ACLU Welcomes Senate Stand on Free Speech

January 19, 2007 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union praised the Senate for removing a provision from the “Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007” before passing the measure late last night.

Section 220 would have chilled constitutionally protected free speech activity. Advocacy organizations and citizen activists could have found their communications to the general public about policy matters redefined as lobbying — and therefore subject to registration and strict quarterly reporting. Failure to register and report could have resulted in severe civil and criminal sanctions. The ACLU, in coalition with a broad range of groups including the Traditional Values Coalition, National Right to Life, the Free Speech Coalition and the American Conservative Union, had urged Senators to oppose this provision.

The following can be attributed to Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.

“We’re pleased that Senators chose not to make it harder for their constituents to contact them. This is a victory for the First Amendment and Americans’ right to petition their government. The fact that such a politically diverse coalition of groups came together to oppose this provision only highlights the devastating effect it would have had on our democracy.

“The Senate wanted to address the culture of corruption in Washington. However, restricting citizens’ constitutional right to contact their elected representatives on any issue of concern and to encourage others to do the same does nothing to relieve these problems, and in fact would have only exacerbated the corruption. The Senate did the right thing by rejecting this poorly written provision.”

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