The Lonely Centrist

A place for reasoned debate about the issues of the day.

See my complete profile

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Will Citizen Speech be a Victim of Lobbying Reform?

I got this in the email, and it seemed worth passing on:

Press Release
December 19, 2006
Free Speech Coalition, Inc., McLean, Virginia

Contact: Dick Dingman (703) 356-6912,
or Mark Fitzgibbons (703) 392-7676

Pelosi Grassroots Disclosure Steamrolls Little Guys,
Does Not Streamline Laws, FSC Tells Public Citizen

McLean, VA. Free Speech Coalition, Inc. today criticized Public Citizen’s defense of proposed unprecedented disclosure of grassroots communicators under legislation expected to be introduced by Speaker-Elect Nancy Pelosi early in the next Congress. Public Citizen admits it is helping craft grassroots disclosure legislation for Speaker-Elect Pelosi fashioned after her 2006 legislation, H.R. 4682, which would require new quarterly disclosure to Congress of grassroots policy speech and publication.

A spokesman for Public Citizen was quoted in Human Events (“Pelosi Targets Grassroots Freedom of Speech,” that such new quarterly disclosure
requirements would help “streamline” definitions found in Internal Revenue Service laws.

At nearly the same time that Public Citizen was defending its disclosure legislation, it had issued a press release criticizing those who sought disclosure of the identity of GayNewsWorld. That press release, ( admits to the “constitutional right to anonymous speech.” “Individuals and companies do not have a right to know the identities of their anonymous critics, and Internet service providers are not required to disclose them,” added Public Citizen’s press release about its defense of GayNewsWorld.

“The Pelosi/Public Citizen bill adds new, extensive disclosure requirements that would burden all and even silence some grassroots causes,” said lawyer and FSC member, Mark Fitzgibbons, who added, “That’s not ‘streamlining.’”

Liberals historically have defended the privacy of association and even the right to anonymous political speech. Justice John Paul Stevens, for example, wrote the majority opinion in McIntyre v. Ohio Election Commission, 514 U.S. 334 (1995) protecting the anonymity of speakers on political issues. Fitzgibbons stated, “Public Citizen would impose burdensome quarterly disclosure requirements on small, controversial, unpopular speakers who have no Washington lobbyists and who provide no money to candidates. Their bill is not targeted at so-called “Astroturf” lobbying by corporations and trade associations, and is at odds with what Public Citizen itself admits are constitutional rights.”

FSC was the first to expose how the bill would treat small grassroots communicators more harshly than even K Street lobbyists by making grassroots communicators ineligible for exemptions available to Washington-based lobbyists. The bill would also provide loopholes for large corporations and labor unions to spend hundreds of millions of dollars communicating to shareholders, employees, officers and members. A letter and analysis from FSC to Public Citizen, now signed by 51 grassroots leaders, is available at

Free Speech Coalition, Inc. 8180 Greensboro Drive, Suite 1070, McLean, Virginia, is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization that protects the First Amendment rights of advocacy. It was founded in 1993, and can be reached at (703) 356-6912.

Straight Talkin'

A friend drew my attention to what happens if you try to reachwww.straighttalkblog. Har Har.

Friday, December 01, 2006

They're Back!

The Washington insiders who gave us McCain-Feingold - now there's a success story - are back with plans to "fix" congress. A central part of the their plan: members should spend more time in Washington - where they can more readily see lobbyists, I guess - and less time in their districts. A wonderful solution only a couple of careerist Washingtonians could dream up. And they also want "a strengthened reporting and disclosure system," apparently on the grounds that Bob Ney would have reported receiving thousands of dollars in casino chips from lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and Duke Cunningham wouldn't have accepted bribes, and William Jefferson wouldn't have been found with thousands in cash hidden in his office refrigerator, if only there had been more detailed "reporting." I like to envision Congressman Jefferson's disclosure form:

Gift: Refrigerator
Value: $95,000

The question average Americans might have is why nobody in Washington is ever held accountable. It's not just members of Congress, but as the careers of these two men show, it's also true - even more true, really - of the career punditry. Tom Mann and Norm Ornstein (and the same can be said of dozens of other denizens of cable TV and the DC "symposia circuit") can be wrong over and over and over again, and remain "respected," influential commentators. One might fairly argue - indeed, Norm Ornstein doesn't seem to shy about arguing, if you read his bio page linked above - that these two men are as responsible as anyone in Washington for the current panoply of ethics laws. Yet here there are, dispassionate experts, enlightening us all once again about how to "fix" a "broken branch."

Maybe that lack of accountability, not only in but out of government, rather than the number of days not spent in Washington, is the real problem.

  • The Skeptic
  • Andrew Sullivan
  • Michael Barone
  • The New Republic
  • National Review
  • Democracy Project
  • Bob Bauer
  • Center for Competitive Politics
  • Ryan Sager
  • Going to the Matt
  • Professor Bainbridge
  • Volokh Conspiracy
  • Mystery Pollster
  • Amitai Etzioni
  • Alexander Chrenkoff
  • Middle East Media Research Institute
  • Right Democrat
  • Democrats for Life