Review of Senate Bill 1 (Section 220)
The grassroots lobbying section of U.S. Senate Bill 1 (Section 220) contains onerous reporting requirements (on a quarterly basis), and civil fines of up to $100,000 for failing to comply. The effect by AFA and other grassroots groups to get you information on any bill before Congress will be profound.
Under Senate Bill 1, AFA would have to report the issues, employees, contractors and dollars spent in what is called "paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying" (that phrase is not defined). This reporting requirement is triggered by two actions: (1) a lobbying "contact" – a personal or written communication with an individual in the executive or legislative branch of the federal government concerning public policy issues, from legislation to nominations; and (2) communications with grassroots (that’s you) that "influence" them to contact the executive or legislative branches ("influence" is not defined, but it apparently doesn't even have to include a specific "call to action.") There is no minimum dollar spending requirement that triggers the reporting requirement by AFA for our efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying.
Once AFA identifies a "lobbying contact" that it has had (e.g., We talk with a senator about a Supreme Court nomination), then AFA will have to track all internal expenditures on that issue: AFA Journal articles, printing costs, payments to authors, etc.; AFA Online e-mailing costs; special website creations; broadcast expenses; and issue advertising (creative costs, ad buys, etc.). Cost of trips, speeches, and fundraising letters will have to be allocated to the correct "issue." (We could be dealing with a half-dozen issues, and we will have to keep tract and expense of every issue we deal with.) The compliance costs alone will be heavy, with the hiring of perhaps as many as 8-10 new employees to track both accounting and legal oversight involved and all the paperwork required.
AFA’s involvement in coalitions or alliances (Arlington Group, judicial confirmation groups; right to life coalitions) will also trigger reporting requirements by those coalitions, and any donations by AFA will have to be reported by that coalition.
All these reports will be available to the public. Because of the timing of the quarterly reports and the fact that spending usually precedes action, it is entirely likely that we will have to report what we are going to do in advance of actually doing it. For example, our opponents may be alerted in advance that we intend to purchase air time for ads targeting a specific issue.
The bill makes exemptions for larger, organized groups who employ paid lobbyists, who don’t dominantly rely on public communication (to people like you) to get their messages out.
The bill defines “grassroots lobbying firms” as any organization that encourages 500 or more members of the general public to contact Congress.
AFA would be forced to file a report to the government on a quarterly basis that contains detailed information about our organization. The required report must include identification of the organization’s expenditures, the issues focused on and the members of Congress and other federal officials who are the subject of the advocacy efforts. A separate report would be required for each policy issue the group is active on.
Basically these new rules were written to isolate pro-family and conservative Christian organizations. Large corporations (which spend millions in lobbying expenses) would be exempt. Communications aimed at an organization’s “members, employees, officers or shareholders” would be exempt. That means that groups such as the AFL-CIO, MoveOn.org, National Education Association and other organized groups would be exempt.
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