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Free speech, but for whom?

Today, Public Citizen sent a response to the so-called "Free Speech" Coalition, which complained in a letter to us last week that the Pelosi bill will require more disclosure of lobbying campaigns.

These complaints were also taken up in a recent issue of the right-wing Washington Examiner, which comically aggrandized our role in the legislative effort by labeling the bill as "Pelosi-Claybrook."  While we are supportive and involved in the process, our President, Joan Claybrook, has never been elected as a member of Congress, and therefore cannot be a co-sponsor of the bill.

Far more importantly, the coalition is upset by the proposal because they would prefer to keep operating in the dark. The bill requires that sponsors of large and expensive grassroots lobbying campaigns disclose where the money came from and how it was spent.  We've seen far too often that wealthy special interests create front groups and run misleading TV ad campaigns (remember Harry and Louise?).

This bill would change all that, without infringing one bit on freedom of speech. Disclosure of the amount and source of money spent to sway the public in ad blitzes on pending legislation is the very essence of what citizens need to act in an informed way.

And it buttresses the First Amendment for the public to know the identity of a speaker in the marketplace of ideas, enabling citizens to draw their own conclusions about the motives and self-interest of the speaker. Instead, this coalition wants to hide in the shadows by concealing their shilling for corporate interests and playing high-stakes political games to deceive voters.

We invite everyone to write the Examiner to correct the record on the proposal and make the case that the Pelosi measure to require reporting of for-profit grassroots lobbying is well-reasoned and long overdue. Send your letters to editor@examiner.com.

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