Jail the Bloggers!

Jan 18, 2007 by

Since the dramatic demonstration of Federal incompetence that drowned my city I have been quick t lambast the powers that be whenever the opportunity arises. As my readership is well aware, that happens several times a day on average. I have also joked repeatedly, and with a tinge of admitted worry, that one of these days I (and most of my fellow journalists and bloggers) would get a knock on the door signalling the end of freedom for having the temerity to point out the clothes-less emperor and his bumbling lackeys. Now, according to grassrootsfreedom.com, that day is arriving. Here are the pertinent sentences of his press release about S. 1, the Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007, read ’em and weep.

Congress to Send Critics to Jail, Says Richard Viguerie

“In what sounds like a comedy sketch from Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, but
isn’t, the U. S. Senate would impose criminal penalties, even jail time, on
grassroots causes and citizens who criticize Congress.
“Section 220 of S. 1, the lobbying reform bill currently before the
Senate, 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. Section 220 would amend existing lobbying reporting law by creating the most expansive intrusion on First Amendment rights ever. For the first time in history, critics of Congress will need to register and report with Congress itself.
The bill would require reporting of ‘paid efforts to stimulate
grassroots lobbying,’ but defines ‘paid’ merely as communications to 500 or more members of the public, with no other qualifiers.

“On January 9, the Senate passed Amendment 7 to S. 1, to create
criminal penalties, including up to one year in jail, if someone ‘knowingly
and willingly fails to file or report.’
That amendment was introduced by Senator David Vitter (R-LA). SenatorVitter, however, is now a co-sponsor of Amendment 20 by Senator RobertBennett (R-UT) to remove Section 220 from the bill. Unless Amendment 20 succeeds, the Senate will have criminalized the exercise of First Amendment rights. We’d be living under totalitarianism, not democracy.

(All emphasis mine) Now both I and the vast majority of the NOLABloggers listed in my sidebar communicate with far more than a mere 500 people each. We are also understandingly critical of a congress and government which seems it disregard its responsibilities to the citizens of the Gulf Coast. Civil liberties violations have been a hallmark of the current administration, and do not even surprise the average reader anymore, but this is chilling.

Without dissent this is not America. The First Amendment is one of the single most important underpinnings of our nation, without that we are nothing. The thought that I might be jailed for speaking my mind and for sharing information (usually from public documents) that are critical of our leaders is anathema. Like Voltaire I may disagree wholeheartedly with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it!

Now I am not a constitutional scholar, nor am I a lawyer or legislator, so I am not completely certain of the legalese involved here. With that in mind I would like to invite those who are more well versed in these areas to study the text of this action online at the Library of Congress site here and share their opinions. I invite discussion in the comments section of this column’s main feed located at http://humidcity.com/2007/01/18/jail-the-bloggers/

EDIT: at the same time there seems to be a court case unrelated to S. 1 which also directly affect this issue. NPR has more here.

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