There’s been some great progress in Congress on the issue of lobbying reform, and we’ve been letting our members know about some of the best legislation out there. Some of it really could help “clean up” the more egregious examples of problems in D.C.
However, there are some proposals that are being advanced that would establish, for the first time, federal regulation of *grassroots* activity that is intended to encourage members of the public to communicate with Members of Congress about pending legislative matters — so-called “grassroots lobbying.”
In other words… some members of Congress want to take advantage of the current demands for “lobbying reform” and implement provisions that would actually be a *restriction* on the type of grassroots activism that YOU are a part of through RightMarch.com!
We take no issue with proposals that may be legitimate responses to recent allegations of certain unethical actions by Members of Congress, congressional staff and lobbyists. But nothing in those allegations provides ANY justification whatsoever for the notion that incumbent Members of Congress should seize authority to scrutinize and regulate the constitutionally protected efforts of groups such as RightMarch.com to alert citizens regarding legislative developments in Congress, and to encourage them to communicate their views to their elected representatives. The First Amendment protects the right to “petition the government,” and such activities are at the heart of our republic.
A prominent example of the type of provisions that we need to strongly oppose are found in the “Lobbying Transparency and Accountability Act of 2005” (S. 2128/H.R. 4575), authored by — surprise! — Senator John McCain and Rep. Chris Shays. We need to tell our Congressmen and Senators to OPPOSE Section 105 of this legislation, and any other proposals along these lines.
Section 105 requires “grassroots lobbying firms” to report to Congress within 20 days of agreeing to provide services related to grassroots lobbying (including filing of quarterly reports listing disbursements made in connection with such activities). In addition, “grassroots lobbying firms” are required to file additional reports when they agree to conduct projects costing over $250,000, reports which include information on the SPECIFIC ISSUES which are the focus of the grassroots activity.
Section 105 exempts “membership” organizations from direct application of these requirements, but the bill ensures that ALL private contractors and vendors which we retain to help communicate with the general public, in order to encourage these citizens to contact their elected representatives in Congress, would be subject to the burdensome recordkeeping and reporting requirements. Moreover, since these activities must be reported according to when they are arranged (even before communications to the public actually occur), they would in effect require that we provide our opposition on any given issue with detailed information about the scope and location of our planned grassroots efforts.
Reasoned attempts to address the concerns emerging from the Abramoff scandal should not be used as an excuse for incumbent officer-holders to encroach upon our most basic Constitutional liberties. Therefore, we must urge Congress to strongly oppose any legislative proposals that would establish federal oversight over grassroots lobbying activities.
Think about what this bill would do to grassroots organizations. Conceivably, if there’s a hot bill in Congress about to be debated and voted on — say, a immigration bill that would grant amnesty to illegals — then the vendors an organization outsources any part of their activities to, like the company they use to delivers emails or faxes to Congress, or the company that they use to deliver emails to their members, would be *required* to report details on what they’re doing to Congress.
Although first proposing S. 2128, Senator McCain has reconsidered his position of grassroots restrictions in this bill. However, many Senators on the Government Reform Committee which has jurisdiction over this legislation such as Lott, Collins, Lieberman and Feingold still believe that these citizen restrains are a necessary part of lobby reform. Urge your Congressman and Senators to OPPOSE Section 105 of the “Lobbying Transparency and Accountability Act of 2005” (S. 2128/H.R. 4575):
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