Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Petition for Redress Now Redefined as "Lobbying" By Senate Bill


Now is the time to write your senators about a bill, if you are ever going to. Politicians are tired of hearing from their constituents. That is what Senate bill S1 is about. It is about keeping you in the dark so you will shut up and let them continue to ruin the country. The only people they want to hear from are the ones that write them checks.

click TUESDAY below for a long but powerful report on S1 by Gary North

1 Comments:

Anonymous from G. North said...

Issue 618 January 16, 2007

SENATE DEMOCRATS TO AMERICA: "SHUT UP!"

I write this as a former Capitol Hill staffer. I have
been there, done that.

I am reporting on this matter because, if Democrats
(and Trent Lott and Mitch McConnell) in the United States
Senate get their way, it may be illegal for me to say this
or anything like this beginning on January 1, 2008.

If you want to know what is the highest priority of
the new Congress, don't watch TV. Don't listen to the
posturing of politicians in high places regarding the war
in Iraq, the safety of Americans from terror, and the
plight of the poor. As Attorney General John Mitchell
said, before he went to jail: "Watch what we do, not what
we say."

I can tell you what the highest priority of Democrats
in the United States Senate is. How do I know? Because
the Senate has labeled the following piece of proposed
legislation, Senate Bill S1. That's numero uno. The
bill's title: "To provide greater transparency in the
legislative process."

When you see a high-falutin title like this, you can
be certain of one thing: Its promoters intend the opposite.

This is a new Congress. It is being run by the
Democrats, and will continue to be unless Senator Tim
Johnson (D-South Dakota) dies of his heart attack or stroke
or whatever it was -- his spokesperson refuses to say -- or
else resigns because he cannot speak, walk, or otherwise
fulfill his duties.

The Democrats in the Senate have a majority because
Lieberman, elected as an independent after he was defeated
in the Democratic primary by Lamont, officially votes with
the Democrats, and so does Vermont's Sanders: 49/1/1 to 49.
If Johnson leaves, his successor will be put into office by
the governor of the state, a Republican. If a Republican
replaces Johnson, the Republicans will regain control
because Vice President Cheney will possess the tie-breaking
vote: 50/1 to 48/1/1.

The proposed bill is long and detailed. It is not the
product of some immediate national crisis. It is the
product of many months of careful crafting in the shadows.
It received no publicity, before or after it was submitted.
The Democratic leadership in the Senate has entered this
bill as its top priority.


WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?

What is this bill all about? Simple: taking heat off
of Congress.

From Congress's point of view, there is a growing
problem. That problem is the Internet. It allows people
to communicate with each other almost free of charge.

An email can be sent to a million people at little or
no marginal cost. A mailing list becomes a tool of instant
education and motivation.

All over the wired world, politicians are finding that
every government leak gets to a large audience within
hours. I call this the Drudge-Lewinsky factor.

Every audience has a hot button. Politicians today
cannot pass any bill, short of a national emergency, in
which they do not inevitably press some special-interest
group's negative hot button.

If people on an email list are alerted to what the
politicians are planning to do to them, they will in turn
send an email, phone their representatives, or even -- I am
not making this up -- sit down, write a letter of protest,
put it in an envelope, stamp the envelope, and mail it to
their political representative. (Yes, such things are
still done. Or so I'm told.)

Worse, from the politicians' point of view, the
Internet allows organizations to remind people on their
mailing lists which politicians voted the wrong way. The
subscribers would normally forget within six months, but
not if they keep getting reminded.

The Internet makes it cheap to remind them.

The Internet is therefore a tool of voters to impose
their will on recalcitrant politicians. So far, the
politicians have been powerless to stop this.

This is about to change.


GRASSROOTS LOBBYING

You know the term "grassroots." It is one of the
traditional terms of endearment in American democracy. (It
does not resonate in Arab oil nations, where there is
neither democracy nor grass.) "Grassroots" means "back
home, where the voters are." It means, above all, OUTSIDE
THE BELTWAY.

Inside the beltway, the free ride has officially ended
for the adjective, "grassroots." The term is being re-
defined by Democrats in the Senate . . . and Trent Lott and
Mitch McConnell. It now means, "special-interest lobbying."

We all know what incumbent politicians think of the
special interests, at least the special interests that vote
rather than set up Political Action Committees (PACs) to
hand out money to politicians. Senator Snort is always
ready to denounce the special interests -- those narrow-
minded, single-issue, red hot-button special pleaders,
those ideological fanatics who cannot be bought off with
pork barrel largesse.

The special-interest groups that provoke the ire of
politicians are the ones that do not write checks but who
instead send emails to their representatives. These groups
are mobilized into action, more often than not, by negative
reactions. Their subscribers are negative single-issue
voters.

Special-interest groups that set up PACs are part of
the Capitol Hill club. They get lots of money from well-
organized beneficiaries of special legislation. They hire
lots of lawyers. They hire former Congressmen. This
offers lifetime income prospects for incumbent politicians
who lose elections. (Yes, this still occasionally happens,
despite Gerrymandering.) They have staffs to fill out
Federally mandated forms. They write checks. Do they ever
write checks! They are not grassroots special interests.
They are inside-the-beltway special interests. So, they
are not defined as special interests. They are defined as
"sources of expert information, which is vital to the
legislative process."

Congress's problem with grassroots negative special-
interest groups is two-fold: (1) they can inflict pain on
election day on any politician who has voted the wrong way;
(2) they rarely send money to the re-election campaign
committees of those who voted the right way. They are all
pain, no pleasure. In the eyes of incumbent politicians,
they are a menace to society, a cancer on the body politic,
a mockery of democracy as we have come to know it.

They must be stopped!

Hence, Section 220 of S.1: DISCLOSURE OF PAID EFFORTS
TO STIMULATE GRASSROOTS LOBBYING.

Here are a few highlights. First, a definition:

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.

You know the types: people who conclude that a piece
of legislation is against their interests, and who then try
to defeat the legislation by communicating their hostile
views to their elected representatives. Vicious!

Millions of these people have signed up to receive
emails from donor-supported organizations that help alert
them when Congress submits a bill for consideration. They
do not usually join these organizations. They probably do
not donate money. They are classic free riders. But the
organizations need them, because these people will take
action to stop a proposed piece of legislation.

These organizations attempt to coordinate the efforts
of non-member, non-donating email subscribers -- called
"the general public" -- by keeping them informed by email.
In the eyes of Democrats in the Senate (and Trent Lott and
Mitch McConnell), such organizations are not quite criminal
conspiracies, but they are close . . . very close. You
see, these organizations get paid to keep the general
public informed. Paid! Can you imagine this?

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.

This wording says that they may communicate to their
members without being defined as grassroots lobbying
organizations, but not to the general public.

This bill says that before any such organization
communicates to the general public, it must fill out
Federal forms. It must fill out even more forms after it
communicates to the general public.

If it fails to honor this law, if enacted, a donor-
supported entity can be hauled into court by an Executive
agency and fined $100,000 if it cannot prove that a
particular email alert was never intended to persuade
members of "the general public" to contact members of
Congress.

The costs of hiring the defense lawyers will probably
exceed the fine.

If your group is small, there is no problem. Small
groups are politically impotent and do not constitute a
threat to incumbents. Therefore. . . .

(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.

So, if your email list has under 500 people, your
organization is safe. For now. But you may have to prove
that you have fewer than 500 non-member names on your list.
The Executive will insist that its has the legal authority
to demand that you turn over that list, just to make sure
it is under 500 names. It will then have to compare this
list with the names of your members. You will hand all
this over or be fined for contempt.

There is another problem. A Web site is aimed at the
general public. It may not be not members-only.

I operate a Web site, www.garynorth.com, that has a
public section and a members-only section. According to
this bill, I am allowed to communicate my concern about a
proposed bill to my site's members. But what if I try to
communicate the same message on the open-access portion of
my site? How could I prove that I am not trying to
influence over 500 members of the general public?

I get paid by site members. So, if I ever mention a
piece of legislation on the "general public" part of my
site, does this payment by members make me a grassroots
lobbyist? How much will it cost me in legal fees to prove
that I'm not?

You are reading this letter. You are probably not a
member of my Web site. You are not my employee. You are
not an officer or a shareholder in my corporation (unless
you are my wife). But I have now sent you a warning about
a proposed bill. I strongly suggest that you contact both
of your Senators to tell them that you oppose S1.

They pay more attention to letters than to emails.
So, here is the address:

Senator XXX YYYY
Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

A low-level staffer will then send you a polite form
letter assuring you how much the Senator appreciates
hearing from you, and how he will consider your opinion
very carefully before he votes.

Rest assured, there is a computer data base that
records YES and NO letters on each bill. Your opinion
regarding S1 is very important to your Senator if there is
a large majority in the data base of voters in your state
who share your opinion.


AMBIGUOUS LANGUAGE

If the form letter tells you that you have
misinterpreted the bill, that means something else
entirely -- which means that your Senator plans to vote for
it -- remember this: An Executive agency can enforce a law
any way it sees fit.

Congress has no direct power over Executive agencies.
This is part of the separation of powers principle of the
U.S. Constitution. A law that is crystal clear, such as
the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which said explicitly that
there would be no government-enforced racial quotas, will
be interpreted however an "administrative law judge" (in-
house agency prosecutor) wants to interpret the law in your
case.

This law is anything but crystal clear.

If an organization spends money to run an ad in a
newspaper in order to influence the general public, it is
clearly at risk under the terms of this law. It must
report the expenditure to the Federal government. No
organization is excluded from having to send reports on its
actions.

(B) In the event income or expenses do not exceed
$10,000, the registrant shall include a statement
that income or expenses totaled less than $10,000
for the reporting period.

Of course, this law is specifically designed to
increase the ethics of incumbent politicians and their
staffs.

SEC. 232. MANDATORY SENATE ETHICS TRAINING FOR MEMBERS
AND STAFF.

(a) Training Program- The Select Committee on
Ethics shall conduct ongoing ethics training and
awareness programs for Members of the Senate and
Senate staff.

Stop that giggling. You hear me? Stop it this
instant! This is serious.

You can read the entire section here:

http://snipurl.com/billdoc


WARNINGS ISSUED

So far, this bill has received little attention by the
thousands of special interest groups that will become its
potential victims if it is signed into law. The mainstream
media have said nothing, but this is not surprising. This
is "buried deep in a bill" material, and the mainstream
media rarely report on most of the hundreds of bills that
are introduced each year.

A few conservative activist groups have issued
warnings. Here is the assessment of the bill by the
American Family Association. As you read it, think of
this: What would it cost the organization to track all
this?"

Under Senate Bill 1, AFA would have to report the
issues, employees, contractors and dollars spent
in what is called "paid efforts to stimulate
grassroots lobbying" (that phrase is not
defined). This reporting requirement is triggered
by two actions: (1) a lobbying "contact" -- a
personal or written communication with an
individual in the executive or legislative branch
of the federal government concerning public
policy issues, from legislation to nominations;
and (2) communications with grassroots (that's
you) that "influence" them to contact the
executive or legislative branches ("influence" is
not defined, but it apparently doesn't even have
to include a specific "call to action.") There is
no minimum dollar spending requirement that
triggers the reporting requirement by AFA for our
efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying.

Once AFA identifies a "lobbying contact" that it
has had (e.g., We talk with a senator about a
Supreme Court nomination), then AFA will have to
track all internal expenditures on that issue:
AFA Journal articles, printing costs, payments to
authors, etc.; AFA Online e-mailing costs;
special website creations; broadcast expenses;
and issue advertising (creative costs, ad buys,
etc.). Cost of trips, speeches, and fundraising
letters will have to be allocated to the correct
"issue." (We could be dealing with a half-dozen
issues, and we will have to keep tract and
expense of every issue we deal with.) The
compliance costs alone will be heavy, with the
hiring of perhaps as many as 8-10 new employees
to track both accounting and legal oversight
involved and all the paperwork required.

http://www.afa.net/senatebill1.asp

Here is the assessment by the conservative Family
Research Council.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins
said Section 220 would subject such groups to
miles of red tape and greatly increase their
costs -- difficulties that could critically
hamper their ability to rally constituents to
contact their elected officials.

"This should be called the 'Silence the Citizens
Act of 2007,' " Perkins said.

The bill is so complex that, even though it
appears to exempt churches from its provisions,
it might not actually do so.

"Even pastors who would encourage the members of
their congregation to call their senators, their
congressmen, about marriage, about life issues,"
Perkins said, "could theoretically fall under the
provisions of this measure."

Amanda Banks, federal policy analyst for Focus on
the Family Action, said the provision would apply
if a group called on people to take action or
not.

"Any time that we send out a CitizenLink e-mail,
or we write an article for Citizen magazine or
Dr. Dobson goes on his broadcast and talks about
legislation -- like he did today -- we would have
to record and report to the government four times
a year," Banks said. "If we did not meet those
guidelines, we would be subject to fines of
$100,000."

http://snipurl.com/s1threat

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---------------------------

CONCLUSION

The Democrats in the Senate (and Trent Lott and Mitch
McConnell) do not want to hear from you. They want to go
about their business -- and it IS a business! -- in a
quiet, orderly, and undisturbed manner.

Whether it's Iraq or the minimum wage, whether it's
homeland security or the latest piece of pork for the
contractors back home, they don't want to hear from you.
They want your vote every six years. They do not want your
opinion in between.

3:54 PM, January 16, 2007  

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