Senate Ethics Reform and blogging

Are you a blogger? Then S. 1 may concern you.

From Of Arms and the Law:

S.1 has been introduced in the Senate as “lobbying reform” — which in this case means “First Amendment infringements.” An amendment has been attached, which requires registration of bloggers with more than 500 readers, and who comment on policy issues. Violation would be a criminal offense.

I looked it up on the Library of Congress webpage (which is essentially unlinkable) and have attached section 220 in extended remarks, below. As the bill is reported, it appears to cover any “paid” grassroots lobbying, that reaches more than 500 people. But a blogger who receives contributions might be classed as a “paid” grassroots type. It looks like Congress wants to keep an eye on annoying people like Porkbusters. It may be significant that S.1 was introduced by Harry Reid, one of the Kings of Pork.

[UPDATE] We won this round. The Senate passed the Bennett Amendment, which eliminated the questionable language. Here is the roll call vote. Both Chambliss and Isakson voted in the affirmative.


  1. Bill Simon says:

    Nice research and retrieval on our Guvment, Jason!

    This kind of bill sounds like a do-do-head like Senator Ted Stevens (“The Internet is just a bunch of tubes!”) would offer and vote for.

  2. bowersville says:

    I understood “paid” ,among other definitions, was also to be interpreted as “communicating with 5oo or more members of the public on policy matters,” not necessarily an exchange of money for services.

    Senator Bob Bennett (R) Utah introduced an amendment to remove the bill’s controversial Section 220. Bennett argued “we will do damage to the constitutional right…freedom of speech…” Further, “Section 220 of S. 1 would require ‘bloggers’ who communicate to 500 or more members of the public on policy matters, to register and report to congress…”

    What’s next? Talk radio?

    “Congress preparing to Criminalize Critics?”

  3. bowersville says:

    If the definition “communicating with 5oo or more members of the public on policy matters” is a correct interpretation, it does include talk radio. Goodbye Boortz.

  4. Jmac says:

    I think we’re reading way too much in to this. There’s considerable legal wiggle room in this bill to remove both bloggers and talk radio from any jurisdiction under this bill.

    The bill was, rightfully, amended from …

    `(17) GRASSROOTS LOBBYING- 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.

    to …


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

    If someone contacted Peach Pundit and gave them money to lobby for a particular issue, then they’d be subject to this law. If Peach Pundit commentators chose to voice their opinions on their own, they wouldn’t.

    And that’s just one loophole.

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