by Steven Ertelt
January 16, 2007
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — Leading pro-life groups are concerned that a bill in the Senate would make it difficult for them and others to lobby members of Congress on pro-life issues. It would impose strict reporting requirements on any group conducting the smallest amount of lobbying and would impose strict fines and jail sentences for noncompliance.
The groups, including National Right to Life, Family Research Council, American Family Association, and others, are worried about bill S. 1.
Under a section of the bill, 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.
"The net effect would be to chill activities that are essential to the healthy functioning of a representative system of government," National Right to Life wrote in a letter to senators today.
"If this provision is enacted, many ordinary citizens will get less and less information from pro-life groups and other issue-oriented organizations about what is going on in Congress," the pro-life group said of the provisions.
National Right to Life is urging lawmakers to adopt an amendment by pro-life Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah that would resolve the problems.
Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, agrees that pro-life advocates should ask their senators to oppose the damaging provisions.
"This is a move to stop us from informing you about the issues you find important," he said.
"We don’t oppose legitimate proposals to address unethical actions by Members of Congress, congressional staff and lobbyists," Perkins explained. "But nothing in those misdeeds provides any justification whatever for the idea that Congress should regulate the constitutionally protected efforts of groups such as ours to alert citizens regarding legislative developments in Congress."
Perkins says his group backs the Bennett amendment as well.
"The Senator realizes that just as it would be unconstitutional to monitor the press because of their contact with their readers, Congress has no business monitoring the motives of citizens who contact Washington to express their views," he said.
ACTION: Click here to tell your senators to support pro-life grassroots lobbying.