The Rev. Louis Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) was elated last evening as he got word of the nixing of portion of a lobbying reform bill that would have required grass-roots organizations to report to Capitol Hill any time they spent money to communicate to their constituents on issues that are before Congress.
Sheldon referred to an amendment that struck the grass-roots provision (Section 220) in S.1, the Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007.
"I applaud the members of the U.S. Senate who voted . . . to remove Section 220 from the bill," said Sheldon.
"When you start the legislative year with a piece of legislation which is so bad that TVC and the ACLU unite to fight it ? this does not bode well for the coming months. I am pleased we were able to stop this breach of the First Amendment masquerading as lobbying reform," Sheldon added.
Prior to last evening's victory, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Traditional Values Coalition had historically joined their allies from opposite ends of the political spectrum to shout out First Amendment concerns posed by section 220.
Rev. Sheldon said yesterday at a press conference that if the legislation as written passed, "it would be like Capitol Hill hanging out a big sign: ?Do not disturb ? unless you are registered.'"
Leaders from the American Civil Liberties Union, Traditional Values Coalition, Free Speech Coalition, National Right to Life, and other concerned groups were all on hand to discuss opposition to the bill.
Section 220 of the Senate bill would have required communications from grass-roots organizations ? subject to registration and reporting requirements ? including reporting directly to the secretary of the Senate and clerk of the House any time these groups spent money to communicate to their constituents on issues that are before Congress.
Critics of Section 220 suggested that groups such as Focus on the Family, The America Family Association, the Family Research Council, Vision America, and a host of others would be ensnared in bureaucratic red tape that would increase their communications costs and result in a weakened effort to let members know what elected leaders are doing in the executive and legislative branches of government.
According to Carrie Gordon Earl, senior director of Issue Analysis for Focus on the Family Action, this legislation "affects folks who, on a regular basis, communicate with the grassroots and pass along information."
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