HSLDA’s Department of Federal Relations
June 11, 2007

Victory Protects Grassroots Lobbying from Federal Control

Over the past five months, Home School Legal Defense Association and other organizations achieved an historic victory—one which would have been impossible without the help of hundreds of thousands of homeschoolers and other concerned citizens.

This victory protects grassroots lobbying from federal control. Grassroots lobbying refers to the efforts of advocacy organizations like HSLDA, homeschool support groups, churches, and others when they contact citizens about an issue and ask them to call their elected representatives. Grassroots lobbying helped mobilize homeschoolers and supporters in 1994 to defeat federal legislation that would have required all teachers to be certified.

The battle to defend grassroots lobbying started in January of 2007 when Senate Bill 1, a lobbying reform bill, was introduced in the U.S. Senate. Lobbying reform is a bipartisan issue and one that is needed in our Capitol, especially in the wake of recent scandals such as the one involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff. S. 1, however, contained a section that would have required any organization engaged in grassroots lobbying to register and file quarterly reports with the federal government. Heavy penalties would have been levied against organizations that failed to comply.

The section was worded so broadly that the proposed restrictions could have been applied to small homeschool support groups or churches that forwarded emails from HSLDA asking members to call Congress about an issue. Such a threat could have made many organizations reluctant to spread the word about harmful federal legislation.

HSLDA and a coalition of like-minded groups set about to defeat the grassroots lobbying provision. Pressure was kept up on the Senate, emails went out in flurries to the citizens, and calls began pouring into Senate offices. And the calls worked. On January 11, the U.S. Senate voted to strip the grassroots lobbying provision from S. 1.

The battle then switched to the U.S. House of Representatives. After many false starts, the House leadership finally unveiled their lobbying reform bill on May 15, 2007. Two days later, the House Judiciary Committee scheduled a “mark up” of the bill. A “mark up” is the technical name for the committee meeting where amendments are offered to the bill before the committee votes to send the amended bill to the floor of the House of Representatives for a final vote. HSLDA and the coalition of like-minded groups were alerted to the likelihood that an amendment would be introduced at the mark up which would add a section to the lobbying reform bill to again attempt to regulate organizations that engage in “grassroots lobbying.”

Again, homeschoolers and concerned citizens called their representatives urging them to vote against any attempts to regulate grassroots lobbying. As expected, H.R. 2093, a new bill which would have placed regulations on grassroots lobbying, was introduced as an amendment to the original lobbying reform bill.

Many House Judiciary Committee members reported receiving numerous phone calls, emails, and letters urging protection for grassroots lobbying. Then in a quick bipartisan vote, the House Judiciary Committee defeated the grassroots lobbying amendment and sent the revised bill to the full House—free of any dangerous language.

A battle was won, but there was still a chance that the bill could be amended again on the floor of the House. However, on May 24, the full House approved the lobbying reform bill without any regulations on grassroots lobbying. The dangerous language didn’t even come up as an amendment. Grassroots lobbying had been protected.

HSLDA will continue to monitor this legislation as the House and Senate versions are reconciled by a conference committee made up of selected representatives and senators.

It sometimes seems unbelievable that members of Congress would try to regulate how ordinary citizens—the voters—receive word concerning important legislation in Congress. The ability of ordinary citizens to make informed communications with their elected representatives is one of the hallmarks of our system of government. Thanks to the work of citizens like you, a dangerous attempt to regulate citizens and entities that contact their elected officials was defeated. HSLDA will continue to work to ensure that our right to make our voice heard against harmful legislation is protected.