    *sarcasm* Thanks Florida.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fiannaFailMan (702447)

      health care == Holocaust??

      No, but denying health care to people resulting in the deaths of thousands sounds pretty close to me.

      You know what's gonna happen? This profit-over-human-life doctrine is eventually going to be abolished, and it will be remembered in the future the way slavery is remembered now. A small number of special interests and their hillbilly followers thought it was a great idea at the time, but eventually peoples' values changed and the full extent of the suffering and loss of life became clear.

      BTW, his use of th

      • by NaCh0 (6124) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @03:20PM (#30527202)

        BTW, his use of the word 'holocaust' was entirely appropriate. 'Holocaust' is not a word that has been reserved exclusively for the Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis. If people are dying in their hundreds every day at the hands of profit making health insurance extortionists, then to call it a holocaust is putting it fucking mildly.

        Yeah...paying for services and free emergency room service for everyone who can't is a true holocaust. Way to put it "fucking mildly."

        Getting sick and dying is natural.

        Gassing 6 million scapegoats is not.

        Get some perspective.

  • I'm sorry, I must be dumb. Someone please explain to me, exactly WHAT law is she breaking? I read the complaint.
    • by Shivetya (243324) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @02:51PM (#30526748) Homepage Journal

      I am pretty sure the FCC is headed that way. Congress would just as likely modify their Congressional Incumbents Protection Act (McCain/Feingold) to keep any criticism of a sitting Congressman. Why not, its not like they care what you think until its time to vote.

      It all comes down to arrogance not seen since the late 1700s in France. The "ruling" class while "elected" has no problem in engineering a system by which they cannot be criticized (see McCain/Feingold) but will change laws to prevent people from voting against them (redistricting - Voter Rights Act - not prosecuting thugs at election sites - philly).

      Grayson is an embarrassment to his district, but like voters in Louisiana proved, money in the freezer does not mean your guilty, just stupid. Remember all Congressmen and bad except yours.

  • by Orange Crush (934731) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @02:39PM (#30526534)
    She can say (just about) whatever she wants as a private citizen--constituent or not, but if she's taking political contributions as a PAC, she needs to play by the already much-too-lose campaign finance laws.
  • MySpace? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by smitty777 (1612557)

    So if she can go to jail for using that particular name on a site, can I go to jail for having a MySpace page? What about MyYahoo? MyWay?

  • by Locke2005 (849178) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @03:09PM (#30527044)
    Langley criticizes Grayson on her Web site for his "inappropriate behavior" and "childish approach" toward governing, and claims he "does not represent the values of central Florida." Grayson has pretty much made her case for her with this inappropriate and childish attack on her web site. The term "Streisand Effect" also comes to mind. I hope mycongressmanisnuts.com carries advertising, 'cause this dick move is going to drive a metric shitload of traffic to the site!
  • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @03:15PM (#30527140)

    At first glance it appears that a Democratic congressman is suing a blogger for using "my" in the name of her website because she really isn't his constituent. Is this all there is to this story? Bear in mind, the only source I've found is Fox News which isn't exactly balanced reporting (if any of them are). From the story: "In a four-page letter sent to Holder, Grayson accuses Langley of lying to federal elections and requests that she be fined and imprisoned for five years." So what I can tell Langley had been questioned by some sort of official. Grayson says she lied. So her crime might be she lied to some officials about where she lived which isn't a high crime but is a crime.

    Here's what I think went down: Grayson gets attacked on her site. He investigates the site to know whether it is by a PAC or an independent blogger. If it's a PAC there are various disclosures that must be done. Officials question Langley. Grayson thinks she lied about her constituency at least (and maybe other things like her independence). So he asks for legal action. Fox is spinning it to be more sensational than it is for ratings.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Dunbal (464142)

      which isn't exactly balanced reporting (if any of them are)

            Nah. IMO, "balanced reporting" died when Walter Cronkite retired.

  • by starglider29a (719559) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @03:47PM (#30527738)
    Add a slash to the URL, so that it's MyCongressmanIsNuts.com/Grayson. Repeat 434 times, once for each congressman.

    Fixed that for ya.
  • Oops (Score:3, Funny)

    by Trailer Trash (60756) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @04:18PM (#30528284) Homepage

    Someone forgot to mention Grayson's party affiliation. "Democrat" for those still wondering. "Republican" would have been part of the headline had it been so.

  • Faux News (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lulu of the Lotus-Ea (3441) <mertz@gnosis.cx> on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @06:31PM (#30530154) Homepage

    Notice that the story, complete with the completely false, yellow journalism, headline, is only being run by Fox News. I saw the story on Google News earlier, and wanted to read the actual facts. However, so far no reputable news organization has bothered to report it. Something to keep in mind.

    What seems to be the actual story is that the Congressman sent a rather routine notice to the FEC about a likely violation of PAC status and election law. All the "trying to send to prison" bit is just a deceptive way of saying that, well yes, laws do have legal force (including ultimately penalties).

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