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Senator Jim DeMint on Lobbying Reform

Update: The Bennett Amendment striking Section 220 from bill S.1 has passed, and the votes were virtually down party lines. Link via Instapundit.

I just finished a blogger conference call with Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) on the subject of earmark and lobbying reform. While I was waiting for the call to begin, I saw Jim's post below about Harry Reid's little gift to bloggers, Section 220 of lobbying and earmark reform bill S.1. Section 220 of that bill, which already passed the senate by the way, would force bloggers who communicate to more than 500 members to register as a lobbyist with the government or face a $100,000 fine and/or prison time.

Here is the language at issue:

SEC. 220. DISCLOSURE OF PAID EFFORTS TO STIMULATE GRASSROOTS LOBBYING.

(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.

`(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.

The issue is many blogs make some money via advertising, sometimes from grassroots organizations. Many blogs like Wizbang, also try to influence the general public, i.e. their readers on policy issues such as this one. The language of Section 220 is vague enough that blogs could fall under the purview of this law, making some bloggers required to register with the government as a lobbyist.

I asked Senator DeMint if it was true that Section 220 could force grassroots groups, including bloggers, to register with the US government as lobbyists. To me, this whole thing sounds so goofy that it had to have been misreported, but Senator DeMint said that from what he can tell, Section 220 could actually cause bloggers to be defined as a grassroots organization.

Tonight, the Senate votes on an amendment sponsored by Republican Bill Bennett to strip Section 220 from S.1. and The Hill is reporting that Senator John McCain, who previously supported Section 220, has publicly announced that he will vote to strip the offending section from the bill. Smart move, as Senator McCain, who is running for president, is not in good standing the conservative base of the Republican party because of his Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. The Hill piece also provides this quote, which is a good summary of the issue:

"Under Section 220, anyone who is paid anything by an organization that spends any money at all to encourage more than 500 members of the general public to communicate with members of Congress, if he or she also has contacted congressional offices directly as few as two times, and has spent as little as 20 percent of his or her time on such direct lobbying and grassroots-motivating activities, would be required to register with Congress as a 'lobbyist' and file detailed quarterly reports," wrote Johnson in a letter to Senate offices, adding, "If enacted, it will disrupt the constitutionally protected activities of thousands of issue-oriented citizen groups from coast to coast. ..."

Even the ACLU has teamed up with the Traditional Values Coalition to fight Reid's attempt to silence his critics.


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Comments (14)

Kim...you should really che... (Below threshold)
nogo postal:

Kim...you should really check out Wizbang before you post...if you had..you would have maybe noticed this topic is already being addressed...although I am impressed with your personal conversation with Demint....but of course...there can be a repeat of how unless a blog is paid $25,000 to support a certain subject or candidate it is exempt...
but as long as we are on repetitive subjects...
How much do you really trust the Iraqi army to cover the backs of our brave men and women as they do there Baghdad missions...if you trust them...you have no relative walking those streets...take care if you are driving in an icy area...

Nogo Postal:I know... (Below threshold)

Nogo Postal:

I know Jim addressed this topic earlier, which is why I linked to his post. I wanted weigh in on the subject but my comments were longer than I expected, so rather than adding to Jim's post, I did one myself.

Yeah, its not like the gove... (Below threshold)
jpm100:

Yeah, its not like the government, once a law is established, to tweak a number like the $25,000 down, down, down ...

One other item not mentione... (Below threshold)
Allen:

One other item not mentioned in this article is line item veto. For lobby reform, they need this? Also, think back when C42 was in office, line item veto was passed in B41, and when C42 tried to use it, the Supreme Court said no. It was unconstitutional. Now, with B43 I suppose the court will say it's ok.

What happens when a Demo becomes president? The court will not be able to overturn it, because if it does, then all of 43's veto's are also overturned. Looks like a big frigging mess coming up.

Something else to think about: the next president, doesn't matter what party, has a big mess on their hands. Then watch people from all sides start bitching about something.

jpm100, and we all know how... (Below threshold)
marc:

jpm100, and we all know how efficient and productive the Federal Election Commission is don't we?

Oh wait, guess they're not, and tend to run rampant over the smallest things.

nogo, take you own advice.<... (Below threshold)
SCSIwuzzy:

nogo, take you own advice.
Kim's second sentence was While I was waiting for the call to begin, I saw Jim's post "

Gee, this is the second tim... (Below threshold)
John S:

Gee, this is the second time in 24 hours that Reid has had his ass handed to him. Sort of like he doesn't have any control of the Senate. Pretty sad. 48 Dem votes (1/4 of which are running for president and watching out only for themselves), one Dem who won't be back no matter what Harry tells you, and two independents that sometimes act like Dems and sometimes not. Pelosi's 100 hours will stopped dead in the Senate.

One other item not menti... (Below threshold)
MikeSC:

One other item not mentioned in this article is line item veto. For lobby reform, they need this? Also, think back when C42 was in office, line item veto was passed in B41, and when C42 tried to use it, the Supreme Court said no. It was unconstitutional. Now, with B43 I suppose the court will say it's ok.

It's not a veto. It simply requires Congress to go ahead and approve THAT SPECIFIC EXPENDITURE by a simple majority. Which will do quite a lot to kill earmarks and pork. No wonder Klansman Byrd loathes it so.

Not a veto at all.
-=Mike

Guess that was just another... (Below threshold)
epador:

Guess that was just another no go...

Oh, wait a minute, I've bee... (Below threshold)
epador:

Oh, wait a minute, I've been reading it all wrong. Its:

NO! Go Postal! [will ya already?!?]

Bush could always go nukula... (Below threshold)
cubanbob:

Bush could always go nukular to use a Bush-ism.
He could simply order the agencies not to spend the money, in other words impound the funds. Congress striped Nixon of that power during Watergate. However no President has challenged Congress about this power grab. It would interesting how it would play out in the Supreme Court. Congress clearly has the authority to appropriate funds for a given expenditure, but is the Executive obligated to spend the funds?

Is it just me, or does n... (Below threshold)
Wanderlust:

Is it just me, or does nogo postal write like a person would talk, like, if they were thoroughly stoned? Duuuuude. (cue heavy, long toking sound)

I'm thinking it's really nice, mellow stuff, man.

Besides, nogowanker's tasteless comment about Kim "hav[ing] no relative walking those streets" in Iraq, when Kim recently lost her brother there (assuming nogowanker was lucid enough to understand the ramifications of his statement, when he made it) means, IMHO, he isn't worth the spunk that caused him to be conceived in the first place.

/spit

Cripes Wanderlust, if you'r... (Below threshold)
PorkSaladSandwich:

Cripes Wanderlust, if you're going to accuse someone of being stoned you should be a little more lucid yourself: Her husband's cousin was killed in Iraq.

SFC James Priestap, may you rest in peace.

Notice the rapid infectious... (Below threshold)
epador:

Notice the rapid infectious transmission of foot in mouth disease that can occur in a thread. Emily Litella would be impressed.

See what happens when you feed the trolls? You catch their disease.




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