Pro-Life Groups: Meehan Amendment Unfairly Targets Free Speech Rights

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 5, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pro-Life Groups: Meehan Amendment Unfairly Targets Free Speech Rights Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 5
, 2007

Washington, DC ( — Pro-life organizations are once again concerned about members of Congress limiting their free speech rights in an effort to clamp down on lobbying reform. The House of Representatives is expected to take up the legislation later this month and the groups don’t want an amendment by Rep. Marty Meehan added to it.

Meehan, a Massachusetts Democrat, says his amendment targets grassroots lobbying but pro-life organizations say it would hurt their efforts to tell private citizens about what is occurring in Congress.

The groups backing the Meehan Amendment assert that the measure would require merely “disclosure” of “huge undisclosed amounts” spent to get members of the public to “lobby Congress.”

Yet, according to statements National Right to Life and the Family Research Council sent, the reality is that the Meehan Amendment would force countless individual Americans and groups to register and report as “lobbying firms."

That’s a requirement if they “influence” fellow citizens to contact Congress or officials of the executive branch on policy matters.

This isn’t the first time Congress has waded into the debate as the Senate previously rejected an attempt to regulate “grassroots lobbying” in January, voting 55-43 to strip the “grassroots lobbying” provision from a bill after numerous pro-life groups objected.

NRLC says the Meehan amendment is worse than the provision in the Senate bill because it contains "even more sweeping" language on who is subject to the restrictions and requirements.

The group said that someone who spends as little as $100,000 to encourage others to contact Congress about pending issues, such as pro-life votes, can risk fines of $200,000 per violation or 10 years in prison.

"If enacted, it will chill free speech by citizen activists and other voices on the issues of the day, and become a textbook example of the Law of Unintended Consequences," NRLC legislative director Douglas Johnson wrote about the Meehan amendment.

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council agrees and told that the Meehan amendment is "designed to discourage voters from voicing their values."

He said that, under the amendment, churches, public policy organizations like FRC, and even political parties could be considered "lobbying firms" and subject to the penalties and restrictions in the bill.

"This would jeopardize the ability of groups to reach their supporters about important issues, which ultimately diminishes the right of the people to hear the truth about Congress and hold leaders accountable," Perkins explained.

He concluded that "if America is to have government by the people, then the right of the people to be informed must be protected."

ACTION: Contact your House member at 202-224-3121 and urge opposition to the Meehan amendment on lobbying reform.