Congress needs ethical reform, but their version would restrict citizens' rights to know about and discuss legislation with them
Contact: Stacey Holliday, Concerned Women for America, 202-488-7000 ext. 126
WASHINGTON, Jan. 18 /Christian Newswire/ -- A lobby reform bill now under consideration contains a very real and serious threat that would restrict the constitutional right of Americans to learn about pending bills and contact their congressmen about them.
The Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007 includes a provision that could severely impair the ability of citizens to receive the information from grassroots groups that inspires them to contact their congressmen. Additionally, it gives a voice to unions and corporations –– and even foreign entities –– but won't allow organizations such as Concerned Women for America (CWA) to correspond with the public on legislative issues.
CWA urges Senators to vote for an amendment introduced by Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) that would remove this unconstitutional provision. "Congress should focus on regulating the behavior of corrupt lobbyists — not infringing on the constitutional rights of American citizens," said CWA President Wendy Wright.
An analysis compiled by the Free Speech Coalition, available on CWA's Web site, explains that restrictions on grassroots activism are unconstitutional.
Wendy Wright said, "If the Senate votes to restrict Americans' free speech rights they will be building a thick wall between citizens and their elected officials. Free speech is essential to a representative government — a government 'of the people, by the people and for the people.' Without the Bennett Amendment striking grassroots restrictions from the lobby reform bill, grassroots organizations seeking to engage citizens in the political process would be facing massive fines and jail."
This week CWA signed on to a coalition letter sent to congressmen in favor of the Bennett Amendment. The letter states, "We take no issue with proposals that may be legitimate responses to allegations of certain unethical actions by Members of Congress, congressional staff and lobbyists. But nothing in those allegations provides any justification whatever for the notion that incumbent Members of Congress should seize authority to scrutinize and regulate the constitutionally protected efforts of groups such as ours to alert citizens regarding legislative developments in Congress and to encourage them to communicate their views to their elected representatives.
"That citizens are 'stimulated' to contact their representatives by so-called 'grassroots lobbying activities' is irrelevant. Newspaper editorials, op-eds, grassroots advertisements and e-mail alerts are all ways to influence people to contact their elected representatives on an issue. Just as it would be unconstitutional to monitor the press because of their influence over their readership, the First Amendment also protects the right of the people to 'petition the government for a redress of grievances.' To monitor motivation as to why a citizen would contact Members on an issue is attacking that First Amendment right."
Concerned Women for America is the nation's largest public policy women's organization.