[Foundation-l] Politico: "Wikimedia foundation hires lobbyists on sopa, pipa"

Theo10011 de10011 at gmail.com
Mon Jan 23 01:20:56 UTC 2012

Hi Mike

I want to talk for a minute about lobbying in general, aside from the WMF
position on it. Because this might be one of those international issues
where perceptions might differ based on the culture and nationality of
someone. I know my position on this might be naive or flawed, but I know
others who feel the same way.

Direct lobbying is relatively new compared to the older forms of government
and legislative influence. Strictly from a global south perspective, a
similar form of unregulated advocacy and influence that I saw practiced
here was called something else.......bribery.
Now, I know that it is miles away from what you are talking about, since it
is strictly regulated in the US and UK. If not for the public reporting,
and rules regulating it, you would see the thin line that others in the
Global south see running through it. It is not something that inspires
transparency and confidence.

In US politics, general lobbying in addition to rulings like the Citizens
united, put large corporation in a powerful position to buy voices in
Washington. If it is indeed going to be about getting voices heard *only*
through lobbyists, I think the publishers can scream the loudest.

On Sun, Jan 22, 2012 at 10:16 PM, Mike Godwin <mnemonic at gmail.com> wrote:

> Theo10011 <de10011 at gmail.com> writes:
> On Sun, Jan 22, 2012 at 3:32 PM, Theo10011 <de10011 at gmail.com> wrote:
> > Am I wrong to assume, that lobbying involves approaching a registered,
> > professional consulting/lobbying firm in Washington who in turn, refer
> the
> > client to politicians and then facilitate meetings and discussions in
> > private, client are expected to pay expenses and other fees incurred in
> the
> > process, usually a pretty hefty sum.
> Yes, you're wrong.

That was partly based on my reading of the en.wp article on lobbying (
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lobbying), when you have a minute, do re-write
the sections of the article where it is wrong. The lead section of the
article itself covers the morality and ethics of lobbying quiet well,
mentioning the similar stereotype I spoke of earlier, "Lobbying is often
spoken of with contempt, when the implication is that people with
inordinate socioeconomic power are corrupting the law". As the article
states, it is a form of power struggle, motives range from predation to
self-defense. My question was who usually spends more? non-profits who run
a free encyclopedia or giant publishers whose daily revenues are directly
affected by these decisions?

> > Are those discussions and arrangements
> > made in private, facilitated by lobbying firms, what is needed to get our
> > voice heard?
> No. It can be helpful to have an experienced Washington
> government-relations specialist to facilitate meetings, and to advise
> you on how to be effective, but the word "private" is inappropriate
> here. (The very fact that Politico was able to publicize WMF's
> engagement with such a specialist ought to be an indicator of this --
> in the USA, especially for the last 40 years, there have been vastly
> increased requirements for public reporting and accountability, both
> for nonprofits and for traditional corporate lobbyists.) When I
> represented the Center for Democracy and Technology or Public
> Knowledge at the FCC or on Capitol Hill, for example, the first thing
> I had to do when getting back from a meeting was write up a report of
> whom I met and what was discussed. The reports became part of the
> public record, and part of these nonprofits' public disclosures as
> well.

Actually politico didn't publicize the engagement exclusively, the link kim
provided, mentions it as one brief story in a list of 10 others, stating,
"The foundation has snagged Dow Lohnes Government Strategies, according to
a newly filed lobbying disclosure, to focus on “legislation related to
online intellectual property infringement, including H.R. 3261, S. 968 and
S. 2029.” Those bill numbers coincide with SOPA, PIPA and the OPEN Act."
Along with the foundation did not return to comment to MT before press time.

> > You mentioned the protest, and how proud you were to have been associated
> > with it, so were most of us. That was the right thing to do - open,
> direct
> > and public. All of which this doesn't seem to be.
> You'd be wrong about meetings with policymakers not being public.
> They're required be law to be reported and accounted for. As I have
> noted, many people have stereotypical notions about what it means
> to "lobby" in Washington. Too many movies and TV, I imagine.

> > Again, these might be stereotypes, but the general realities aren't that
> far
> > off either.
> Hugely far off, actually.
> To compare: it's a little bit as if you took your understanding of
> police work from watching American police action films. It's not wrong
> to say that sometimes police rough people up, for example, but it
> would be wrong to say that is the norm. Most police work is dull and
> routine, and the sheer amount of paperwork an average policeman has to
> do is so astounding that nobody ever even tries to depict it in film
> or TV drama. You'd switch channels or walk out of the theater in boredom.

Again this might be one of those things that differ from country to country
and perceptions influenced by cultures. To use your analogy, police work,
and general law and order, has existed for several centuries, the
institutions and the idea of lobbying is relatively new. This is more true
for regulated lobbying now in US and UK, than any other place. Some
countries still make do with no lobbying all together. If you look at the
regulated lobbying section by country (
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lobbying#Lobbying_by_country), even the
regulation to govern lobbying came in late 90's.

There are still a lot of powerful institutions and organizations, who get
their message through, and make measurable impact without moving a single
lobbyist. This is the first time we are engaging one, so just curious about
what impact it has on perception of others.

It's about ROI and impact of money invested. We have the biggest and direct
way to get measurable impact on these issues, Wikipedia and the projects,
with 400 million people watching. The blackout proved that, incurring
little or no actual external cost in the process.

> If you really think that (for example) the American Library
> Association's Office for Information Technology Policy
> (http://www.ala.org/offices/oitp) is having secret meetings with
> senators and writing big checks, then the American entertainment
> industry has done a huge disservice in educating people about all the
> ways public policy can be shaped. Not that this should come as any
> surprise.

That is sadly the impression I have, along with a lot of others. I am not
an american but that has been the view cultivated by several years of
following american politics, tech news and listening to the likes of Jon
stewart, Huffpo and other reputed sources.

> (I'd love it, of course, if the American Library Association were
> capable of writing big checks, but that's another story.)
> --Mike
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