Pelosi’s Grassroots ‘Lobbying’ ‘Reform’

Former FEC Chair Brad Smith warns against the pernicious impact of “lobbying reform bill” that Nancy Pelosi plans to introduce during the first 100 hours of the incoming Congress.

The lobbying bill seeks to, among other things, require groups to account for and disclose their efforts at grassroots “lobbying.” This is a very dangerous development and should be opposed with all the white heat one could muster to attack McCain-Feingold a few years back.

Grassroots “lobbying” isn’t “lobbying” at all, in the conventional sense. There is no “lobbyist” waiting to buttonhole members. Rather, grassroots lobbying means efforts by citizens, citizen organizations, and other groups to contact other citizens, and urge those citizens to contact their senators and representatives on an issue.


Why do officeholders want to know who is funding opinion shaping efforts in their districts? Simple – they want to know who to pressure, who to retaliate against. There are a limited number of consultants, pollsters, and ad firms with the capability to run a full scale campaign, and they are acutely subject to political pressure. Many citizens have legitimate reasons for not wanting their support made known – think of it as why we have a secret ballot at voting time.

Mark Tapscott reminds us that, “Previously, many left bloggers joined with bloggers on the right in opposing the FEC’s proposal to regular political speech in the Blogosphere. If the critics of the Pelosi proposal are correct in their assessment of the proposal, it’s again time for a unified voice from the Blogosphere to stop this latest assault on free speech.”

As with McCain-Feingold, it’s not only conceivable but inevitable that the attempt to silence big money “special interests” will mostly silence those without the deep pockets to defend themselves in court or simply pay the fines.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. What about an astro-turf campaign?

  2. Sock Puppet says:

    Does this mean I’m out of work?

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    You forgot the quotation marks around “grassroots”. And Pelosi.

  4. jpe says:

    Grassroots “lobbying” isn’t “lobbying” at all, in the conventional sense. There is no “lobbyist” waiting to buttonhole members.

    As I read Pelosi’s bill, real grassroots lobbying won’t be touched. It’s tailored to astroturfing.

    Beyond that, it only requires disclosure, which should be the norm anyways.

  5. jpe says:

    Strike that about the norm – I just spat that out without thinking.