Sunday, January 14, 2007

Transparency, My Foot!

Senate Bill 1, especially Section 220, continues to concern me. This section in particular appears to be an attempt by Senators to stop the flood of phone calls that they receive from us common folk-you know, their constituents-when we discover that they are about to establish laws that we really don't want them to. The way this will be accomplished is by strong-arming small groups to spend huge sums of money that they don't have on administrative efforts. These groups act as clearing houses of information to those of us who lack the time to examine in full every bill which is proposed and to think through the legal ramifications of each and how our lives will be altered. The groups that will be affected seem to be specifically targetted, as those groups large and rich enough to employ lobbyists won't need to comply., for example, would not be affected, but American Family Association will be.

The Senate has declared that this bill is intended "to provide greater transparency in the legislative process". Why does this strike me as a bit of NewSpeak? Their constituents-we the people-often depend on small, independent, usually non-profit groups to inform us through their websites, emails, and snail mail of what our Congressmen are doing. That is transparency. Placing onerous restrictions on private groups, gagging them, and thereby reducing knowledge of our representatives' doings does not provide greater transparency. It simply allows a cover for those who wish to slide legislation through without our knowledge until it's too late.

As far as I can tell from the link above, the Senate is set to debate and vote on this underhanded bill (or section of bill) on Tuesday, January 16. Please, if you believe in the right of small groups to assemble, to disseminate information to we the people, to have freedom of speech, to petition the government, and to be involved in the legislative process, contact your Senators right away by email and by phone if possible and tell them that you would like them to vote "No" on S. 1.

You can email your Senators by going to the Senate website . Choose your state in the top right hand corner. It should bring up a screen with your two Senators and their contact information including a link to their email.

More on S 1 Section 220 from

Democrats First Order of Day in New US Senate: Penalize Pro-Family Groups Grassroots lobbying groups would be forced to track every cent spent on any given issue

By Meg Jalsevac
WASHINGTON, January 12, 2007 ( –

The new Democratic majority in the United States Senate is poised to pass a new ethics bill that threatens the essential grassroots lobbying efforts and information distribution of pro-family and pro-life organizations.

Under Section 220 of Senate Bill 1, the proposed bill supposedly intended to “provide greater transparency in the legislative process,” would place onerous reporting burdens on any organization that encourages the public to contact any member of the executive or judicial branches of government on an issue. Any organization that does so would have to track each dollar spent as well as report which political issues they focused on and which government officials they communicated with. These figures would have to be submitted quarterly and would be public domain.

American Family Association websites asserts that the requirements would place arduous expectations on small organizations such as theirs, saying, “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.”

Expenditures that would have to be reported include employee costs, advertising costs, and mailing and distribution costs. These figures would have to be submitted quarterly and would be available to the public. The staggering compliance costs of monitoring all expenditures on every relevant issue would present a substantial burden to pro-family and conservative organizations that survive on public donations. The bill would also open these organizations’ lobbying plans and strategies to the scrutiny of opposing organizations.

Consequences for not properly complying with the proposed legislation would include fines up to $100,000.

Section 220 of Senate Bill 1, entitled “Disclosure of paid efforts to stimulate grassroots Lobbying” presents a clear attack on the effective grassroots lobbying of conservative groups since it provides exemptions for the more affluent organizations and corporations who can afford to employ lobbyists to contact government officials
rather than relying on grassroots efforts. It also protects the communications of organized groups like the AFL-CIO and under exceptions for
communications to an organization’s “members, employees, officers or shareholders.”

American Family Association president, Don Wildmon said that the bill is being supported by both sides of the political spectrum because “they are tired of hearing from their constituencies.” AFA’s website is providing contact information and encouraging the public to contact their senators and request that they vote “No” on Senate Bill 1.

View American Family Association’s website:

Related link: Shh! We're Voting Here

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At 1/16/2007 10:54 PM, Blogger Anna Venger said...

To Anonymous---

You left your question to me on an unrelated post--I think you meant for it to be here?


I'm not a lawyer either and don't wish to misrepresent myself. As I understand it, the level of reporting that would be demanded of these groups would be such that it would tie them up in red tape and force them to hire 8 or more people to keep up with all the reporting, etc, in order not to be closed down. Some of the groups that were very concerned already operate on a shoestring budget and don't have many wealthy sponsors, just mostly regular folks. The big groups already employ lobbists and won't be affected much. Since I had seen reports from several different groups--one whose site I had never been to before because it's just so different from my usual reads-- I take it on good faith that there is indeed something they rightfully feel threatened by, hence the post, to help out little voices with shallow but sincere pockets.

At 1/19/2007 10:02 AM, Blogger Dumb Ox said...

Hi there, great blog, great self-description, and great post on the Dems efforts to sneak these enormous controls on grassroots conservative groups under the radar. EXACTLY why such groups are needed. I am a lawyer (and history prof), but you and your readers can check with American Center for Law and Justice to get legal opinions on this and other topics from a conservative, constitutional perspective anytime.

Or check my blog, but my news coverage is a bit more incendiary than your calm and informational approach!

All the best,
D. Ox


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