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The Grassroots Blogging Provision's Real Purpose

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the been-had dept.

The Almighty Buck 227

ICantFindADecentNick writes "The Register carries a report on the defeat of Section 220 of the reform bill (the grassroots provision). In an all-too-familiar scene, bloggers, Slashdot readers and several news outlets were taken in by the hype surrounding a provision in the Senate ethics reform bill that would have required grassroots lobbying firms to register with the US Congress. To be fair, some commenters did see through the deception but the campaign, organized by Richard Viguerie, still succeeded. From the article: 'Viguerie, for those not familiar with the tarnished panoply of backroom players in American politics, pioneered the use of direct mail techniques for conservative causes, and has been called the "funding father" of the modern conservative movement. His ad agency currently handles direct mail campaigns for non-profits seeking to stimulate grassroots activity or raise funds from the general public.'" This is, of course, The Register. Still interesting to look back at the news from another point of view.

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227 comments

Wow. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17722670)

Way to post non-news to a news site.

Tool.

Re:Wow. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17723740)

It's a follow up to a previous article [slashdot.org]. It corrects that article's mistatement of the facts of the legislative provisions to prevent paid-lobbyists ($25,000 or more in one quarter of a year and a specific client) from using "blogging" as a loophole in the lobbyist reporting rules. The previous article pretended the legislation the Republicans all voted against would have hindered all bloggers. In fact, as this "correction [slashdot.org] states, the Republicans all voted to prevent proper reporting of paid-for lobbying activity online (when done on behalf of a specific client's interests). You may not think correcting the record is news. I do.

This is, of course, The Register? (5, Funny)

mingot (665080) | more than 7 years ago | (#17722700)

Only a bastion of fine news reporting like slashdot can say something like this without sounding pretentious.

Re:This is, of course, The Register? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17722744)

You can be standing up to your neck in crap, but you're still entitled to point out that someone else also smells.

Re:This is, of course, The Register? (2, Insightful)

gumbi west (610122) | more than 7 years ago | (#17722858)

yeah, I don't understand. I guess he's saying that, "We went for it hook line and sinker and they did the equivalent of RTFA and now know what it really says, but I still think there not very good at reporting." Or is it supposed to mean something else?

Re:This is, of course, The Register? (1)

quokkapox (847798) | more than 7 years ago | (#17722964)

This is, of course, Zonk

This is, of course, quokkapox

Wait, what? Who am I?

Stack overflow, too many avatars.

Re:This is, of course, The Register? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17723562)

To be fair, they are talking about The "We Make Shit Up" Register. They're The Sun of tech reporting. Even digg can look down their noses at The Register.

Re:This is, of course, The Register? (1)

Larry Lightbulb (781175) | more than 7 years ago | (#17724182)

Can you point out the news stories which The Register has made up?

Re:This is, of course, The Register? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17724638)

Can you point out the news stories which The Register has made up?

If they made up a story like "The Register Makes Up News Stories," I'm pretty sure something would vanish in a puff of logic.

Hooray for "editors"! (5, Insightful)

Goaway (82658) | more than 7 years ago | (#17722708)

"Look back"?

People were screaming about the whole thing being a complete fabrication each time it was posted on Slashdot. You could have just, you know, read the comments?

Re:Hooray for "editors"! (4, Insightful)

bockelboy (824282) | more than 7 years ago | (#17722802)

I was screaming that it was a fabrication last time it was on Slashdot, but that didn't stop twice as many people from posting that I was completely wrong.

It only takes a bit of blood to turn it into a free-speech orgy, even if the law was well-within the limits of free speech as the Supreme Court has put into place.

Just for reference, political statements (i.e., burning the flag, ranting on your blog) are heavily shielded by the First Amendment. Political statements paid for by a campaign to get someone elected are NOT heavily shielded by the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has upheld that fact again and again.

Re:Hooray for "editors"! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17722986)

Just for reference, political statements (i.e., burning the flag, ranting on your blog) are heavily shielded by the First Amendment. Political statements paid for by a campaign to get someone elected are NOT heavily shielded by the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has upheld that fact again and again.

They have? Cite one example.

The Federalist Papers were funded by quantifiable donations (either by newspapers donating space to print them or by people donating money to distribute them) and they were used to promote political change. Would they not qualify today for 1st amendment protections?

"Congress shall make no law..." means Congress shall make no law.

Re:Hooray for "editors"! (2, Interesting)

geoffspear (692508) | more than 7 years ago | (#17723094)

Who exactly were the Federalist Papers trying to get elected again?

Re:Hooray for "editors"! (2, Informative)

Krow10 (228527) | more than 7 years ago | (#17723832)

Who exactly were the Federalist Papers trying to get elected again?
Not a who, but the Federalist Papers [foundingfathers.info] were written to influence people to support the Constitution. Likewise, the Antifederalist Papers [wepin.com] were written to influence people to oppose the Constitution. They were written anonymously, under the pseudonym "Publius" for the Federalist Papers and "A Farmer" and "An Observer" among others for the Antifederalist Papers, though some of the Antifederalist Papers were attributed.


Cheers,
Craig

Re:Hooray for "editors"! (1)

Dan Slotman (974474) | more than 7 years ago | (#17724118)

In the initial discussion I made the point that any censorship is bad censorship, and I stand by that. A lot of people seem to feel that they got "taken" by political gaming, but disliking paid grassroots campaigns doesn't justify censorship. Don't be confused by where parties have drawn up their battle lines. Think for yourself.

From my original post:
Unopposed distribution of political speech, including the distribution of political pamphlets, has always been legal. At the very least, this law will cause a "chilling effect" on political bloggers, paid or otherwise. At its worst, it could rob our generation of our Johnathan Swifts, our Thomas Paines, and our James Madisons, all of whom published political pamphlets anonymously or under a pseudonym. Certainly this law would not prevent anonymous contributions to political thought, but my point is that political speech should not be infringed, regardless of its motivation. Stopping FUD is not worth sacrificing unopposed free speech.

(James Madison was one of the authors of the Federalist Papers.)

Re:Hooray for "editors"! (1)

Goaway (82658) | more than 7 years ago | (#17724212)

So, the law does not apply to the anonymous political speech you reference, nor to political speech not produced as part of a paid-for campaign, and actually does not forbid any speech.

What was your point, again?

Re:Hooray for "editors"! (3, Insightful)

falsified (638041) | more than 7 years ago | (#17724360)

Where's the censorship? Registering as a lobbyist sure as HELL doesn't restrict access or speech. All it does is label you as what you are. That's like saying states that ask for party identification when you register to vote are keeping you from voting.

Re:Hooray for "editors"! (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 7 years ago | (#17724538)

"Registering as a lobbyist sure as HELL doesn't restrict access or speech. All it does is label you as what you are."

So on that basis, there's no problem with requiring people to register before they make personal statements about politicians, or requiring them to register before they post to the web, or requiring them to register before they say anything to anyone?

'Registration' is censorship through the back door, and can and will be used to punish those who disagree with the government. Surely that's not so hard to understand?

I have no love for political lobbyists, but the only way to have free speech is to have free speech; saying 'some kinds of speech are more equal than others' is absurd.

Re:Hooray for "editors"! (1)

cascadingstylesheet (140919) | more than 7 years ago | (#17724858)

Just for reference, political statements (i.e., burning the flag, ranting on your blog) are heavily shielded by the First Amendment. Political statements paid for by a campaign to get someone elected are NOT heavily shielded by the First Amendment.

Why?

Re:Hooray for "editors"! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17723756)

You could have just, you know, read the comments?
Whoa. One step at a time.

First we try to get the editors to read the summaries, then the articles, and only after they have that down do we try to get them to read our comments. You're like skipping at least two steps.

right... (5, Informative)

moerty (1030150) | more than 7 years ago | (#17722736)

This is, of course, The Register. Still interesting to look back at the news from another point of view. submitter makes it seem almost wistful that he and a bunch of other tards were taken in hook line and sinker when all they had to do was read and see what was really going on. it also makes me wonder how many posters here are paid shills of a misinformation campaign although as they say, "don't attribute to malice what is perfectably explainable by stupidity."

Re:right... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17722846)

"it also makes me wonder how many posters here are paid shills of a misinformation campaign"

Well, those are exactly the people this bill would have regulated, so it seems pretty likely that they do exist (here and on most large forums).

A lot of Americans have been living in a fantasy world lately, where the rich and powerful are there to do good and benevolently oversee us plebes. If they open their eyes, though, they'll see commercial databanks whose sole purpose is to spy on us and sell whatever is discovered, a government which purchases this data in order to bypass laws against domestic spying, and a gargantuan propaganda machine which convinces everyone it's no big deal -- in fact, convinces everyone it's necessary. It would be downright naive to think that Slashdot is immune to the same sorts of underhanded marketing tactics.

Re:right... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17723110)

You shill....

Re:right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17723410)

If only I could find a corporation that agreed with me, I'd be set.

Re:right... (1)

cascadingstylesheet (140919) | more than 7 years ago | (#17722912)

submitter makes it seem almost wistful that he and a bunch of other tards were taken in hook line and sinker when all they had to do was read and see what was really going on.

'tards'?

Yes, obviously they lack your intelligence and discernment ...

Re:right... (2, Funny)

Macthorpe (960048) | more than 7 years ago | (#17723124)

To be fair, he might have the English skills of a squashed beetle but he does have a point...

Re:right... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17723038)

Just to qualify, if you managed to trawl through that mangled shitfest that the parent calls the English language, he actually makes a good point.

Slashdot is hardly in a position to put on a haughty tone and shout "Oh, well, this is The Register", when their own reporting is based on whatever rabid drivelling the latest basement-bound, freedom-clinging, frothing, mouth-breathing Linux zealot submits to the editors. They're too stupid to fucking notice anyway. It's nice and easy to run a news site when all you have to do is write 10 words of your own bias-ridden shit every other story to keep it ticking over.

Re:right... (4, Interesting)

ZachPruckowski (918562) | more than 7 years ago | (#17723334)

Yes. I was actually in a position in which I was quoting and citing large sections of the bill, only to have people dispute that that was what the bill said, despite my source being the Library of Congress. Some stupid astroturfer's press release was given as large, if not larger, a sway as THE ACTUAL BILL.

Re:right... (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 7 years ago | (#17725144)

I saw that as well; one person quoted the actual text of the bill, only to have respondent quote another blog interpretation at him. I tried similar postings of actual bill text with explanation, but the groupthink washed it away.

Biased summary (2, Insightful)

slapout (93640) | more than 7 years ago | (#17722752)

"pioneered the use of direct mail techniques for conservative causes"

So, you're saying that liberal causes haven't figured out how to use the mail box yet?

Re:Biased summary (1)

PhxBlue (562201) | more than 7 years ago | (#17722862)

Judging by the amount of Republican junk I had in my mailbox I had last fall, I would say no. And thank the gods they haven't.

Re:Biased summary (4, Insightful)

zootm (850416) | more than 7 years ago | (#17723008)

"Pioneered" would generally tend to mean "they started it". It doesn't say anything about their opposition not doing the same thing (in fact, I think it implies that they followed?).

Re:Biased summary (3, Insightful)

gb506 (738638) | more than 7 years ago | (#17723064)

So, you're saying that liberal causes haven't figured out how to use the mail box yet?


Excellent observation. The provision as it was written would have barred companies from encouraging or providing mechanisms for their customers to contact legislators regarding issues of import - unless, of course, said company "registered" with the government and reported all activities and expenditures. And that is a massive free speech problem. Nobody wants to construct a reporting mechanism, legislators know that. It's much easier to simply stop trying to engage in advocacy.

At the end of the day this was an attempt by government to limit the amount of communication they get from the unwashed masses. And to that effort I say, Fuck You Very Much, thank you.

Re:Biased summary (1)

Dr_Mic (975409) | more than 7 years ago | (#17723926)

Excellent observation. The provision as it was written would have barred companies from encouraging or providing mechanisms for their customers to contact legislators regarding issues of import - unless, of course, said company "registered" with the government and reported all activities and expenditures. And that is a massive free speech problem. Nobody wants to construct a reporting mechanism, legislators know that. It's much easier to simply stop trying to engage in advocacy.
Sorry, I am not convinced that free speech rights were to apply or should now apply to companies. Citizens, absolutely, but companies, no. So monitoring corporate efforts to persuade comes under truth-in-advertising and is not a "massive free speech problem". Harassing an 86 year old man with the secret service for a letter to the editor is a massive free speech problem. http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=2811492 [go.com]

Re:Biased summary (2, Informative)

gb506 (738638) | more than 7 years ago | (#17724020)

Company != evil. My employer is an organic foods company. We try to get our consumers to advocate higher food safety regs, better environmental oversight, family farm freindly legislation, etc. These are not evil deeds. But the provision discussed here would have prevented us from communicating with our consumers about these issues unless we had the government giving us a quarterly anal probe. No thanks.

Re:Biased summary (1)

lbmouse (473316) | more than 7 years ago | (#17724506)

Excellent point. People tend to forget that a company is nothing more than a group of actual human beings (real people like investors, owners, mangers, employees [you and me]) all working towards a common goal. The vast majority of companies are not evil just like the vast majority of people. If a company doesn't have bad intentions and is not breaking any laws, why should the government be allowed to come in and censor it's activities? Rememberer, whenever gov't regulation gets involved (whether it individual or industry related), all you get is bloated bureaucracies, increased costs, and decreased efficiency. In the end, the consumers AND the companies lose... and the gov't just gets fatter.

Re:Biased summary (-1, Troll)

superwiz (655733) | more than 7 years ago | (#17724284)

Give the poor liberals a break. They figured out how to use a video camera (at least Michael Moore did). They don't have time to figure out technology. They are too busy crying about on each other's shoulders about the evils of polution, lack of education, social inequality, lack of healthcare, etc. Figuring out how to use new technology? They can invent it sure (as Al Gore did), but produce it and bring its use to the market? Isn't that a job for those vicious industrialized conservatives?

Uh, okay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17722836)

So why does the article's title say, "The Grassroots Blogging Provision's Real Purpose", but then not actually explain (or even link to) what the "real purpose" actually was?

mod Up (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17722842)

itS readers and 3o and doing what

F$%^ing idiots know jack about the law, apparently (-1, Flamebait)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 7 years ago | (#17722894)

Ever heard of RICO? How about how Gonzalez recently asserted that there is no right to Habeus Corpus in the US Constitution, only a provision that says it cannot be taken away except in some cases. Lawyers and their ilk frequently abuse legal language to make it mean something it doesn't, using the most hyper-legalistic explanations they can. Any law that can be abused, will be abused. Hell, the DOJ even had seminars for a while on how to use the USA PATRIOT Act against non-terrorists.

F$%^ you, you idiots who can't be bothered to learn from history.

Re:F$%^ing idiots know jack about the law, apparen (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 7 years ago | (#17722974)

Jeez, calm down. It was simply a law requiring paid political astroturfers to register with Congress, just like the K Street lobbyists have to already. Being registered as a lobbyist doesn't seem to have slowed Jack Abromoff down any.

Re:F$%^ing idiots know jack about the law, apparen (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17723244)

Yeah, I can understand how Gonzales was confused that where the Constitution said that "the privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended..." meant that it could be suspended anytime he felt like it. But what I don't understand is how you think that where the Constitutions says "Congress shall make no law..." means that Congress can make any law on speech or that "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people" means that all powers not given to Congress in the Constitution actually are given to Congress in the Constitution--namely regulating political speech by corporations. If you can tell me the sections of the Constitution that I might have missed that actually give Congress the power to regulate corporate political speech please feel free to list them. Otherwise it seems to me that they are reserved powers and can't be tampered with without a Constitutional amendment.

But then again, I'm just an amateur. I'm not a lawyer like Gonzales who can read a sentence that says "No" and interpret it to mean "Yes." I guess I'm just not educated enough to understand what the Constitution really means. Maybe you have to look at it with a blacklight or read it upside down to understand it.

Re:F$%^ing idiots know jack about the law, apparen (1)

Snarfangel (203258) | more than 7 years ago | (#17724106)

Being registered as a lobbyist doesn't seem to have slowed Jack Abromoff down any.

Then what good would this law do?

Re:F$%^ing idiots know jack about the law, apparen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17723478)

Those who remember the past are condemned to watch it be repeated.

Dear /.: You owe your readers an apology (5, Insightful)

jalefkowit (101585) | more than 7 years ago | (#17722914)

Shouldn't we get an apology from the /. "editors", since they swallowed Vigurie's spin hook line and sinker -- not once, but twice?

(Of course, since they apparently don't read the comments, where many people pointed out the truth on this issue, I expect the answer is probably no.)

Re:Dear /.: You owe your readers an apology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17724078)

No offense, but I'm not sure it was Slashdot's editors that swallowed something hook, line, and sinker.

Freedom of speech includes freedom to sell that speech. Just like copyright includes the right to release something in open source.

Whatever laws may have been passed to violate the First Ammendment since the country's founding notwithstanding, I see no reason for the government to control any type of speech whatsoever.

In other words, the blogosphere was actually right on this one.

throwing the baby out with the bathwater (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17722928)

I don't quite understand what this slashdot article is claiming, but if the claim is that the provision for bloggers to register was actually a good idea because some lobbyists take advantage of it, then it amounts to condoning giving up rights for safety.

Americans must STOP trading liberties and rights in order to enforce laws. This is a prime example where its possible that if bloggers registerred, it might stop some exploitation of the medium, and I think that is a great idea that we should pass on the day that we take away everyone's guns because criminals use them to kill people.

Re:throwing the baby out with the bathwater (4, Informative)

Goaway (82658) | more than 7 years ago | (#17723010)

It's claiming that it's a good idea to have astroturfing paid political shills register, which was what the bill was about. Apparently you are missing the part where all the reporting on the bill was complete fabrications and had very little to do with the reality of what it covered.

Re:throwing the baby out with the bathwater (1)

AppyPappy (64817) | more than 7 years ago | (#17723022)

Anytime you can limit free speech, you have done a good thing. /sarcasm

Re:throwing the baby out with the bathwater (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 7 years ago | (#17723114)

Why do you support the "free speech" of paid political lobbyists? Again, it was just requiring registration - in other words admitting you're a political shill.

Re:throwing the baby out with the bathwater (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17723660)

Why do you support the "free speech" of paid political lobbyists? Again, it was just requiring registration - in other words admitting you're a political shill.

First they came for the paid political lobbyists,
And I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a paid political lobbyist...

Re:throwing the baby out with the bathwater (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 7 years ago | (#17724514)

As a LIBERTARIAN, I find the whole Censorship by the left wing wackos and the right wing nut jobs completely distasteful. Lets just label everything "hate speech" and "lies" and create laws to protect the sensibilities of the over sensitive people

The left wants to limit free speech (Fairness Doctrine, Bloggers as Lobbyists, Political Correctness .. etc) as much if not more so than right (book burning, Porno etc) does.

I wonder how the left would feel if the right wanted to make it so that all porn producers and actors had to register to produce porn and anyone making or working in porn without a licence was subject to the same types of punishments.

They can take my speech away just after they take my guns aways. Oh wait ... never mind....

Re:throwing the baby out with the bathwater (1)

why-is-it (318134) | more than 7 years ago | (#17725084)

As a LIBERTARIAN, I find the whole Censorship by the left wing wackos and the right wing nut jobs completely distasteful. Lets just label everything "hate speech" and "lies" and create laws to protect the sensibilities of the over sensitive people

I fail to see what being a libertarian has to do with it. Free speech is not an absolute right. I'm sure you are aware that free speech cannot be used to justify screaming "FIRE!" in a crowded theater, when there is no fire. Nor does free speech include inciting other people to criminal acts.

There are already limits to free speech. Some might argue that my examples do not have anything to do with political free speech, and that is what the core of this particular argument is about. To that, I can only point out that sedition is a crime, so there appear to be pre-existing limits on political free speech too.

It's not a left-right issue, and there really isn't anything to be gained from trying to make it appear that way, unless you have some other axe to grind. The end result is that wealthy special interests have won out against the public good yet again. I fail to see how that benefits anyone, on the left or the right.

Re:throwing the baby out with the bathwater (1)

bendodge (998616) | more than 7 years ago | (#17724344)

This is the real deal:

the requirement would have applied to anyone who, in the service of their employer, engaged in the stimulation of grassroots lobbying designed to influence more than 500 people, as long as the organization spent over $25,000 per quarter on the activity. Thus, anyone who was paid $25,000 per quarter to maintain a weblog with a readership of more than 500 people would have to register with Congress under section 220 if they spent all of their time encouraging the general public to contact an executive or legislative official over a matter of public policy.

Free speech for me, not for you. (2, Insightful)

DBett (241601) | more than 7 years ago | (#17723988)

Being /. it's claiming that it was a good provision because it was not really about targeting free speech, but rather about targeting a "tarnished" "backroom" "conservative." That being the goal, anything goes.

Oh, it's all good then (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17722940)

Since the provision was designed to silence some conservative grassroots guy, it must be okay. Surely there wouldn't be any unintended consequences.

Yeah... (2, Insightful)

fitten (521191) | more than 7 years ago | (#17722944)

Yeah... whoever heard of a Slashdot reader not RTFA and jumping at whatever conclusions are presented in the blurb.... I must be new here.

Why, I oughta (1)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#17724570)

Look you toffy-nosed, malodorous pervert, I got as far as "whoever heard of a Slashdot reader" and I just had to respond. Now admittedly, I have no idea what the rest of your post may or may not say, but I've never let facts, or lack thereof, stand in my way before.

Plenty of people have heard of a slashdot reader, only a moron would say otherwise.

Sheesh, you people...

astroturfing (4, Insightful)

Johnny5000 (451029) | more than 7 years ago | (#17722952)

Kinda funny that the bill to try to prevent astroturfing was defeated largely by astroturfing.

It might be interesting to look back... (4, Insightful)

MarkusQ (450076) | more than 7 years ago | (#17723492)

It might be interesting to look back at those threads and see if we could figure out who the astroturfers are.

I've also thought, more ambitiously, that it might be interesting to see if there were discernible patterns to postings by astroturfers, or to threads on which this was happening. I'm not sure what exactly to look for (especially since we don't have access to the IP addresses), but their still might be some pattern of boiler plate text, or things block copied from other sites, or...

Ideas?

--MarkusQ

Re:It might be interesting to look back... (1)

guspasho (941623) | more than 7 years ago | (#17725004)

I have a hunch they aren't spending a lot of time targeting specific arguments with responses that make sense in context, as opposed to more likely doing some quick and dirty cut-and-pasting that would stick out like a sore thumb due to the way it isn't related to anyone's arguments.

Re:astroturfing (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 7 years ago | (#17724596)

After all, it is impossible for someone to be against the bill if they knew what it was really about, right?????

I know what the bill was about, am I am a shill / mouthpiece for nobody but myself, and YET, I know better than to regulate speech on ANY grounds, because it IS a slippery slope, or at least that is what the left has always claimed when censorship was from the right.

Or is this the Hypocrisy Zone?

astroturfing wrong target (1)

beatnikmao (801184) | more than 7 years ago | (#17724878)

To me the problem isn't as much the lobbyists and astroturfers as it is the willingness of those in Congress to take their gifts, payments, etc. I am sure many of them are upset that this bill was defeated, if this new group of people had to register, it would have been so much easier for the members of Congress to figure where to get their new "donations." Once Congress starts making laws that puts strict penalties on them getting caught taking this money, then I will be impressed.

So, in list form: (4, Interesting)

Wilson_6500 (896824) | more than 7 years ago | (#17723070)

1) Senate proposes bill. Bill contains provisions that businesses will probably not like, but Senate feels pressure to do so from the public (?).

2) Influential conservative stirs up "public opinion" against bill's provisions.

3) Bill's provision is struck. Senate cites "will of the people" and shrugs. Senate gets to say "we tried, you didn't want it." Businesses keep astroturing. Everyone wins except the public who, as always, loses.

Just how often are the provisions of bills being discussed in Congress truly struck out because the people got wind of what was going on and spoke out--without some mouthpiece or rein-holding group to speak "for" us, or some vague poll number or other inaccurate metric telling the Congressfolks what we think, or some massive letter-writing campaign by just 2000 very angry people?

Re:So, in list form: (1)

dsanfte (443781) | more than 7 years ago | (#17723450)

Heh, you want Congress to govern based on what the people think? There are some real mouth-breathers around here, I'd hate to see what a country run by those would look like. Look, a republican government run in the manner you suggest would be mob rule by proxy.

The people need to be listened to less, not more. Abortion, gay marriage, all those rights issues need to be moved to the state level and out of federal politics forever, but 'people' continue getting into the process and trying to impose their will on the rest of the country by keeping it federal and hoping for a federal law. And Congress obliges them, because they're elected by them. I'm sorry if this 'seems' offtopic, but it really isn't, it relates directly to the ability of the majority of Americans to properly govern their own nation if given a real say in things, and directly to the implication in the last paragraph of your post.

You seem to be a fan of 'democracy', however it simply doesn't work. The fact that the US is shielded as much as it is from democracy by the filter of money is the only reason it's still around.

Re:So, in list form: (1)

Johnny5000 (451029) | more than 7 years ago | (#17723658)

The people need to be listened to less, not more. Abortion, gay marriage, all those rights issues need to be moved to the state level and out of federal politics forever,

So people magically become smarter when dealing with state politics, and they're morons when it comes to federal politics?

Based on the rest of your post, I would think you'd be in favor of more power consolidated in the national government- say in the hands of a king. Then we wouldn't have to deal with the opinions of the "mouth breathers" at all.

Re:So, in list form: (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 7 years ago | (#17724772)

"So people magically become smarter when dealing with state politics, and they're morons when it comes to federal politics?"

No, people have no real representation at the federal level, and more and closer representation at the state and local levels.

That, and our political structure has been screwed up by those who think themselves smarter than everyone else. While I know I am more intelligent than most people I don't go running around telling people that they are "Morons" because they happen to be less intelligent than I am. In fact, the less intelligent often see the simplicity that over analysis often prevents us "smarter" people from seeing.

Or as a professor I once knew said, an intelligent / educated person could tell you all about the genus and species and properties of a Rosaceae Rosoideae Rosa, and how it is grown and cultivated and all the useful by-products, but unless one is able to see the beauty and fragrance, its real purpose is lost. Seeing a child go up to the Rose, and looking at awe of the beauty and smelling the fragrance is something to behold. Intelligence often forgets the purpose of things, and a rose is to look at and smell.

That is a lesson I will never forget, and one that most in the Ivory Towers never learn.

In this case, being LIBERTARIAN, the less government interference, the better. This law will do NOTHING to protect anything but political allies of one-side or another, and really doesn't care about "the people".

Re:So, in list form: (1)

Johnny5000 (451029) | more than 7 years ago | (#17724942)

No, people have no real representation at the federal level, and more and closer representation at the state and local levels.

I'm familiar with that argument and I actually lean towards it in general.

Usually the reasoning behind giving the states more power is to put more power in the hands of the people, since they have closer representation at the state and local level, as you said.

My main issue was with the OP saying in one sentence that people are idiots and should have less political power, and then immediately stating that the states should have more power, which in my mind, seems to be a contradiction in logic.

Only a fool would expect less from a bunch of (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17723084)

hormone driven women and wanking /.ers

The sad part is not so much that it worked, but that the same crowd buys into every pop-sci, nuclear power is bad, we're destroying the planet, your immogrant nighbour is eatint the neighborhood pets, child abductions and school killings are rampat, terrorists are really nice prople who don't like me because they thik I'm not sensitive to their culture, cuttlefish are smarter than dolphins are smarter than dogs are more deserving of life than humans, Al Sharpton is NOT a racist who instigated the killing of 8 people in Harlem, and thimblefull of other crap that makes them feel good, important, superior, or might get them some nookie.

Having to register for having a public opinion... (1, Offtopic)

gd23ka (324741) | more than 7 years ago | (#17723128)

... is the first step. Once everbody is registered they have to have license to have a public opinion.
I'm not saying here that astroturfing isn't a huge problem, but if I started
speaking out against the govt/big business astroturfers guess whose license
would be revoked?

Paid for speach is NOT free speach (3, Insightful)

tinkerghost (944862) | more than 7 years ago | (#17723346)

No, you don't have to register to have a personal opinion, or to voice it in public. The bill was worded very specifically to make sure that only if you were paid to have an opinion (and only if you reached more than 500ppl), would you then have to register - just like if you are paid to have an opinion & print something in a magazine, in a newspaper, etc - all of those paid for by notices on the bottom of the TV adds - that's what it was about.

Re:Paid for speach is NOT free speach (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17724036)

No, you don't have to register to have a personal opinion, or to voice it in public. The bill was worded very specifically to make sure that only if you were paid to have an opinion (and only if you reached more than 500ppl) would you then have to register

In 1913 the income tax rate was 1% on taxable net income above $3,000 ($4,000 for married couples), less deductions and exemptions. It rose to a rate of 7% on incomes above $500,000. This is in 1913 dollars. What is the effective rate today?

The power of government should be treated like the nose of a camel. Don't let it poke into your tent unless you're damn sure you want it to sleep with you.

So what if I'm Alex Jones then? Watch Google Video (1)

gd23ka (324741) | more than 7 years ago | (#17724124)

So what if I were journalist and radio host like Alex Jones (http://www.infowars.com) and I made
a living investigating the US government and the United Nations and exposing them in
television documentaries like you can _buy_ on DVD from hist site at http://www.infowars.com/ [infowars.com] (
or watch for free on http://video.google.com/ [google.com]

Watch Terrorstorm http://video.google.com/videosearch?q=terrorstorm [google.com]
Watch 911 The Road To Tyranny http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-649546276 1605341661&q=alex+jones [google.com]
Watch The Order of Death (Bohemian Grove Exposed!) http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4927175064 395043413&q=alex+jones+order+of+death [google.com]
Watch Police State 2: The Takeover by Alex Jones http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-732845682 703884418&q=alex+jones [google.com]

Why should _he_ or anybody else for that matter register for the RIGHT to express their opinions in public
to any arbitrarily large audience?!

Re:So what if I'm Alex Jones then? Watch Google Vi (1)

tinkerghost (944862) | more than 7 years ago | (#17725032)

So what if I were journalist and radio host like Alex Jones (http://www.infowars.com) and I made a living investigating the US government and the United Nations and exposing them in television documentaries like you can _buy_ on DVD from hist site...[snip]...Why should _he_ or anybody else for that matter register for the RIGHT to express their opinions in public to any arbitrarily large audience?!

Is he being paid to express his opinions/do journalistic research or is he a contractor to a PR firm trying to get a 'grassroots' campaign started to promote his employers agenda? The wording of the ammendment made clear that you had to do 2 things to fall under it:

  1. Reach more than 500 people - ie don't waste our time & money with de-minimus
  2. be paid to present a stance and attempt to create a 'grassroots' movement

So, unless you take money to present a specific opinion & attempt to influence government by having your readers contact their representatives, you don't have to register as a political lobyist. This is just an attempt to do with blogs what is already manditory with radio, television, and print - If you take money to work for a political lobby, you have to register, hell in traditional media, you have to identify your affiliation on every add/interview.

So for Alex Jones, he doesn't qualify. He's a journalist who presents his facts & then tells people to take action. If he starts taking money from a PAC specifically to expouse a specific POV and astroturf for them, then yes, he does need to register, because he is no longer expressing his opinion he is expressing the opinion a PAC paid him to express. Hence the original title - paid for speach is not free speach & is not subject to the anonymity provisions which accompany the first ammendment.

Re:Paid for speach is NOT free speach (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17724568)

I wonder how many people your post reached there. I wonder if posting on a technology website while holding an IT job could count as being "paid to have an opinion". I wonder if the US dollar keeps tanking if the dollar amount would eventually paint just about everyone as having "paid speech".

If this bill had passed as originally worded, it would have eventually forced everyone to register to blog. It might not do it immediately but it would eventually. It was a bad bill and it needed to be defeated.

Free speech won in this case, make no mistake about it.

Doesn't matter what the purpose was (3, Insightful)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 7 years ago | (#17723264)

It's still retarded. From TFA:
Because of clumsy wording that would have included an employer in the definition of a "client," the requirement would have applied to anyone who, in the service of their employer, engaged in the stimulation of grassroots lobbying designed to influence more than 500 people, as long as the organization spent over $25,000 per quarter on the activity. Thus, anyone who was paid $25,000 per quarter to maintain a weblog with a readership of more than 500 people would have to register with Congress under section 220 if they spent all of their time encouraging the general public to contact an executive or legislative official over a matter of public policy.


Ignoring the issue with the readership, what would the registration accomplish anyway? You can already see who contributes to the politicans' campaigns, and that doesn't seem to do change anything.

Re:Doesn't matter what the purpose was (1)

MarkusQ (450076) | more than 7 years ago | (#17723390)

Ignoring the issue with the readership, what would the registration accomplish anyway? You can already see who contributes to the politicans' campaigns, and that doesn't seem to do change anything.

With registration, when Exxon hires a PR firm to create "Dr. Brown's Global Warming Truth Blog" and spread some manure about it being caused by cows, they would have to fess up about the fact that it was a work done for hire. Without registration, there's no way to know that "Dr. Brown" the world famous climatologist is really a team of creative writing and PoliSci majors who use google to find buzzwords.

--MarkusQ

Re:Doesn't matter what the purpose was (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 7 years ago | (#17724692)

And? Science is science, it doesn't matter who pays for it, what matters is _are they right_?

Free speech is either absolute or non-existent; you can't put restrictions on who can say what and then claim you have free speech.

Re:Doesn't matter what the purpose was (1)

alienmole (15522) | more than 7 years ago | (#17725112)

One problem with section 220, though, is that it would have required the PR firm in your example to register as a lobbyist if they met the income threshold, even though they have no direct contact with public officials. I don't agree with that -- it basically pulls people who do work for hire for a lobbyist into the lobbyist regulation mechanism as though they were lobbyists themselves. There are better, lower overhead ways to handle something like that.

Frankly, I'm glad the provision was rejected, just on principle. Bad laws aren't necessarily better than no laws, even if they have some good effects.

Tarnished Backroom (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17723706)

The liberals have plenty of dirty backroom boys. Don't expect to read about them in the liberal media though.

I'm not so sure. (1)

bigdavex (155746) | more than 7 years ago | (#17723788)

Just because Richard Viguerie wants it out for selfish reasons doesn't mean the law itself is a good idea. Astroturfing is annoying, but there's a lot more to lose than gain by regulating political speech like this.

Re:I'm not so sure. (1)

Touvan (868256) | more than 7 years ago | (#17724694)

I think the point is that well funded Astroturfing can have a substantial impact on various political issues. The history of this particular bill proves that.

And this would not have "regulated political speech" - that line is well framed spin/propaganda (and if you were paid, it'd be actual astroturfing).

It would have "regulated paid opinion mongering", something that is done in every other publishing medium, and done for good reason.

Re:I'm not so sure. (1)

bigdavex (155746) | more than 7 years ago | (#17724896)


I think the point is that well funded Astroturfing can have a substantial impact on various political issues. The history of this particular bill proves that.

And this would not have "regulated political speech" - that line is well framed spin/propaganda (and if you were paid, it'd be actual astroturfing).

I'm not getting paid.

Bad summary (4, Insightful)

Kohath (38547) | more than 7 years ago | (#17723802)

The bill would have infringed the right of free speech. It's actually quite clear.

Astroturf campaigns are free speech. Fining groups engaged in astroturf campaigns is an infringement on free speech. Requiring speakers to "register" in order to be allowed to speak is not free speech.

All this BS justification is simply "we're in favor of free-speech only when we agree with the motives, methods, or message of the speaker". Agreeable speech doesn't need to be protected from the people who agree with it.

Re:Bad summary (2, Informative)

branonm (995551) | more than 7 years ago | (#17724454)

Astroturf campaigns are not free speech. They are more akin to advertising.

If you are PAID to express an opinion then how can the speech be free?

Re:Bad summary (1)

Slithe (894946) | more than 7 years ago | (#17724934)

You are confusing gratis with libre. Free Speech is Free as in Freedom not as in Cost.

Re:Bad summary (1)

nagora (177841) | more than 7 years ago | (#17724752)

Astroturf campaigns are free speech.

They are not; don't be so stupid. Free speech is the right to express your opinion; expressing someone else's opinion as if it were your own is being a shill and is already illegal in many contexts, such as in a courtroom.

TWW

Re:Bad summary (1)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 7 years ago | (#17725016)

Free speech is the right to express your opinion; expressing someone else's opinion as if it were your own is being a shill and is already illegal in many contexts, such as in a courtroom

But you're assuming that you know what's in the blogger's mind. What if I personally DO have the opinion that I'm backing, and I've proven to be very effective at representing that opinion. And further, that I've convinced a good number of like-minded people that, since I'm good at it, I could be MORE good at it if I didn't have to also hold down a day job. Getting donations that add up to more than X dollars, and being financially supported while you go about using your time to express your own opinion in a public context - there's nothing ethically wrong with that, and should be nothing legally wrong with that.

I'm sorry, but I wasn't taken in... (1, Insightful)

gillbates (106458) | more than 7 years ago | (#17723944)

It is my honest opinion that this was bad legislation. Yes, I know most blogger wouldn't be affected, but organizations like the EFF would have been.

For a non-profit organization, even small expenses can make or break the efforts of the organization. There are a lot of non-profit organizations that have only a handfull of staff, yet influence thousands or millions of people. Groups like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood - which are generally well funded - are the exception, rather than the rule. Political advocacy for minority causes is generally not big business. Especially when said minority opinions are held by the poor or politically disenfranchised.

Furthermore, this legislation would remove the ability of politically influential bloggers and organizations to remain anonymous. It would provide a nice "tool" for an oppressive regime to eliminate dissent. Our Constitutional Rights are important, even if the average blogger is not affected! It's a matter of principlel, one I would expect the /. crowd to understand, considering all of the harping they do about Constitutional liberties.

Organizations like the FSF, EFF, and FIRE would probably be considerably affected by this legislation.

Re:I'm sorry, but I wasn't taken in... (3, Insightful)

Lars Clausen (1208) | more than 7 years ago | (#17724122)

So the FSF and EFF pay their bloggers $100000 or more a year? I know a guy in the EFF who'd feel rather cheated if that were the case.

-Lars

Re:I'm sorry, but I wasn't taken in... (1)

Slithe (894946) | more than 7 years ago | (#17724970)

It was $25,000 per quarter. That does not mean the bloggers are receiving money for the whole year.

Re:I'm sorry, but I wasn't taken in... (1)

gillbates (106458) | more than 7 years ago | (#17725090)

No, they only have to spend 100,000 a year combined. Which includes all costs of the campaign, including postage, bandwidth, administration and equipment costs, etc... Think about it - buying a $100,000 server and depreciating it over 2 years would get you halfway toward the reporting requirements.

To register is to control (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17724660)

To register is to control. There's no other reason for this legislation. The government has no more right to be registering and regulating blog conversations than it has those at a local pub or the letters to the editor column of newspapers. That's what free speech means and it's why opposition to this legislation crosses the left/right divide.

And do not forget that, had this legislation passed, it's end result would be what we now have with political giving. There are now web sites that give the name and address of everyone who gives to a candidate openly (the crooks have other ways of giving and aren't affected). This legislation would mean that eventually anyone who wants could find out each and every "political" blog that Slashdot readers support.

For someone such as me, who had his car windshield smashed in front of his apartment by a Kerry supporter in 2004, that is very, very scary. Make a favorable comment about a candidate on a blog and, thanks to this law as it would soon be amended, you could get a fire bomb tossed through your window in the middle of the night. That isn't campaign reform. That's providing an opportunity for political terrorism.

Never, never forget that, were this 1932 Germany, the Nazi Brownshirts would have loved this sort of law. They would have been delighted with the opportunity, as they can now, to go to a web site and find the names and addresses of everyone who gives money to Zentrum and Social Democratic candidates. They would be estatic to find out who was supporting a website like StopAntiSemitism.com. And we all know what they would do with that information.

It doesn't matter what the ATA (1)

tweek (18111) | more than 7 years ago | (#17724992)

was trying to accomplish.

I was opposed to this legislation for the same reason I was opposed to McCain-Feingold - it's a restriction on freedom of speech.

I don't care if a campaign is astroturf or if a group wants to get together and pay for an advertisment for a candidate.

Sure SCOTUS disagrees with me on McC-F, but I still feel that way.
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