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Bill to Treat Bloggers as Lobbyists Defeated 537

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the common-sense-prevails dept.
Lawrence Person writes "The attempt to require political bloggers to register as lobbyists previously reported by Slashdot has been stripped out of the lobbying reform bill. The vote was 55 to 43 to defeat the provision. All 48 Republicans, as well as 7 Democrats, voted against requiring bloggers to register; all 43 votes in favor of keeping the registration provision were by Democrats."
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Bill to Treat Bloggers as Lobbyists Defeated

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  • by ArcherB (796902) * on Friday January 19, 2007 @02:24AM (#17677310) Journal
    It's as if a 100 million free-speech loving liberals cried out and were suddenly silenced.

    (Actually, they were silenced when their heads exploded like Dantooine when they found out that it was Republicans who blocked the bill.)

  • Astroturfing. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I freaked when I heard about the bill. Then I learned it was more about the astroturfing.

    I hate fake campaigns. I think we are smart enough to learn and I LOVE the freedom to be told (about such things including hotchickonyoutube).

    Now, can we get back some of our other freedoms, even if the government (or people) don't like them.

    I promise I'll shutup about abortion if I can carry a gun and smoke in a bar.
  • by ChyGrrl (774162) on Friday January 19, 2007 @02:28AM (#17677334)
    This really surprises me, I'd have expected the republicans to have been more interested in the panoptic registering of bloggers. Can someone explain why this bill was pushed by the democrats?
    • by ArcherB (796902) * on Friday January 19, 2007 @02:32AM (#17677366) Journal
      I could be wrong, but I think the target was talk radio and/or conservative sites that are advertiser funded like LittleGreenFootballs, but not MoveOn.org, which is funded by contributors (George Soros)
      • by nuzak (959558) on Friday January 19, 2007 @02:51AM (#17677500) Journal
        MoveOn.org is a PAC -- they're already very much "registered".
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      It boils down to them not wanting unrestricted Internet criticism of incumbents. Essentially, Democrats are worried about 2008. The election of so many conservative Democrats, the so-called "Blue Dog" caucus, has split the party, and the more liberal leadership is worried about alienating their base.

      Consider it a little education. Your assumption that Republicans are somehow more idiotic and stifling than Democrats was wrong in the first place. If anything, Democrats are the folks who want the governmen
      • by rossifer (581396) on Friday January 19, 2007 @03:52AM (#17677856) Journal
        It boils down to them not wanting unrestricted Internet criticism of incumbents. Essentially, Democrats are worried about 2008. The election of so many conservative Democrats, the so-called "Blue Dog" caucus, has split the party, and the more liberal leadership is worried about alienating their base.
        Your speculation might have some merit if the typical blogger would have had to register under the act. As it turns out, however, the act would have only required bloggers who make and/or spend more than $25,000/year on a politics position blog to register. This article should be titled "Bill to Treat Astroturfing Bloggers as Lobbyists Defeated".

        The actual grass-roots bloggers (and whatever their criticism of whoever they wanted to criticize) were never in jeopardy. But the Republicans and some Democrats made sure that astroturfers aren't in jeopardy either. Most of the Democrats were on the ethical side on this one. Sadly, they couldn't get a majority today.

        Ross (registered Republican, but not very proud of that association right now)
        • by indifferent children (842621) on Friday January 19, 2007 @09:13AM (#17679402)
          the act would have only required bloggers who make and/or spend more than $25,000/year on a politics position blog to register.

          Close, it's $25,000 per quarter, which comes-out to $100,000 per year. Even cheap astroturfing would be allowed.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      For once, the provision in question [loc.gov] was where it belonged: In the middle of a bill that helps expose lobbyists as lobbyists. See section 220-a-2, and the requirements before one must register: All of (Readership > 500, astroturfing for lobbying firm, paid at least $100,000 per year for it). The odds of a genuine blogger being impacted by this are between epsilon and zero.

      So to answer your question, this was supposed to bring blogger-shills under the same requirements as other lobbying groups. Personal
  • Though it would have been nice to see more of this sort of thing over the past few years.
  • by JudasBlue (409332) on Friday January 19, 2007 @02:35AM (#17677382)
    If anyone had bothered to read the text instead of buying the PR piece by a professional lobbyiest that went up yesterday as news, they would have seen that the provision in question only applied to blogging for pay by a client. Not getting money for your ads or anything else. This was aimed at astroturfing, not bloggers. And paid political speach, which is what we are talking about here, IS regulated already. This wasn't the evil to end all evils and an attack on blogs, it was an attack on lobbyists and it would have likely as not been a good thing if it had gone through.

    • by ceejayoz (567949) <cj@ceejayoz.com> on Friday January 19, 2007 @02:39AM (#17677408) Homepage Journal
      Yep. From the text:

      (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.'.


      Doesn't sound like treating bloggers as lobbyists, it sounds like treating lobbyists posing as bloggers as lobbyists.
      • by rtb61 (674572) on Friday January 19, 2007 @03:15AM (#17677646) Homepage
        Actually it sounds more like treating lobbyists as the liars and scoundrels they are. They should not be able to pretend they are normal, well behaved people on the net or in any other public forum. Perhaps tattoos on the forehead and cheeks (both ends) would be appropriate a big L in red to denote a lying lobbyist whose opinions are for sale to the highest bidder.
        • by dangitman (862676)

          Perhaps tattoos on the forehead and cheeks (both ends) would be appropriate a big L in red to denote a lying lobbyist whose opinions are for sale to the highest bidder.

          Nah, use a big green H on the forehead to denote tham as Rimmer.

    • by MrWGW (964175) on Friday January 19, 2007 @02:42AM (#17677432)
      Of course, then you run into a whole can of worms in the process of determining who was paid versus who wasn't. One can conceivably imagine the provision being used as an excuse for law enforcement (or worse) to rifle through bloggers' bank accounts to determine evidence of "illegal payment." This could cause all kinds of hassles, especially for bloggers who use their blog as a source of income and who might (as is often the case with self-employed workers) not follow proper proceedures for recording who paid them for what in terms of legal, legitimate advertising. Thus, it could be alleged that they had illegally accepted money for a political post on their blog without having registered as a lobbyist, and they could face jail time, et cetera. It is of course axiomatic that the ruling party of the moment could use this as a tool with which to quickly silence opposition.
    • by Weird O'Puns (749505) on Friday January 19, 2007 @02:42AM (#17677438)

      Exactly, here's an explanation written by Stephen Bainbridge, a law professor at UCLA:

      http://www.stephenbainbridge.com/2007/01/blogger_r egistr.html [stephenbainbridge.com]
    • Mod parent up! The fact that this amendment actually targets astroturfers and not your average freedom loving blogger was corrected in the comments of the original post. There's no excuse for the follow up post to make the same omission.
    • by Heir Of The Mess (939658) on Friday January 19, 2007 @02:52AM (#17677508) Homepage
      Yeah the grassroots protests against this are probably from political lobyists who get paid to write stuff in their blog. Interesting how well it works.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      If anyone had bothered to read the text instead of buying the PR piece by a professional lobbyiest that went up yesterday as news, they would have seen that the provision in question only applied to blogging for pay by a client. Not getting money for your ads or anything else.

      So, how much did you get paid to post this?

      The following is a comment I posted yesterday [slashdot.org] explaining why someone else was potentially wrong when they made the same assertion. As no one disputed the points I raised yesterday (in a

  • That it was such a close vote... and even more that most Democrats voted for it.
  • Goes to show... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by haakondahl (893488) on Friday January 19, 2007 @02:40AM (#17677420)
    That Republicans and Democrats are both equally serious about both the First and Second Amendments. And that they are on opposite sides on both issues.

    The Second Amendment guarantees the First.

  • Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bmajik (96670) <matt@mattevans.org> on Friday January 19, 2007 @03:04AM (#17677574) Homepage Journal
    Can anyone explain why there are _any_ limits on political speech? Isn't that the most important kind of speech to protect? Why do you need to "register" as a PAC?

    Isn't there already a law that limits how much political speech can happen leading up to an election and who can say it?

    We can all find the bad in pretty much every law on the books. What i can't find is the "good" about any political-speech-restriction laws.

    There are lots of voices out there that i'd just as soon not have to hear, but silencing them via government intervention seems pretty unAmerican (for historical values of "American").

    • Re:Good (Score:5, Insightful)

      by slizz (822222) on Friday January 19, 2007 @04:32AM (#17678054) Homepage
      Well it seems to me that if you are paid to express a certain opinion, that expression isn't comparable to the expression of a personal opinion, i.e. free speech. Putting restrictions on an idea that someone is paid to put out doesn't seem to be a restriction of free speech, because there is no restriction on the idea itself, just the "advertising" of that idea. "Advertising" seems to be a better way of viewing lobbying than "free speech," and there should be restrictions on advertising, I think (although it's definitely a murky issue).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by krotkruton (967718)
      Amongst what the other reply to your post said, there are other reasons, whether or not most people think they are good or bad is a different issue.

      Let's just consider a simple scenario, a very simple scenario that doesn't deal with many of the issues facing this problem. You are a voter who has decided to vote based on the opinions of 10 random people. You believe that this is a good representation of the public and want to vote the way the public does. If there are no lobbyists, then your vote will be
    • Re:Good (Score:5, Insightful)

      by zCyl (14362) on Friday January 19, 2007 @04:45AM (#17678118)
      Can anyone explain why there are _any_ limits on political speech? Isn't that the most important kind of speech to protect?

      1. We have important laws against lying about someone and presenting it as factual information. I cannot start a blog about bmajik or run commercials about you in which I call you a child molester, unless of course this is true. If you are a candidate for office, I still cannot create a blog or run commercials about you in which I call you a child molester, unless it is true. The Supreme Court has ruled that such things do not count as free speech, unless reasonable people believe it to be a parody.

      2. We have serious problems with freedom of speech when corporations monopolize the process of distributing information. If enough corporations choose to unfairly favor one candidate or political viewpoint to the exclusion of other political viewpoints, then the freedom of speech of citizens is actually reduced in favor of the bias of the majority corporate viewpoint, which is in the hands of a select few individuals. This problem is present because the average citizen is financially unable to start a television station or cable news network, even if strongly motivated to do so. (There are also a limited number of broadcast slots available, and a limited number of cable lines which can be run in any one area without excessive disruption of life.) Thus, laws which ensure the fairness of the limited number of major gateways for political speech can actually increase freedom of speech. We may hope that the internet may eliminate this problem in the future, but for now it has only reduced it.
    • Re:Good (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dangitman (862676) on Friday January 19, 2007 @05:03AM (#17678178)

      Can anyone explain why there are _any_ limits on political speech?

      This is about money, not speech. You can say anything you want. But you can't get paid for doing anything you want. I think speech should be free - you don't need money to speak. If receiving money changes what you will say - then what's that all about? it's amazing how many people confuse money and speech, although I suspect the confusion is deliberate in many cases.

    • I think one of the reasons political speech with regards to campaigns is regulated/restricted is to prevent money from having too much of an effect on election results.
    • Because it's not on speech, it's on communications medium.

      The bill in question would've put restrictions on anyone who was getting paid $100,000 or more per year to blog for political reasons from another group. Plus McCain/Feingold restricts the medium, not anything content wise. The idea here is to restrict the possibility that one would be able to outspend their opponent.

      The fact that people can get paid $100k+ for this activity boggles the goddamn mind.
    • You're asking the wrong question. Why? Because here we're talking about laws that put restrictions on speech that is both political and commercial. Commercial speech, as I sure hope you already know, is not protected by the First Amendment in the USA. So the real question is whether we should restrict commercially produced political speech.

      In both the case of PACs and the case of this proposed law, the idea is that such speech is restricted in a particular way: such speech is allowed, but it must disc

    • Re:Good (Score:4, Interesting)

      by hey! (33014) on Friday January 19, 2007 @06:47AM (#17678632) Homepage Journal

      Can anyone explain why there are _any_ limits on political speech?


      Because there will always be de facto limits on speech whether or not there are de jure limits.

      For example, no country at war is going to allow people to publish information about troop deployments. In such a situation it is important to define reasonable de jure limitations on speech, because in the heat of battle government will act to restrict speech, whether it is legally empowered to do so or not. Having reasonable limitations thought out in advance and enacted into law acts constrains those actions.

      Another example is obscenity. The regulations on obscenity do not really prevent anybody who wants obscene materials from getting them. What they do is tell people who are up in arms about obscenity to go home: anybody who is receiving obscene materials is an adult or near adult seeking them out. The restriction on obscene material are a burden on producers and consumers, but on balance they ensure that such materials remain available.

      These restrictions are like liberatarian antibodies. The immunize the body politic against severe censorship.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Teun (17872)

      Can anyone explain why there are _any_ limits on political speech? Isn't that the most important kind of speech to protect? Why do you need to "register" as a PAC?

      Let me as a European hazard a response; As far as I know all sides of the American political spectrum subscribe to the principle of Democracy.

      And democracy is about 1 man = 1 vote.

      That principle is under thread from groups (possibly under the guise of bloggers) that have large sums of corporate/interest groups money to spend. The idea of registering those that get paid to influence political decisions, be it through politicians or voters, might be good for traceability and avoid undemocratic behaviour.

    • Speech (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Teancum (67324)

      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.

      I don't know what part of Congress shall make no law can't be understood by the U.S. Supreme Court, but I think the wording here is very clear. And for political speech, I would have to agree even more with your sentiment, there can't be

  • by Estanislao Martínez (203477) on Friday January 19, 2007 @05:34AM (#17678304) Homepage

    Where the submission writeup says "previously reported by Slashdot," it should say "previously misreported by Slashdot." And presupposing that the way Slashdot "reported" it is right, as it happens, is a major piece of spin in this context. Because it's used to set up the rest of the blurb as an insinuation that Democrats were endorsing a bill that restricts freedom of political speech for bloggers (when in fact it's a bill that restricts commercial speech by people paid specifically to pretend they are unpaid advocates.)

  • First Amendment (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SQL Error (16383) on Friday January 19, 2007 @07:55AM (#17678912)
    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.

    What's so frickin' hard about this? Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press. No law means no law.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Rob the Bold (788862)
      What's so frickin' hard about this?

      They're debating who counts as people.

  • Talk Radio (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rdominelli (210258) on Friday January 19, 2007 @08:15AM (#17679004)
    As it stands now doesnt it still target talk radio?
    Whether or not you agree with the Rush and Hannitty's of the world, considering them under this bill is still a first amendment violation.

  • Read the bill (Score:3, Informative)

    by motorsabbath (243336) on Friday January 19, 2007 @11:35AM (#17681298) Homepage
    The bill targets "bloggers" that are "retained by 1 or more clients to engage in paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying on behalf of such clients" and that take in at least $25,000 per quarter

    In other words, it doesn't cover bloggers in any true sense of that word as most of us understand it - it covers people masquerading as "grass-roots" bloggers, but who are actually bought and paid for shills making at least $100,000 a year for online "lobbying" efforts.

  • Remember This! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Friday January 19, 2007 @11:58AM (#17681710)
    all 43 votes in favor of keeping the registration provision were by Democrats.

    Remember this the next time you step into the voting booth!

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