Friday, January 19, 2007

Give Thanks to God: Free Speech Preserved for Grassroots Groups...

43 out of 50 Democratic Senators Vote Against Bennett Amendment protecting free speech - including Senator Barack Obama

Washington, DC ( - Pro-life groups are delighted with a Senate vote on Thursday that removed the concerns they had about bill that would have made it difficult for them and others to lobby members of Congress on por-life issues. The measure, before the amendment, would have imposed strict reporting requirements.

The restrictions would have been in place for any group conducting the smallest amount of lobbying and local pro-life advocates who didn't comply properly would face fines and jail sentences for noncompliance.

The groups, including National Right to Life, Family Research Council, American Family Association, and others, were worried about bill S. 1.

However, the Senate voted 55-43 for an amendment offered by pro-life Senator Robert Bennett, a Utah Republican, to strip the so-called "grassroots lobbying" provision (Section 220) from the ethics reform bill.

The provisions it fixed were so onerous that even the pro-abortion American Civil Liberties Union sided with pro-life groups in opposition to them.

Leaders of the new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives are expected to soon propose their own version of an omnibus "ethics" bill, which is also expected to contain the same problematic language, according to a National Right to Life statement obtained.

Pro-life advocates will likely seek an amendment on the House side as well.

Under Senate bill before the Bennett amendment was adopted, anyone who is paid by any organization that encourages more than 500 people to contact Congress on any matter or anyone who has called a Congressional office more than two times urging a vote on legislation must register as a lobbyist.

Also, any paid individual who spends more than $25,000 in a three-month period on "paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying" would also be required to register and report expenditures as a "grassroots lobbying firm."

While the bill purports to reform special interest lobbying, the pro-life groups say it would put significant and complex hurdles in front of smaller, local groups.

Any pro-life advocate who runs afoul of the complex requirements of Section 220 of the bill could be subjected to crushing civil penalties, raised from $50,000 to $200,000 per infraction. Punishment could also include as much as up to 10 years in prison.

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