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Congress to Send Critics to Jail?

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posted on Jan, 18 2007 @ 11:02 AM
Looks like someone is attempting to yank the rest of our 'freedom of speech' rights away. One wonders if this bill is going to fly through and pass, or fly away:
"In what sounds like a comedy sketch from Jon Stewart's Daily Show, but isn't, the U. S. Senate would impose criminal penalties, even jail time, on grassroots causes and citizens who criticize Congress.

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."

Please visit the link provided for the complete story.

What concerns me is that it sounds like this bill, if it passes, would censor anyone who has 500+ readers/members. Wondering if that only pertains to blogging, or would it include what we write on message boards, such as this? IMO, Big brother needs to be grounded from the computer!


[edit on 18/1/2007 by Mirthful Me]

posted on Jan, 18 2007 @ 04:23 PM
Actually, S.1 doesn't say what the press release from claims it does.
The press release re-run in Prison Planet says

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.

S.1, Sec 220 says:

(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


(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),

This bill only applies to people who are paid by interests not their own to get citizens to lobby. Bloggers do not count unless they are being paid to promote a described action by their readers in support of the objectives of the person doing the paying.

And what about the members? The end of the above quote says:

except that such term does not include any communications by an entity directed to its members, employees, officers, or shareholders.

The 500 people thing? It's not a limit, it's specifically phrased as an exception. It ensures that you can speak to 500 members of the general public, and an unlimited number of people who belong to your group. If you write to paying subscribers, to people who belong to and participate in the running of your organization, such as a campus club, etc you can lobby 500 or 500,000 of them and you're exempt because they are members, and on top of that you can coordinate with the staff of other like minded organizations to try and coordinate- up to 500 of them- and that's not restricted either.

`(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.

`(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.

And on top of all that, unless you either spend 100,000 a year or personally earn 100,000 a year, you STILL aren't covered. Final protection for true grass roots organizations.

`(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.'.

This bill is not perfect. It does put significant strain on those who can't use a professional lobbyist. Suppose a few local churches in my area pool their resources to lobby against a move to legalize this or that vice, and they decide to go with TV advertising. It wouldn't be hard for them to get into the 100,000 dollar range, even as a small time organization operating behind a pastor who doesn't know the first thing about lobbying or law. And just like that, the preacher is going to jail.

I certainly do not mean to understate the potential unintended consequences; every law has the potential to backfire and that is why we have courts.

That being said, I notice that GrassrootsFreedom has a .com address, not .org, and there is no "about us" section or anything like that. I'm gonna do some looking into them. I suspect we'll find out that they are the kind of group targeted by this move primarily- corporate lobbyists masquerading as a grass roots organization. I'll know for sure soon enough and get back to you... if they are, shame on PrisonPlanet for whoring itself to big money politics- my next step would be to try and find out if they were paid.

edited for clarification

[edit on 19-1-2007 by The Vagabond]

posted on Jan, 18 2007 @ 04:28 PM
Remember, to pass a bill you must throw in a little something to keep the blind supporting you. Thus we have so many loopholes... Goes to show that whenever a law or bill, then again an amendment is made and passed there is a tiny hole here and there to let the elite slip through without getting whacked while everyone else is. Then on top of that, they sugar coat it to give it a "fuzzy and happy" look and fealing when you fist take a look at it. After you look again it is usualy to late...

posted on Jan, 18 2007 @ 10:26 PM

Originally posted by NotOnMyWatch

What concerns me is that it sounds like this bill, if it passes, would censor anyone who has 500+ readers/members. Wondering if that only pertains to blogging, or would it include what we write on message boards, such as this? IMO, Big brother needs to be grounded from the computer!


well, its ridiculous on the face of it. How can they even begin to prove that I did or did not realize I cater to so many people's reading habitz?

posted on Jan, 18 2007 @ 10:31 PM
Ahoy Vagabond!

Thanx for the excellent analysis. I think you are pretty much on target.

I'm willing to say that Prison Planet might allow some kind of shriek piece on its page to drum up the nerve level.

posted on Jan, 19 2007 @ 02:43 AM
Well, didn't take long; it's not exactly even a secret, I just never happened to have heard it before. Grassroots Freedom was started specifically to fight this fight. It was started by Richard Viguerie, the "'Funding Father' of modern conservative strategy".

Viguerie is a big time political fundraiser and culture warrior/culture mercenary. If you play connect the dots with him you can put him all over the 1960s/70s right, from anticommunist groups to christian conservatives. He struck gold when he got his hands on 12,000 names that had contributed more than 50 bucks to the Goldwater campaign and used religious conservative issues such as abortion to make himself wildly successful in grassroots fundraising.

Mass communications with the general public for the purpose of making/spending money for political purposes is what he does... i'd dare say it's who he IS.

The Alex Jones thing makes perfect sense. Conspiracy theorists are small government people; conservatives without a party. That pretty much describes Viguerie too. So what would be more logical than to fringe his idea out a bit and try to sell it to conspiracy theorists, because not only is he protecting his business, he's getting new names of people who are likely to come from the same political direction as he is, so he's actually growing his business while protecting it.

Not only would this be a problem for the business he's in (incidentally, he's one of the big K-street lobbyists who he says get gaping loopholes in the bill) but it also does something that's bad for him personally: it opens him up to review by people he might not be useful to anymore. Transparency would have sent this man to prison back in the day, if any of the accusations against him are true. Some habbits are hard to break. If he's still up to old tricks, but no longer needed since the cold war is over and the white house can no do overtly what he has been accused of helping fund covertly in the past, not to mention that he's picking fights with the Republican party... I'd say he might have something to worry about if Congress could review his ledgers.

While working with a fund to benefit Korean children under the auspices of Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church (if ever somebody worked his butt off to look like the anti-christ.... but that's another story) and purportedly also working at the time with a Korean Intelligence project, Radio Free Asia, Viguerie raised 1.5 million dollars for the children's fund, and according to auditors, pocketed nearly a million of it.

Moon did time in Danbury for conspiracy and tax fraud, so it wouldn't exactly be the first thing to go odd with that organization.

posted on Jan, 19 2007 @ 07:51 AM
That's interesting indeed. The thing most worriesome to me was not the attempt to stifle paid lobbiests, they're a blight. It was the seeming deliberate vagueness of the amendment. Just too many loopholes, at least as I read and understood it. Feel free to correct me, if I'm mistaken in my take.

posted on Jan, 19 2007 @ 11:57 AM

An amendment to S1 that strikes section 220 has passed with 55 votes, with most Republicans and only a few democrats voting yea.

The bill itself is not yet out of congress, but for the moment is seems likely that there will be no grassroots lobbying restrictions.

posted on Jan, 19 2007 @ 01:08 PM
Well let us think about this logically for a second:
-Historically the elite have only passed what is most important to them
-They care nothing for the population
-They care only for their intermittent few
Ok now lets take this to a larger scale of politics and bills/laws/agendas.
-Bills passed are ones to give them more power, so they can control the population
-Laws passed are laws that allow them to watch the population illegaly/legaly (I say I/L since they blurr the lines, but we all KNOW it is illegal)
-Agendas are ones that the populace can be easily divided on for a short time and in the long run is an agenda that they have no control over.

Now let us put that bill about grassroots organizations into perspective.
-As noted it will only affect lobbysts, just one catch, the corporations already have a "death star" like presence and grassroots people do not, they are a little rubbery ducky in comparison.
-Thus logicaly, why bother with them? The power ratio is insane so why bother?
-Logically thinking this could be a diversion, cause a ruckus in sector 1A while you do something else more important to you in sector 2B and 3C.
-Logically this bill makes no sense because they ALREADY have power over the grassroots groups, the lobbyists have nothing to fear from them.
-Why worry? Usually when they do something like this it is a diversion, then three months later we find out we got SCREWED because we were paying attention to 1 bill not the others that slipped through in the night.

Hence I would say they are up to something and are only stirring the pot a bit to get peoples attention, usualy if they want a bill the bill passes in nothing flat or is not talked about at all.

posted on Jan, 19 2007 @ 05:41 PM
I think it's important to consider the bill in the context of the people affected: people like Richard Viguerie.

The grass roots are very weak when working for their own ends, but they are very powerful when marshalled by the big boys.

The religious right, which is inordinately powerful in this country, derives its power from what the grass roots are capable of doing when harnessed by larger powers.

If I'm a billionaire, I can still only write my candidate a $21,000 check. It's my connections to all the groups I donate to and all the people who depend on being in my good graces, and of course my ability to fund less restricted 3rd party groups like swiftboaters, that make me a good friend to have. I can let you into a network of a few people who can give you a couple of million dollars combined and pump tens of millions into promoting the issues that help you, and you've got to bend down and kiss my butt, not to mention be scrutinized for your relationship with me.

Now on the other hand, if I'm a well connected "grassroots organizer" tied into a major religious organization, several foreign policy concerns, campus organizations, etc, for a nominal fee I can contact your voters directly with a message from somebody who their demographics suggest they respect, be it a politically oriented commedian or a televangelist, and ask them to send you 5, 10, 20 bucks...

Now if I can directly reach your voters, advertising while I fundraise essentially, and get you 10 dollars from each of a million people, then you just saved yourself a lot of groveling in somebody's office.

At the end of the day, this bill wasn't about stopping the grass roots from doing things, but about monitoring what the big boys are doing to tap the grass roots. It was about protecting the party platform from ambitious organizations and making it harder to mobilize the most active opposing constituencies.

In that sense it makes sense that the Democrats were the ones who voted against the amendment to kill Section 220 (although I won't like, i was surprised that section 220 wasn't embraced by a 70+ vote margin- I thought both parties would be happy to consolidate power over their constituents).

What I underestimated, and what makes it logical that the Democrats liked Section 220, is that their constituency is more diverse and less active. The Republican party can usually rely on religious zeal and the established tendency towards giving that is encouraged among Christians, which makes their grass roots fairly effective.

Democrats have to contend with a generally younger and poorer demographic that is statistically less likely to even bother to vote, much less do anything involving the mail, especially give money.

Democrats presumably saw this as a chance to level the playing field by making it true-believers versus true-believers- members only. Moveon members versus Christian organization members- not couch-potato liberals verus couch-potato christians, because conservative couch potatoes are more reliable.

When you consider it that way, I think the grass roots issue was relevant, and was definately a strategic political play.

I don't believe however that freedom of speech was the issue. I understand how some of this might be interpreted as accusing democrats of trying to silence conservative speech or maybe even condoning such a thing. That's not the case.

Here's the bottom line: there are very powerful political interests which are in the business of collecting the perfectly legitimate, legal support of private citizens using their right to free speech and consolidating them under the direction of corrupt business as usual machinery.

The Republicans like that machinery because it works for them. The Democrats don't like it as much because it doesn't work as well for them.

This bill never targeted the little guy. It targeted the big guys who consolidate the little guy's contributions into a fashion than can easily be jumped through loopholes and expended in ways that a member/contributor run PAC never would use them. This bill was about two business as usual parties in dire need of new direction from their constituents manuevering to cut the legs out from eachother under the guise of reform.

That's why it got attention; not because it was a diversion per se, although it certainly does divert attention from the question that neither party has really gone after in a meaningful way yet, which is creating a truly level campaign finance playing field which serves to establish campaigns as a source of information for voters rather than a public auction of the federal government.

posted on Jan, 19 2007 @ 08:33 PM
The problem is, there are so many loopholes that it DOES NOT MATTER! That is the point at hand, funding goes only so far, however when you have the money to make or break someone in the media.... That is more power than a campaign contribution. Next on the line is the fact that lobbysists are so numerous that they can "influence" (to put it VERY lightly) the outcome of elections and laws/bills and so on. Remember, no one knows or has investigated for that fact (as far as I know, nothing has EVER been reported) about politicians taking money "under the table."
Never forget a politicians goal:
#1: Lie to stay alive
#2: Keep corporations happy or die
#3: Cheat people
Remember, even if they "limit" donations and the like, corporations can always blackmail politicians, just turn on the TV before elections, any politicians who did not take the bribe gets cut down FAST and HARD.

posted on Jan, 22 2007 @ 02:40 PM
Id Love to see someone actualy prosicuted for this crime! The ACLU would slaughter this in court in about three days.

posted on Jan, 22 2007 @ 03:23 PM
Unless they get martial law and a full fledged gestapo going, as well as a stronger police state, which they are trying to do and so far doing VERY well at it. Time is running out.

posted on Jan, 22 2007 @ 03:45 PM
I think we are presuming that the US will be a full fledged Nazi faccist state a bit early. Yes it does seem like the US is heading that way. If it were up to Georgie boy then it shure would. But we have other branches of government to balance out this other thain congress and the white house.

posted on Jan, 22 2007 @ 04:01 PM
I do not see them going towards a full fledged nazi like regime, that would only hurt them not help them since it would REALLY turn peoples heads. There are no real balances anymore, "two sides of the same coin" comes to mind here when talking about government and politicians, congressmen/woman are politicians too remember.
They need a more 1984 type nation to a degree, one where they dominate everything, have children too dumb to think for themselves, and also whole population like that.
Then again, what we see now is moving towards a fascist monarchy/big brother type settup with police state and martial law written all over it.
In truth we have no one word or series of words that can sum up what we are seeing now as I have said before, yet we (almost all of us) know it is not for our benefit, but to enslave us further.

posted on Jan, 22 2007 @ 06:15 PM
Then why not do something about it? This is after all a partisipitory republic. If enough people start complaining and suing about this then things will chainge. Don't just sit on your duff and whine about how bad things are getting if you don't like them chainge them. Write your congressmen, Call them Email them. Annoy them enough and they will chainge.

If you do nothing then you have no one to blame but your self.

posted on Jan, 22 2007 @ 10:34 PM
Yeah like all the other protesters, marchers, petitioners, etc etc etc. 0 results even though millions got behind it. Maybe if you looked around the USA you would realize most people work more than two jobs and have little or no time for other "activities."

posted on Jan, 23 2007 @ 02:46 PM
Thank you all for your well-thought-out comments on this. I learned more from all of you than I did from what I posted!

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