Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. (my emphasis)
I interpret this to mean that We the People have the right, guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, to freedom of speech, to peaceably assemble and to petition the government. And no law can be established abridging or prohibiting these guaranteed rights. Enter one Nancy Pelosi.
House Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) has pledged to take up a lobbying reform proposal that would impose new regulations on speech by grassroots organizations, while providing a loophole in the rules for large corporations and labor unions.
The legislation would make changes to the legal definition of “grassroots lobbying” and require any organization that encourages 500 or more members of the general public to contact their elected representatives to file a report with detailed information about their organization to the government on a quarterly basis.
The report would include identifying the organization’s expenditures, the issues focused on and the members of Congress and other federal officials who are the subject of the advocacy efforts. A separate report would be required for each policy issue the group is active on.
“Right now, grassroots groups don’t have to report at all if they are communicating with the public,” said Dick Dingman of the Free Speech Coalition, Inc. “This is an effort that would become a major attack on the 1st Amendment.”
Under the bill, communications aimed at an organization’s members, employees, officers or shareholders would be exempt from the reporting requirement. That would effectively exempt most corporations, trade associations and unions from the reporting requirements—but not most conservative grassroots groups, which frequently are less formally organized.
Larger, well-funded organizations are also currently eligible for a “low-dollar lobbyist exemption” that Pelosi’s bill does not give to grassroots organizations. If an organization retains a lobbyist to contact lawmakers directly at a cost of $2,500 per quarter or less, or employs a full-time lobbyist at a cost of $10,000 per quarter or less, the organization does not have to report to the government.
I'm waiting to hear Ms. Pelosi's definition of a "grassroots organization". Something tells me it will be overly broad.
Public Citizen is helping craft the legislation:
Public Citizen, a liberal “government watchdog,” is taking credit for helping Pelosi craft the legislation and expects the final draft of the bill to closely resemble Pelosi’s Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2006, which contains these provisions.
Craig Holman, a lobbyist for Public Citizen, said the changes would help “streamline” how grassroots organizations are regulated by the IRS and other laws. Public Citizen would like Congress to adopt the IRS’s definition of “lobbying,” which includes communication that encourages the general public to contact a member of Congress on pending legislation or public policy.
Why is Public Citizen so interested in this legislation? Trying to silence the competition?
"Public Citizen fails to disclose how the grassroots legislation would hurt citizen advocates and critics, protect big special interests and assist corruption in Washington," said Dick Dingman of the Free Speech Coalition, who added, "Public Citizen, with its eight-figure assets and multi-million dollar revenues, shows no shame in being less than honest about so-called 'honest government' legislation."
Public Citizen acknowledges it is helping craft legislation for Speaker- Elect Nancy Pelosi modeled after her 2006 legislation, H.R. 4682. The bill would treat communications to the general public more harshly under lobbying disclosure law than actual lobbying conducted by high-priced K Street lobbyists. The new legislation won't be available until the next Congress convenes, but its model, H.R. 4682, would create unprecedented restrictions and penalties, potentially criminal, on the free exercise of First Amendment rights by citizens to speak, publish, associate and petition the government.
First Amendment lawyer and Co-Counsel for the Free Speech Coalition, William J. Olson, said, "The Public Citizen/Pelosi bill would allow corporations, unions and even foreign interests to spend literally hundreds of millions of dollars mobilizing their shareholders, officers, employees and members, yet hide those expenditures. On the flipside, their bill would require real citizen associations to essentially obtain Congress's consent to communicate about important policy matters that impact on them. It's not just the imbalance that is wrong; it's a frontal attack on the First Amendment and political speech."
This bill should be defeated. I encourage everyone (while I still can) to contact their representatives and tell them to vote against it.