I admit, when I first heard the headline regarding legislation that would require bloggers to register as lobbyists, I was more than a little concerned. I started doing some homework on it though, and did something that very few bothered to do---
I read the bill.
The alarm had been raised over Section 220 of S.1, the new lobbying reform bill, which allegedly required bloggers with over 500 readers to register as lobbyists. Senator David Vitter was being hailed as a hero of the First Amendment because he proposed an amendment that would strike Section 220. And the amendment passed.
But Section 220 never dealt with blogs such as this one, or even Daily Kos, Andrew Sullivan, Powerline, or any of the other big names in blogging.
Why? Because Section 220 was designed to create greater transparency when the blogger is part of a PAID effort passing itself off as "grassroots", also known as "Astroturfing".
The fact that the amendment striking Section 220 passed is actually a defeat--- Not some victory for the First Amendment.
For example: I've run two pieces on this site saying that I think Robert Spence is the wrong guy to represent Senate District 30. During the last election season, I ran several saying that I thought Steve Cohen was the right guy to send to the House of Representatives.
I did this of my own free will. I was exercising my First Amendment right to state an opinion.
If I had been paid by anybody, be it campaign or party, to write any of the things I've written, then you, the reader, would deserve the right to know this. Likewise, if a rightwing blogger had been paid by the GOP to run favorable pieces on their candidates, you would have the right to know that you're reading an honest expression of opinion and not an advertisement.
And that was what Section 220 did. If the title of the section, "DISCLOSURE OF PAID EFFORTS TO STIMULATE GRASSROOTS LOBBYING" wasn't enough, then the very first paragraph could have clued you in on the intent:
(a) Definitions- Section 3 of the Act (2 U.S.C. 1602) is amended--
(1) in paragraph (7), by adding at the end of the following: `Lobbying activities include paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying, but do not include grassroots lobbying.';
This is indeed a victory--- But not for those of us that believe in greater campaign transparency.
I'm doing the bloggers that acted like this was the end of the world a favor by not naming them. They're out there, and they're just literate enough to write--- Not so much on the reading part.