Setting the Record Straight

We reported about Grass Roots Freedom yesterday. It is apparently a red herring, or a ploy by a lobbyist to quash the bill.

Reality Check: Senate Bill S.1 Poses No Threat To Bloggers
By Paul McDougall
Jan 18, 2007 at 03:36 PM ET

My colleague Mitch Wagner and some other journalists have picked up on a report by an organization called Grass Roots Freedom that a Senate bill designed to bring transparency to the lobbying process could result in the jailing of political bloggers. Did you know that the bill does not even mention the words “blog” or “blogger”? There’s also a couple of things you should know about “Grass Roots Freedom.”

As Mitch reports on his own blog entry, Grass Roots Freedom says Senate bill S. 1 “would require grassroots causes, even bloggers, who communicate to 500 or more members of the public on policy matters, to register and report quarterly to Congress the same as the big K Street lobbyists” or face time in the slammer.

As Bill O’Reilly might say: Folks, that’s just spin. First off, as I mentioned, the bill itself contains no reference to blogs or bloggers. What it does cover are paid lobbying activities, which include “paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying, but do not include grass roots lobbying,” according the text of the bill itself. It also indicates that the lobbyist must be receiving at least $25,000 per quarter from a client to fall under the “paid” definition.

So, sure. If a blogger is receiving what amounts to a six-figure annual salary from a client, say, Acme River Pollutants, Inc., to write blogs urging people to form a campaign to stop, say, a clean water act, then that blogger would have to register as a lobbyist or face the penalties set out in the bill.

(Note that if the blogger was simply opposing the act he or she would not fall under the bill’s definition of a lobbyist. He or she would have to be urging other people to organize and oppose.)

So the notion that this would apply to individual bloggers who use the Web to disseminate their opinions or report news is pure nonsense. But don’t take my word for it, read the bill yourself, it’s The Legislative Accountability and Transparency Act of 2007.

Oh, and about Grass Roots Freedom? If you think it’s an organization with a long tradition of promoting civil disobedience or something like that, you’d be wrong. According to Internet records, did not exist until December 11, 2006.

And its chairman, Richard Viguerie? He’s also chairman of something called American Target Advertising, to which the site is registered. And he also hosts a conservative Web forum called

Are you getting the picture? Blog on.


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