All content, of both the original and this blog, is written from my point of view and is my opinion. I believe it to be accurate at the time it is written. ~ Kyle Prast, Brookfield resident since 1986

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Protect free speech & grassroots efforts: Call your U.S. Senators today! (UPDATED)

First bill out of the new Senate deals with stomping on our right of free speech: Senate Bill 1, the Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007, (Section 220). Everyone’s right to free speech? Nope. Only pro-family grassroots style organizations. (Groups like the AFA mentioned in Strength in numbers translates to policy changes.)

Whether you share the values of these types of groups or not, the principle of restricting free speech is alarming. These groups are only doing what I try to do: alert you about issues affecting your life and then urge you to contact the officials involved in making the decision.

Why? Some members of Congress are tired of getting emails and phone calls! It seems that organizations such as the American Family Association and Focus on the Family are too effective in getting their message out to their concerned members about controversial legislative issues. Unbelievably, the Senate wants to curtail these types of organizations from availing themselves of inexpensive alerting methods such as email or websites.

Instead, the new bill would require grassroots organizations to jump through all sorts of expensive hoops when alerting their members. The new bill also includes civil fines of up to $100,000 for failing to comply with their new restrictions. (The bill defines grassroots lobbying firms as any organization that encourages 500 or more members of the public to contact Congress.)
(UPDATE) According to Focus on the Family - Action, "most of the bill deals with cleaning up recent lobbying scandals that have plagued the halls of our government. While most of the bill is good, it contains...section 220, which will severly limit your ability to stay abreast of important issues...harming the ability of share that information with you." (Emphasis added)

Senate Bill 1 makes exemptions for larger, organized groups who employ paid lobbyists, who don’t dominantly rely on public communication to get their messages out.

The American Family Association (AFA) reported, “Basically these new rules were written to isolate pro-family (type) organizations. Large corporations (which spend millions in lobbying expenses) would be exempt. Communications aimed at an organization’s “members, employees, officers or shareholders” would be exempt. That means that groups such as the AFL-CIO,, National Education Association and other organized groups would be exempt.”

Not every Senator is in agreement with Senate Bill 1. Senator Robert Bennett has introduced an amendment cosponsored by Senator Mitch McConnell to strike section 220 from S. 1.

The amendment (amendment 20) could come up for a vote on the floor of the Senate as early as next Tuesday. Please call your U.S. senators and urge them to support the Bennett amendment (amendment 20) to S. 1.

Your message can be as simple as:

"I am very concerned about the grassroots lobbying provisions in section 220 of Senate Bill 1, the 'Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007.' Please support the Bennett amendment (amendment 20) to remove section 220 from S. 1. Organizations should not have to register with Congress in order to ask citizens to contact their elected officials."

You can reach our U.S. senators by calling their U.S. Capitol offices or Milwaukee offices: Kohl 202-224-5653 or 414-207-4451 and Feingold 202-224-5323 or 414-276-7282. Any senator may be contacted by calling the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. (I called each office and they said they were getting many calls. We need to flood them!)

If you care to read more about this or sign an online petition, you may on the AFA’s action alert page, click here. Focus on the Family - Action also has an info page and online petition, click here. Neither one include the Bennett amendment 20 information, however, so you still need to call our senators.


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