A press release from direct-mail king Richard Viguerie calls attention to a measure in a new lobbying reform bill that could, in effect, require bloggers to register as lobbyists. The relevant provision, Section 220, dubs as “grassroots lobbying”:
any paid attempt in support of lobbying contacts on behalf of a client to influence the general public or segments thereof to contact one or more covered legislative or executive branch officials (or Congress as a whole) to urge such officials (or Congress) to take specific action with respect to a matter described in section 3(8)(A)
The target here is presumably “astroturf” campaigns, but if you’re spending money to host a blog or register a domain, and urging your readers to call or write Congress, I suppose that might well qualify as a “paid attempt.” (Or does the “paid” part refer to whether the person is receiving money for this?) There’s an exemption for such efforts directed at fewer than 500 people, but anything on the Internet at least potentiall reaches far more people than that. The one potential out here is the “on behalf of a client” provision, but I’m not sure how broadly that will be read.
I will note in passing that Instapundit is laying this one at the feet of Harry Reid, but the amendment in question was actually introduced by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), who has apparently since changed his mind and wants it removed. With any luck, that means we’ll see a quick move to remove this section once it becomes clear what a potential hornet’s nest it is.