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

Mike Godwin mnemonic at gmail.com
Mon Jan 23 02:30:03 UTC 2012

On Sun, Jan 22, 2012 at 5:20 PM, Theo10011 <de10011 at gmail.com> wrote:

> 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.

I know you know this, but for those who don't, lobbying in the USA is
highly regulated. Bribery in the USA is a felony.

> 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.

Where did that "*only*" come from? I hope not from anything I've written.

As for the Citizens United case, well, it's one of those cases that's
widely talked about but rarely read. The real core case on campaign
finance is the one I name below, now more than 30 years old.  It is a
complicated case dealing with the intersection of corporate regulation
and constitutionally protected political speech, and one could teach a
whole course about it, just to prepare someone to read Citizens
United.  Here's the enwiki link:

Almost invariably, when I hear people talk about Citizens United in
informal discussions, I'm hearing people who haven't invested the time
it takes to understand why these issues are entangled. And of course I
can't invest the time to give you a semester's worth of coursework
either. But one shorthand way to look at this is, do we want to say
that corporations don't have freedom of expression or the right to
engage in political speech? Because if we flatly decide that, what
happens to The New York Times Company (a for-profit corporation)?
Should the Times be barred from political speech? Or the American
Civil Liberties Union? (See
My point here is to underscore that public discussions of Citizens
United and other cases rarely, in my experience, rise above
sloganeering. The problems involved in corporations' legal status are
subtle and complicated ones, not reducible to tweets and chants. I
support reform of corporate influence in politics, but not at the
price of making it impossible for an incorporated NGO to speak for
individuals who otherwise might remain unheard.

> 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.

I hope I may be forgiven that this particular task can't be at the top
of my to-do list just now. But I invite others to contribute to that
article. As is usually the case, a Wikipedia article is a fine place
to start research, but not itself an authority, as I think we all

> 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?

Why do you imagine money spent is the measure of influence? The
pro-SOPA forces outspent the tech industry three-to-one and still

Plus, If money is the measure of effectiveness, what does this say
about Encyclopedia Britannica versus Wikipedia?

> 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.

Note the words "newly filed lobbying disclosure." So much for our big
secretive lobbyist arrangement!

> 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.

I expect the impressions are more positive among those who are more
knowledgeable about political processes in the United States. As for
whether WMF should have engaged someone in DC to advise in this
context, I don't have an atom's worth of doubt that this was the
correct and appropriate strategy to keep Wikipedia and other Wikimedia
projects alive and vital in the face of ill-considered American

> 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.

I think you imagine the blackout was the only thing that mattered in
turning this legislation around. I can see why you might think that,
but it is incorrect. Effective strategies for political change are
implemented on many levels, and, in my view, it is naive to suppose
that mere protest, standing alone, is enough. I'm old enough to
remember 1968, when countless individuals took to the streets all over
the world. It was exciting, but it was also followed by decades of
repressive governmental action that disillusioned many of the most
hopeful and idealistic. To learn from 1968, you can't indulge the
notion that mere mass protest is enough. Certainly there are plenty of
people who remember Tienanmen Square who'll tell you the same thing.

> 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.

Better than following the reputed sources is to lead them -- to make
the news and not merely consume it. The reason the news media are
called "media" is that they "mediate" -- you're not getting direct
experience, but only what media believe will capture your attention
and/or entertain you. Consider for example the works if this
influential Canadian (almost as influential in my life as Canadians
Sue Gardner and Jay Walsh ;) --
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshall_McLuhan .


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