The Lonely Centrist

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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.

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