Yesterday, I explained why a Washington Post story on ethics reform read as if it had been crafted by Harry Reid’s staff. Today’s Post story on ethics reform reads like the product of a slightly broader group — Harry Reid’s staff and “government watchdog groups.”
Jonathan Weisman and Jeffrey Birnbaum report that the Senate, by a 96-2 vote, passed an “ethics package” that includes “lobbying and other reforms.” Republican Senator Gregg was unsuccessful in his attempt to add a provision which would make it more difficult to enact earmarks by giving the president the power to send them back for a second vote. However, the Democrats promised to have a vote on that proposal next week as an amendment to the minimum wage bill.
So far so good, at least as far as the Post’s reporting goes. But Weisman and Birnbaum persist in calling the Gregg amendment “unrelated” to ethics reform while praising Harry Reid for putting off the vote on the Gregg amendment until the minimum wage bill is considered. As I argued yesterday, the Gregg amendment is related to ethics and lobbying reform because it makes it tougher to enact earmarks, which is the ultimate goal of much lobbying. The relationshp between the Gregg amendment and the minimum wage escapes me.
Having carried water for Reid, the Post then turns the floor over to the “government watchdogs.” Reporting on the “furious backroom lobbying on a measure too popular to kill in public,” they focus on the demise of a provision that would have forced “psudo-grass-roots campaigns” to disclose funds spent on campaigns urging the public to contact their representatives about legislation. They are referring to the portion of the proposed legislation that likely would have required bloggers, community activists, preachers, and others to register as lobbyists if they engage in advocacy regarding legislation.
The Post characterizes the free speech advocates who opposed this attempt to restrict debate as “an odd coaltion that included the American Civil Liberties Union, the Traditional Values Coalition, the American Conservative Union, and the National Right to Life Committee.” I view it as a group that does not want MSM stalwarts like Weisman and Birnbaum to have a monopoly on the discussion of proposed legislation.
UPDATE: Stephen Spruiell notes that the ethics reform bill process was “not entirely without conservative victories.”
FURTHER UPDATE: Professor Bainbridge argues pursuasively that the limitations on grass-roots lobbying that the Republicans defeated would not have applied to ordinary advocacy blogging, no matter how well-read the blog.
JOHN adds: That’s how I read that section as well.
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