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

Theo10011 de10011 at gmail.com
Mon Jan 23 03:32:25 UTC 2012

I find this discussion interesting, although after Sue's clarification, it
might be moot. But I am going to continue it, until someone asks to take
this off-list.

On Mon, Jan 23, 2012 at 12:30 AM, Mike Godwin <mnemonic at gmail.com> wrote:

> 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.

My point was, it became regulated fairly recently. Before that, the lines
between gaining influence from politicians for legislation existed in an
entire spectrum of what might be ethical or moral; it still lies on the
grey end of the spectrum in some countries, where bribery is not uncommon.
And I did not mean the USA before and I don't mean it now, I did however
mean, it is a matter of perspective based on where you are coming from on

> > 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:
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_National_Bank_of_Boston_v._Bellotti>.
> 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
> <
> http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=American_Civil_Liberties_Union&action=submit
> >.)
> 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.

This is an area I have no expertise in. My nascent understanding of the
legal implication of those legislations aside, I, like others usually defer
to more respected opinions. The Citizens United ruling for example has been
criticized by President Barak Obama, several prominent Senators including
Sen. McCain and John Kerry, Sandra Day O'Connor, several law professors
including Professors of Law at Yale and Harvard Law school, New York times
in an editorial stated "The Supreme Court has handed lobbyists a new
weapon." This is of course, overlooking the recent creation of Super PACs,
which is currently being mocked by Stephen Colbert and the like, while GOP
primaries and recent spate of negative ads, brought them under more of a
spotlight in the media.

My sloganeering opposition, along with several others is summed up by David
Kairys "Money Isn't Speech and Corporations Aren't People", I might not
know the subtleties and the underlying implications of the ruling, but I
side with the aforementioned opposers and the above statement.

You can read more about them in the rather large section on the criticism
section of the ruling page. (

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

Well, that was my point, according to recent rulings, money is speech and
corporations are people, albeit according to a naive but widely help
understanding of it, one that is shared by several prominent professors at

> > 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!

I didn't state the agreement was secretive, the extent of the discussions
and consultation with the firm was.

> > 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
> legislation.

In light of Sue's clarification, the extent of the lobbying firm's
involvement wasn't near to what I assumed earlier. As far as consultation
and advising about political implications, yes, that was correct and the
appropriate strategy to take. Beyond that, I would defer to the opinion of
the wider community, which might or might not be in-line with yours.

> > 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.

I didn't think that at all. it would be quiet childish to think that
blackout alone was responsible for the change in the political position.
There were a whole host of issues, WMF worked in conjunction with several
other internet properties, albeit without prior coordination, to put a
united front and a public stance on what it believed in. The same two
things I am arguing for now. I really hope you don't think lobbying alone
could have achieved that; if your argument is, lobbying in addition to
blackout could have achieved that, then my earlier argument of ROI applies,
which generated more of a response? As far as our impact goes, WMF could
have spent 10 times of what Google did on lobbying, and it wouldn't have
compared to the impact the blackout generated.

This is not about mass protest, the opinions greatly out-weigh in one
direction over the other.

> > 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 .

There is a spectrum of what is considered Media. I'm not sure about new
media being mediators but it is indeed a medium, a means of communication,
like the internet or Wikipedia. We are Media too, Mike.

My opinions are my own, based on reputed 3rd party sources, and expert
opinions, kind of like Wikipedia. I chose them, they are of course
conflicting ones out there, but they are as good as any others.


P.S. Hi Jorm, whatcha think? ;)

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