Update: The bill doesn’t necessarily target bloggers who are being paid– as much as it does those, like Kos, who can raise more than 25K a quarter. So let’s think about this a little bit: If someone like Kos can instantly raise a candidate thousands of dollars, I would think that one could argue that he is lobbying for that candidate. The initial reporting on this story was sloppy, due, in part to the analysis offered by Chad Rogers, who wrote about the legislation (and Vitter’s involvement) earlier today on The Dead Pelican. It turns out that Rogers’s fears about the scope of this legislation are probably unfounded. The guys over at Wonkette are freaking out about this story, comparing the legislation to Nazi-like suppression of free speech. C’mon. This seems to be primarily aimed at people who can raise thousands and thousands of dollars for a candidate– and holding those people to the same standards we hold other lobbyists.

According to GrassrootsFreedom.com, Congress is considering legislation that would require bloggers with readerships of over 500 people to register as lobbyists– or potentially face criminal charges.

Our very own Senator David Vitter introduced an amendment to the legislation in order to “to create criminal penalties, including up to one year in jail, if someone ‘knowingly and willingly fails to file or report.'” However, according to Information Weekly, Vitter’s now retracted his position and done a complete reversal. And now he’s saying that he’s been misunderstood– that the amendment was supposed to single out “public officials.” You can read the amendment and judge for yourself right here.

Information Weekly explains the legislation:

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,” according to a statement from GrassRootsFreedom.com.

So, here’s the question: Does this only hold the blog owner’s accountable? Or does it include all bloggers who “communicate to 500 or more members of the public”?

Or is everyone misreading everything?

Others contend that the bill specifically targets people who have been paid to blog for a particular cause or candidate and that there’s no reason for the “average blogger” to be alarmed by this legislation.

6 thoughts

  1. According to the Washington Post, the Senate killed that provision of the bill last night (1/18/07). Excerpt from story titled, Senate Passes Ethics Package by Jonathan Weismann. “One provision that was stricken from the bill last night would have forced interest groups to disclose funds spend on grass roots campaigns that implore the public to contact their representatives about legislation.”

    I for one, am releived that cooler heads prevailed during last night’s vote. I do not believe grass roots activities should be the target of ethics reform. In my opinion, this provision would have violated freedom of speech. Constituents must continue to have the right to access information and to contact members of congress after reading such information if they so choose. Remember, no one is forcing anyone to make a contact. Blogs and grassroots advocacy websites ASK people who agree with a position on a certain issue to contact members of congress.

    The provisions that remain in the Senate version of the bill ban gifts, meals and travel funded by lobbyists and would force lawmakers to to attach their names to special interest provisions and pet projects they put into bills. In my opinion, these provisions are an appropriate way to bring about ethics reform.

  2. “there’s no reason for the “average blogger” to be alarmed by this legislation.”

    Just like there was no reason for the Gypsies to be alarmed when the Nazi’s began picking up Jews.

    The first Amendment doesn’t make the distinction and we should decry anything that isn’t strictly constructed in the Constitution.

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