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Bennett Amendment Stops Senates Unconstitutional Attack on Free Speech

For Immediate Release. January 21, 2007On January 18, 2007, as an amendment to the Senate version of To Provide Greater Transparency in the Legislative Process (S.1), the Bennett Amendment passed by a vote of 55-43.

Section 220 of the measure required grassroots organizations to report to the Senate on communication made to 500 or more people if that message encourages them to contact their elected representatives on a specific policy issue. The report would be made on a quarterly basis. This communication was defined as a type of “lobbying”— or more specifically “efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying.”

The legislation unfairly targeted grassroots groups by imposing strict reporting requirements on any group conducting the smallest amount of lobbying and noncompliance would impose strict fines and jail sentences. Also, anyone paid by an organization that encourages more than 500 people to contact Congress on any matter or anyone who has called on a Congressional office more than two times urging a vote on legislation would have been required to register as a lobbyist. Additionally, required to register and report expenditures as a “grassroots lobbying firm,” would have been any paid individual who spent more than $25,000 in a three-month period on “paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying.” Such requirements would put small local organizations through significant and complex hurdles. Subjected to punitive civil penalties raised from $50,000 to $200,000 per infraction were the complex requirements of Section 220 of the measure. Furthermore, as much as up to ten years in prison could be included in the punishment.

The amendment offered by Senator Robert Bennett (Republican-Utah) removed the grassroots lobbying provision.

“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Democrat-Nevada) sponsored this plan and once again demonstrates how Democrats want to pass legislation that would allow Congress to operate in a cloak of secrecy to limit and stifle the dissemination of information regarding ongoing issues that are of concern to the American people. The First Amendment of the Bill of Right of the United States (US) Constitution says, “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech.” Yet this does not matter to the senators that voted against the Bennett Amendment. As Congress did with the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 commonly known as the McCain-Feingold bill that has regulated the financing of political campaigns that became law on November 6, 2002, this was just another attempt to have an illegal Constitutional Convention to rewrite the US Constitution denying Americans the freedoms and rights the Founding Fathers intended to be guaranteed to all Americans. Such actions cannot be tolerated as daily Congress tries to take away more and more Constitutionally protected rights from the citizens of this nation,” said Joel P. Rutkowski , president of the American Voice Institute of Public Policy.

For Interviews Contact:

Joel P. Rutkowski, P.h.D.
President, The American Voice Institute Of Public Policy

jrutkowski@americanvoiceinstitute.org

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