Thursday, August 13, 2009

What's a Little Lobbying Between Friends?

If you go to this website you can send the White House a statement of support that starts:

Dear Mr. President,

We strongly support your commitment to comprehensive health reform.

and finishes:

By signing this statement we affirm our commitment to work with you and our Congressional leaders to enact legislation this year which provides affordable, high quality coverage for all Americans.

It's your basic grassroots political activity, except that, as it states in a banner, "This is an official U.S. Government Web site managed by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services."

At what point does this sort of activity violate the Anti-Lobbying Act (U.S. Code Section 18)? The Act reads:

No part of the money appropriated by any enactment of Congress shall, in the absence of express authorization by Congress, be used directly or indirectly to pay for any personal service, advertisement, telegram, telephone, letter, printed or written matter, or other device, intended or designed to influence in any manner a Member of Congress, a jurisdiction, or an official of any government, to favor, adopt, or oppose, by vote or otherwise, any legislation, law, ratification, policy, or appropriation, whether before or after the introduction of any bill, measure, or resolution proposing such legislation, law, ratification, policy, or appropriation; but this shall not prevent officers or employees of the United States or of its departments or agencies from communicating to any such Member or official, at his request, or to Congress or such official, through the proper official channels, requests for any legislation, law, ratification, policy, or appropriations which they deem necessary for the efficient conduct of the public business, or from making any communication whose prohibition by this section might, in the opinion of the Attorney General, violate the Constitution or interfere with the conduct of foreign policy, counter-intelligence, intelligence, or national security activities. Violations of this section shall constitute violations of section 1352 (a) of title 31.

Does soliciting a commitment to "work with you and our Congressional leaders to enact legislation" cross the line into activity "intended or designed to influence in any manner a Member of Congress?"

1 comment:

ChrisCicc said...

I agree 100%. I'm a software engineer for the Federal Gov. We take great pains to test our software to ensure things like this aren't accidentally included, never mind explicitly. This should never happen, and how it is still online is beyond me...