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Lobbyist Morgan Reed Answers Your Questions 304

Posted by timothy
from the worth-the-wait dept.
A long, long time ago, you asked lobbyist Morgan Reed questions about lobbying, undue industry influence on United States laws as they apply to the tech sector, the future of internet taxation, and more. Reed, in the meantime, has switched jobs: he's now working for the Association for Competitive Technology (as he candidly and lightheartedly acknowledges, "the enemy" to many Slashdot readers, since they lobby for large software corporations, notably Microsoft), and is finally free to answer your questions. Read on for about as inside a viewpoint as you can find on how you can affect your elected representatives, from someone whose job is to do just that. Update: 08/01 19:24 GMT by M : That's Morgan Reed, not Reed Morgan. We suck.

Advice
by Maskirovka

If you could give one piece of advice to this group, what would it be?

Morgan Reed: An opening note about /. And Washington:

Many of the posts here throw out statements like "Washington is bought"; and it reminds me how little slashdot readers understand about the U.S. government.

People tend to avoid and denigrate subjects they don't fully understand or feel comfortable with. I am certain every reader can think back to an example of having a non-tech person make a disparaging, off-the-cuff comment about something of which they clearly don't grasp. Quotes like "empty suits" and "crooks" signify a response steeped in discomfort due to lack of knowledge.

Most Slashdot readers prize themselves on being knowledgeable, especially about tech issues. Many readers depend on knowledge for their income. Yet on issues involving the government, these same "knowledge workers" treat politics like the technophobes treat computers.

Fortunately or unfortunately, (and I believe fortunately) the US allows all people (over the age of 18), even those who aren't paying attention, to vote.

I would suggest that before any reader makes a blanket statement about either party or any bill or any political issue, that you take the time to think "how much do I really know about this bill?" Am I reading the full text, or am I being spun?

Be aware that much of what you read on the editorial page of the newspaper, or what you hear on talk radio, is spin. Read the byline of the author carefully (also understand in many cases he/she is not really the author, just a respected person whose name is being used to promote a position).

Finally, imagine that the people making the decisions are overworked folks getting massive quantities of information and trying to adequately represent the voters who put them in office.

I can tell you from here on the inside, I have rarely met any Member of Congress, of EITHER party, that was really a bad person. Members are all just trying to represent the voters and win re-election.

Your JOB as a US citizen is to select a representative who will adequately represent your views. It is essential that you not turn off from politics. Instead, take the time to embrace it for a few weeks, learn what you can, then check your gut. Don't be the kind of person you hate to meet who attacks your work, or calls it trivial, because they don't understand it, and are slightly fearful that they will look ignorant. Is it really too much to ask?

Corruption of democracy
by imipak

As is widely known (and apparently accepted), corporations buy off legislators in the USA through 'campaign contributions' or 'soft money' or various other apparently legal means.

There are also many commercial firms of "lobbyists", who are openly making money from influencing law making. (I must admit that I am unsure of the detail of how this works, whether cash is involved, or of it's legality.)

It seems to me that this is simply organized corruption. We see the results every day in the DMCA and similar broken laws. In your opinion, is this really democracy? At what point should a nominally democratic system be seen as a facade?

(DISCLAIMER: I am a defendant in the California deCSS case.)

Bribes?
by jeffy124

What's your opinion of organizations providing funds to political campaigns in exchange for laws/policies/etc that benefit the organization?

Could this be considered bribing on behalf of the funding organization and accepting a bribe by 'returning the favor?' If not bribes, would you consider this practice ethical?

I ask this question in how it pertains to the situation of organizations with deep pockets such as the RIAA funding lawmakers to create laws like the DMCA and other laws that are currently coming down the pike.

Also, what advice would you give to shallow-pocket organizations such as the EFF or EPIC in fighting to keep the rights of honest, well meaning Internet users?

MR: I am lumping the two previous questions together because they ask essentially the same thing: "Do organizations have an undue influence on Washington"?

The best answer I know is: "Organizations have an expected level of influence on Washington."

Members of Congress are primarily interested in serving the needs of the people that they represent. They do this both for electoral reasons as well as the fact that they personally share the median interests of their constituency.

Every organization wants to convince the government that its position reflects the position that will either benefit the most people, a group of particularly needy people, or reflects the most consistent view with existing laws and practices. That sounds reasonable, doesn't it?

When a Congressman is lobbied either by corporation or his local Lion's Club, he is thinking in terms of how it benefits his constituents and his/her personal beliefs. Corporations know that, and tailor their legislative message to illustrate the benefits or perils to a Member's local or national constituency.

You must demonstrate to members of Congress and other government officials how your position will benefit their constituents and demonstrate that many of their constituents feel the same way. This is the key to effectively lobbying government even without deep pockets.

Theoretically being politically active or donating to campaigns helps elect Members of Congress who support your beliefs or position on a issue. That said, I've had clients who maxed out to Members of Congress who were actively opposed to the client's legislation because they agreed with his/her social agenda.

You don't walk in, hand over a check and change a vote. Doesn't happen.

Any time you think it all works from money, take a look at the list of Congressmen who did NOT support Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) but received money from tech companies!

Bottom line, the role of money in politics is murky.

So here is an example of murky money: You want to help the EFF? Write a big check. It will allow them to do better research, hire more people to lobby, fly to more conferences, print more flyers, etc. Hmmmm, sounds a lot like "providing funds to political campaigns in exchange for laws/policies/etc that benefit the organization", doesn't it?

Internet taxes
by JJ

What is the political future of the internet sales tax exemption?

MR: Excellent question, but one that needs to be broken into two parts. Internet Sales Tax is a term that is used but actually represents two different tax questions. First, the Internet Tax Moratorium is not a moratorium on sales or use tax, but a moratorium on access tax. An access tax is a tax on your internet service itself. When you look at your phone bill, you will notice access taxes at the bottom. The Internet Tax Moratorium prevents states and localities from levying taxes on your access. This moratorium is probably going to become permanent this year, and will represent a success in efforts to tear down barriers to eCommerce and remote working.

Next, there's the difficulty that states have in collecting sales tax on consumers' purchases from out-of-state retailers. There's nothing new about that, since it's been difficult for decades#8212ever since catalogs and phone orders became prevalent. It's not really an "Internet Tax" but a remote seller tax. Technically, consumers have to voluntarily pay a "use tax" on their out-of-state purchases, but compliance is predictably low.

States have tried to force remote catalog vendors to collect sales tax, but the U.S. Supreme Court said that states only have taxing power over businesses that have some physical presence in their states. Which is why walmart.com has to collect sales tax for any state where there's a Wal-Mart store (are there any states that don't have a Wal-Mart?).

In its ruling in the Quill decision, the Supreme Court gave the states an opening: they held that Congress could extend the states' taxing power, but only if the states standardized and simplified their tax rules. Today, there are over 7,500 separate sales tax jurisdictions in the U.S., each with its own rates and rules about what's taxable and what's not. Bricks-and-mortar retailers have to collect and file for just one jurisdiction, while remote sellers would have to collect and remit for every place their customers live.

With that kind of opening from the Supreme Court, several states started a campaign to unify and simplify their sales tax rules. This program is usually referred to as the Streamlined Sales Tax Project (SSTP). Earlier this month, they reached their goal of covering 20% of the U.S. population with states who have promised to simplify their sales tax regimes. (No promises about how simple it will be to file the forms and modify sellers' software and systems#8212just the vague promise that computers will make it simple enough.) The next step in the states' campaign is to ask Congress to give them the powers they seek, and they're already lining-up supporters for the legislation.

So there's nothing new about the states' difficulty in getting remote sellers to collect everyone's sales taxes. And nothing here is unique to the internet, since catalogs generate about four times as much as online sales. Truth is, internet e-commerce is costing states just one or two billion dollars year in lost sales taxes ationwide.

It's just that states are hungry for new revenue, and they've convinced themselves that there are billions to be gained by forcing out-of-state sellers to collect and remit their sales taxes. What remains to be seen is whether the incremental taxes are worth the costs and burden--especially on small businesses that look to the internet to expand their markets.

Top five issues?
by JPMH

What would you say are the top five issues that *need* an effective lobbying effort at the moment?

MR:

  • Intellectual Property (IP is the major umbrella issue for tech in the foreseeable future. If you want to give your IP away under the GPL, it should be yours to give; and should you GPL it, you should be able to protect that right. If you want to monetize your IP, should be able to protect it and share it with a license. Fee diversion at the PTO is a bad thing, not enough is being done to find 'prior art.' )

  • Internet Access Taxation and SSTP (Bad for eCommerce)

  • Spam (Confusion reigns at this point, is it porn or UCE? Legislation must work hand in hand with technology and international pressure. Beware of unintended consequences)

  • CDBTPA (We must continue fighting against DRM tech mandates. Technology should solve the problems, government should probably stay out)

  • Privacy (make sure that a good balance is struck between corporate sharing and personal privacy. Make sure that if there is a failure, technology is not blamed)

Who knows best?
by PinkStainlessTail

I was wondering if there are any senators/reps who stand out in your mind as particularly tech savvy? For instance, here in Michigan we're relatively proud of Lynn Rivers [slashdot.org]. By the same token, who sticks out as particularly clueless (perhaps that part wouldn't be the most politic to answer...)

Rick Boucher
by GigsVT (SeeMyProfile@slashdot.org)

Have you spoken with Rick Boucher? Is he really as tech savvy as he comes across as, or is he playing us? Does he really care about protecting rights online?

MR: First things first, I will not speak to the relative knowledge of any particular Member of Congress (what, do you think I want to become unemployed)??

That said, I will now violate the previous statement to say that yes, Congressman Boucher is quite tech savvy. I do this not to ingratiate myself with his office (which it won't) but to point out that Congressman Boucher is a Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Members of committees with jurisdiction over issues like the Internet tend to be more knowledgeable about those issues. In addition, those members also have some extremely knowledgeable staff to help them on each of their key issues. You would be blown away to see how much energy is spent on something like the spam bill.

Some members of Congress even have scientific and technical backgrounds. For instance, Rush Holt was an actual rocket scientist at Princeton before be elected to Congress.

The problem they all face is time and resources. They have 600,000 people in their district, or a whole state for a Senator. There just aren't that many people "back on the ranch" screaming for technology legislation. And when they do, they may not be asking for the same thing you are.

Career Path
by BlueFrog (craser at indiana dot edu)

I've heard it said several times that our (US) legislators are sincerely trying to do good on behalf of their constituency, but that most tech lobbyists work on behalf of groups with specific agendas. What hope is there for 'White Hat' tech lobbyists to make their mark in Washington's political scene, and what would you suggest to anyone with thoughts of becoming a lobbyist?

MR: In three parts:

1. Yes, the vast majority of Congresspersons are sincerely trying to do "good" on behalf of their constituency. I put good in quotes in this case because "good" may not be the correct word. Members of Congress are primarily concerned with the (relatively) parochial interests of the 600,000 people in their district in the case of Representatives, or the people in their state in the case of Senators. If you define good as "benefiting the people of the district/state" then yes, Members of Congress are _all_ trying very hard to do what they believe is good on behalf of their constituency.

That said, Members do consider the greater good for the US, and the outside world, but their first focus (and one could argue it should be) is on their immediate electorate.

2. Everyone thinks they are a "white hat" lobbyist, but their own perception of the hat is colored by the client. Look at Sun, are they a "white hat" because they went after MS? Are they still a "white hat" now that they are going after Linux? IBM used to be the "Great Satan" before MS. Now that they are supporting Open Source (after a fashion) are they now "white hat"? "White Hat" vs. "Black Hat" in technology is a myth.

Corporate tech lobbyists are not working against tech. No one is lobbying for a return to the era of 8 pound cell phones and thermal paper fax machines. In most cases tech lobbyists are working to protect the income of the company or companies they represent, while trying to keep the government out of technology in general.

3. Becoming a Lobbyist

So you want to become a lobbyist? a lobbyist is an advocate for a position, nothing more, nothing less. You already lobby in daily life when you urge your friends to see the movie you want, or eat at your favorite restaurant. When your write a letter to your congressman, school-board or city council you are lobbying as well.

If you mean you want to put food on the table as a professional advocate in the field of politics, then there are two routes that come to mind: Most obvious, go to law school. Second possibility, work your way up in politics. Third, and preferred, do both.

If law school interests you, remember a lobbyist is an advocate just as a lawyer is an advocate. The vast majority of lobbyists have JDs or LLMs. This is by no means a requirement, and you don't necessarily need to get your law degree as a first order of business, but it is a common path.

Essentially your life plan would look like this: go to law school, work for a company in their legal department, get assigned to the govn't relations division, be willing to take a job in DC, get transferred to DC, do a good job advocating your company's position while building relationships with Members of Congress and staff, find a firm (most likely one your company has hired as an outside consultant) that believes you can bring business into the firm, get hired by that firm, find new business, advocate your new client's position, find new business, advocate your new client's position... you get the picture.

If politics interest you (see my definition of politics), then become politically active now, don't hesitate for a second. Political activism does not necessarily mean waving signs at crowded intersections; it can mean raising money, working in a campaign office, interning or working at a party headquarters. If you do not come from a political family, or you haven't really been involved in politics on any level and the next campaign is too far away to wait for, I would suggest looking for an internship either in Washington DC or your State Capitol.

Interning allows you to get a peek under the covers of how Congress and the Administration work. You will get to see the vast piles of mail that come in daily from every concerned citizen and crackpot alike, and you get the pleasure of assisting someone in drafting a honest, well thought out response. You will answer endless phonecalls from people saying "don't take away my social security/guns/right to chose/ right to life/ right to a job/right to a better life. You will run errands for people from the home town, from getting passes to the House gallery to tours of the Capitol underground. You will make sure that if someone from the district has a problem back home, you get a caseworker to help. You will make sure that orders for flags that have been flown above the Capitol have been filled, and all the flag certificates are in place. You will get to savour the Friday nights when members are out of town and you get to leave before 8:00pm. You will feel blessed if the Senator or Representative remembers your name. And you will do it all for no pay.

You would think that a thankless job with no pay would be easy to get, but you would be wrong. I have seen Harvard law school graduates answering phones and holding softball fields for 3 hours in 90 degree weather just to be part of the action. To get an internship, start looking at your home state Senators and Representatives. Write cover letters and send resumes' to everyone that might bring you in (any connection you have with the home state and/ or district is important). If you can travel to DC, try to arrange "informational" interviews with the Administrative Assistant for your hometown Rep. Discuss your interest in interning with them or with any other Member of Congress that may have internships available. Do not make statements like "I want to do substantive work"; to them, you know essentially nothing of substance, why would someone want your hands on the reins of government?

If you are fortunate enough to land an internship and do well during it, you can try to get a job on the hill. This will not bring relief, only more work for essentially no pay (as an aside, my wife worked on Capitol Hill for almost four years and never made as much as her tuition was at Smith College. She is now in Vet school).

Lawmakers' awareness of the CDBTPA
by CaptainSuperBoy

I am concerned that legislators are not aware of how dangerous the SSSCA (now CDBTPA) is, especially in light of our recent disaster and our coming war. Now more than ever, we need to be concerned about the possibility of losing our individual freedoms.

Are our lawmakers aware of the CDBTPA and its dangers? Do you think it will be debated in detail, or will it pass "under the radar?"

MR: As to the loss of personal liberty, let me set up my soapbox and put my job in jeopardy:

[begin rant]

If you think the DMCA or the CDBTPA was a threat to your personal liberty, you would be outraged and disgusted by the recently passed anti-terrorism legislation, the PATRIOT Act.

A quick overview of the rights and privileges that are destroyed by this legislation are stunning and saddening. Tax information sharing, secret searches, grand jury testimony sharing, warrentless email searches (granted this already existed in a form), possibly warrantless searches of medical or education information, poorly worded money laundering provisions, Single-Jurisdiction search warrants and so on.

Proponents will argue that most of these items only really come in to play under FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. But the problem lies in the fact that law enforcement will seek to use new laws to show a nexus (a word we will revisit on Internet taxes) between domestic illegal acts, like selling drugs, and the funding of terrorists. I don't want to insinuate that I support drug dealers, but I personally feel that some in law enforcement will, in the zealous pursuit of criminals, accidentally destroy the lives of innocent Americans.

Much of the language feels like a change in the tenor of how we view people. The presumption of innocence has been given away, to be replaced by the presumption that anyone who meets a certain profile is guilty by association. Herein lies a nexus (that word again) of computers and information gathering. Prior to the ability of computers to handle and process large amounts of data, I never really worried about the FBI or the NSA collecting data on everyone. I knew that it would be impossible for them to effectively deal with the sheer volume of information we all produce. However, many of you here on this site create and work with relational databases of real size and with computing iron that can spit out useful information from that data.

To me, the ability of computers to deal with data produces a situation where law enforcement can use newfound tools to say "give me the addresses of all people with a Arabic surname, who studied math, chemistry or physics at a U.S. university, and were members of the on-campus muslim organization". Suddenly you have created a presumption of guilt of a whole raft of people who did nothing wrong. Hopefully the police will be discreet as they investigate each and every name, but sometimes it may cost some poor sucker his job. Imagine your prospects for maintaining job security in a down-market when the FBI interviews your boss about your activities.

Worst of all, the Senate and the President have fought any sunset provisions. This part baffles me. I know law enforcement does not want ongoing investigations to be hampered by loss of their new found power in a few years, but if the law turns out to be a valuable part of the war on terrorism, then pass the damn thing again! Normally, the Legislative branch is loath to cede power to any other branch, and I am amazed at the upper chamber's decision to roll over.

That said, I am at least marginally mollified to see that _some_ sunset provisions will survive from the house bill, even if all the other good things added by Congressman Barr and Senator Feingold have been refused or removed.

I know we all have to give up a little in this time of crisis, I just want to know that I will get it back before I am old and grey...

[end of job threatening rant]

On the CDBTPA specifically, the CDBTPA has not been introduced this year, and that is in part to lobbying from industry and consumer groups. The good thing is most of the tech industry does not seem to be supportive of expanding the DRM though CDBTPA. If it should be re-introduced, make sure you make your Representatives aware of your opposition, and use some of the techniques on the list below.

Which communication methods work best, in order?
by WillSeattle

A lot of /.ers like email and tech forms of communication. Can you give us any insight into which methods work best?

I've provided what I think might be a ranking order, from best to worst, in terms of methods of communicating with a legislator on a bill, based on my experience, but could you give us any ratios?

An example might be:

1 personal appearance at his office = 2 conversations at a house party = 100 handwritten letters = 200 handwritten postcards = 1000 typed letters = 50,000 emails.

Here's my list of methods I can think of:

  1. talking with legislator when he's gardening or fixing the car on a bill;
  2. lunch or coffee (one on one);
  3. personal appearance at his office (phoned in ahead, as a constituent);
  4. personal conversation at a house party or fundraiser (more than 1 minute);
  5. question at a constituency open house (as advertised in local papers) (usually have 20-40 people);
  6. handwritten postcard with cool pics on other side;
  7. handwritten postcard found free in coffee shop or movie house;
  8. handwritten letter, hand addressed;
  9. typed letter, hand signed, with hand P.S.;
  10. typed postcard, hand signed, with hand P.S.;
  11. fax, hand signed;
  12. actiongram faxed letter like on EDF or EFF;
  13. actiongram email, modified from boilerplate in own words;
  14. actiongram email, boilerplate;
  15. weird knick-knack gift, like a techie toy we have tons of, wrapped up in a box and sent;
  16. weird knick-knack gift, connected to issue;
  17. boring gift, like stapler remover from local Kiwanas

Anything I missed?

MR: You did a great job of hitting the major things. You want a job, J?

The order is pretty good too, though I would say A. might be over the top. When a Member is at home washing the car, they may want to just wash the car. If you had a long day at the help desk, how do you feel about your neighbor coming over to ask why his #8216cup holder' doesn't seem to work any more?

Also, move I above F, and kill off all the postcards. Finally, move faxes and email way up. One of the only good things to come out of 9/11 is that Members of Congress have been forced to use email as a preferred method of communication. Paper mail and knickknacks have become harder to get into the Capitol.

There is one other way that you can help. A good, one page bullet point memo outlining a problem and a solution is a great thing, and is damn hard to write. But given the constraint on time that every staffer faces, a good bullet point one pager can be a godsend when you have to brief your boss.

Can a non-US person do anything?
by schon

Like many (most?) /. readers, I live outside the US, and am not a US citizen; in theory, US laws should not concern me as long as I remain outside US jurisdiction. Reality proves otherwise, however (witness Jon Johansen and Dmitry Sklyarov, for example.)

My question is this: can non-US citizens help to influence US decision-makers for the greater good, and if so, how?

MR: No.

Well, not completely, I just came from a meeting with some MEPs from the European Internet Foundation, and Members of Parliament do have relationships with U.S. Representatives.

But for the most part, you are going to have to lobby your Representative to lobby our Representatives.

Double-edged Sword
by greysky

Many slashdotters expect the government to regulate spam and Microsoft, but remain hands-off with things such as encryption, free speech and copyright. Do you think that it is reasonable to draw a line like this and expect Congress not to cross it, or should we take a more consistent stance and push for the government to stay further away from the Internet and technology all together?

MR: Ironically, it was Milton Friedman who said that Silicon Valley was committing suicide by trying to leverage the government in their competition with Microsoft. Today, many of those same companies now find themselves under scrutiny. While there is certainly a role for government to play in areas of antitrust enforcement, it can be a bit of a broad sword in the tech industry where things change so quickly. Just look at the growth of Linux; its growth has little or nothing to do with the Antitrust Suit. Browsers, on the other hand, the core of the suit, have largely become irrelevant.

In the long run, too much regulation favors large companies, not smaller ones. Once you bring Washington into technology, it's hard to get Washington to leave. It is probably better for the technology community to let the marketplace sort things out, and only look to government for very small, surgical tasks. We all know we don't want "Technology at the speed of government".

My biggest concern these days
by MaxGrant

Everyone here is aware that more and more broadly-worded laws are getting passed, making all sorts of formerly innocuous computer activities "criminal." I've just emailed my representatives regarding the "hacking is terrorism" nonsense that's being looked at, and I've informed them that laws like this cause me to re-evaluate, on a yearly basis, whether or not I should continue working in IT, or find some job in a safer field which is not under seemingly continuous legislative attack. My question, after all that, is do you think the representative will look at that and care? My state is trying very hard to draw technology workers here, which I'm sure is the case in every state in the union except California and Oregon. Would an appeal to the simple "I'm afraid to do this anymore because it's becoming legally dangerous to work in computers" be of any use, or did I waste my breath?

MR: This is not really a new question. Since the time I remember watching my father walk down the halls at the University with a stack of punchcards, computer types have been revered and feared. If you have a job in IT, you are not likely to run afoul of the law. Heck, there is a strong chance that you could be working in a company developing software that does work for the Office of Homeland Security (the only branch of government with a truly expanding budget for tech).

We create this fear in the non tech savvy population ourselves, and I personally think we enjoy it. As a general rule, the most paranoid folks I know are techies. They see the government, or a malicious hacker, around every packet. At the O'Reilly Conference, I was speaking to someone about 802.11 security and he said to me "yeah, I have a card in my laptop, but I leave it off because I am not comfortable with the security yet."

I can't imagine my mother saying that.

For her, it either works or doesn't. She only gets scared when I explain to her exactly how vulnerable she could be.

Every time a tech person gets on the TV and tells the world that your credit card info isn't safe on a computer, constituents write Congress looking for a fix.

Industry understands the balance between privacy and data sharing (not necessarily in a way you would like). As I type this, the House Financial Services Committee is marking up the "Fair Credit Reporting Act" (FCRA). This Act represents the tug-of-war Congress faces between sharing info and protecting the consumer.


Reed is Vice President for Public Affairs at the Association for Competitive Technology.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Lobbyist Morgan Reed Answers Your Questions

Comments Filter:
  • wow.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jeffy124 (453342) on Friday August 01, 2003 @02:21PM (#6590189) Homepage Journal
    i'd completely forgotten I had asked the question that i did, and that it got sent to the interviewee. thinking back, it's amazing how some of my own views have changed since my posting that question.
    • LOL

      Reminds me of the binomes in Reboot fleeing impending doom: "Backspace, backspace!!!"

      So tell us then, how /have/ your views changed since then? :)
    • Re:wow.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Vaughn Anderson (581869) on Friday August 01, 2003 @05:46PM (#6592063)
      yes, but as with all people skilled in their jobs this guy just spun the whole slashdot crowd...

      How easily people can be lulled by a slick talker. We can't verify anything non-factual this guy has said. We can't proove whether the opinions he's expressed are what he lives by.

      Please keep in mind that the core nature of his job is to convince people (legislators/us) that what he is saying (tripe/filth/one sided stories/candy coated facts) is what we (legislators/us) really want to hear.

      Why did he spend time to reply here?

      1. To get us to agree with him on somethings
      2. Then we feel all buddy buddy
      3. Then he slips things past us.
      4. ACHIEVE HIS GOALS.

      What are his goals with replying to Slashdot?

      1. Smooth over any "conspiracy theories" about how corporations pay for laws.
      2. Convince us that there is no such thing as "back door" or "under the table" politics in regards to lobbying.
      3. Make slashdot readers think that he's on our side. (ie, "THE PATRIOT ACT! THE PATRIOT ACT! AHHAH!, he almost had me on that one...)
      4. Do his job by making other people want what his employer wants.

      If you really think this guy gives a darn about any of the tech values mainly expressed by the little man, think again, he's bought and paid for my corporations.

      I quote him here -

      If you think the DMCA or the CDBTPA was a threat to your personal liberty, you would be outraged and disgusted by the recently passed anti-terrorism legislation, the PATRIOT Act.

      Here's his pitch, he just spun the whole issue of how illegal the DMCA is. He didn't even answer the question!!

      The best answer I know is: "Organizations have an expected level of influence on Washington."

      What a crock! A corporation does NOT get to vote, why should they get any extra influence in congress?

      You don't walk in, hand over a check and change a vote. Doesn't happen.

      This is by far my most favorite line. It's like Al Capone, "I'm the good guy".

      I have an uncle who is a State Senator, even at his level he has had people come in and dry and buy his influence.

      Sorry Mr. Reed, you don't fool me. Maybe you don't do shady things with your lobbying, but other do, and if you don't think that is true, perhaps you aren't in the in crowd at DC.

      And on a finishing note, I don't recall there being any laws or Ammendments that give corporations the right to lobby congress, perhaps people should be allowed to, but it seems that with the raw evidence, (ie DMCA was _not_ in the best intrests of the people) your arguments don't hold water that lobbying is anything other than paid influence (ie legal bribery) of our government.

      It's the government of the people, by the people and for the people, NOT of the corporations, by the powerful and for those who can afford lobbyists like yourself.

      • Re:wow.... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Rakarra (112805) * on Saturday August 02, 2003 @03:45PM (#6596358)
        If you think the DMCA or the CDBTPA was a threat to your personal liberty, you would be outraged and disgusted by the recently passed anti-terrorism legislation, the PATRIOT Act. Here's his pitch, he just spun the whole issue of how illegal the DMCA is. He didn't even answer the question!!

        He could also be saying "As bad as the DMCA is, there's something that should be upsetting you far more.." As Slashdot readers, we sometimes overestimate how important we are and how important the tech sector is. Because the DMCA and CDBTPA are certainly worth getting upset about, but they are nothing compared to the non-tech-specific PATRIOT Act.

        • Re:wow.... (Score:3, Insightful)

          He could also be saying...

          He could be, but is he? The PATRIOT Act is worse for everyone in the long run, but the DMCA is causeing damage right now and this guy just side stepped a very real and dangerous issue.

          Also, if you noticed one of the questioners is actually being sued under the DMCA, which at this point _is_ more upsetting than the PATRIOT Act. There is actually alot of influence and force out there going against the PATRIOT act, yet little to none in the general populace reguarding the DMCA.

  • favorite quote (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ih8apple (607271) on Friday August 01, 2003 @02:22PM (#6590206)
    "You don't walk in, hand over a check and change a vote. Doesn't happen."

    <sarcasm>Yeah, there's no corruption in Washington. Politicians won't just do anything for "campaign contributions". They are the civil servants for their consitituents.</sarcasm>
    • Re:favorite quote (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Magic Thread (692357)
      Did you read the full answer to the first question? The whole point is that politics really isn't as corrupt as you think it is.
      • Re:favorite quote (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ih8apple (607271)
        "The whole point is that politics really isn't as corrupt as you think it is."

        You're taking the word of a lobbyist, who is part of the system? Boy, I just don't know how to respond to this naivete...
      • Re:favorite quote (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mansemat (65131)
        Either that, or he is just spinning us. ;)

        It's all spin baby. The man is a lobbyist. He is the king of spin. He is selling to us right now.
      • by Hatta (162192)
        Did you read the full answer to the first question? The whole point is that politics really isn't as corrupt as you think it is.

        Nope, it's worse.
    • Re:favorite quote (Score:5, Insightful)

      by defwu (688771) on Friday August 01, 2003 @02:39PM (#6590395) Journal
      Do you have any evidence that this happens? Specifically, have *you* written a check and gotten a law passed? Face it : money in our society == access. The more money you have, the easier it is to get get to know certain people, which makes it easier for you to get in front of your congressman to discuss an issue. The money buying policitians has some truth to it, but only in a derivative sense, not a primary sense. To espouse otherwise, except for specific, not endemic, cases of corruption reveals a lack of critical examination of the system.
      • Re:favorite quote (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Usquebaugh (230216) on Friday August 01, 2003 @02:48PM (#6590469)
        So buying time of a politician is not a form of corruption?

        A politician is supposed to represent his voters not a SIG or a Corporation. IF a politician is seeing campaign contributors instead of those who voted for him is this not corruption?

        Face it, politics is a nasty dirty business that no honest man will have anything to do with. To state otherwise reveals either a lack of critical examination or deluded ideals.
        • Re:favorite quote (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Delphiki (646425)
          Face it, politics is a nasty dirty business that no honest man will have anything to do with. To state otherwise reveals either a lack of critical examination or deluded ideals Ah, the agree with me or you're stupid argument. What better way to prove how right you are then this?
    • by twoallbeefpatties (615632) on Friday August 01, 2003 @02:44PM (#6590430)
      Think of it like this: Several corporations make donations to a candidate, explaining their issues and believing that said candidate is the one who will push their issues in Congress. Said candidate gets elected and pushes the bill. Where's the opposition lobby?

      I think part of this guy's point is that when a corporation speaks up on an issue, they may be the only ones speaking up on the issue. If there isn't a well-organized effort to oppose the issue, and few civilians attempt to contact their legislators with their view of the issue, then the corporations' view may be the only view of the "public" that the legislators have to go on, and will vote for what they see as the majority opinion of the public.

      Obviously, this guy is a little idealistic. Saying there's no corruption when money is involved is like saying my cornflakes won't get soggy when I pour milk over them. But the bottom line is: if you want something to happen, then you have to do it yourself and make sure your legislators know what the public opinion really is. You're the public after all; why don't YOU try lobbying?
    • Re:favorite quote (Score:3, Interesting)

      by praedor (218403)

      Well, to a certain extent he was correct in this. If the industry rep that preceded you gave the Rep a check for $20,000 to say "nay" on a piece of legislation, then you come in and give the Rep a "measely" $2000 to say "yeah", there will be no bit flip on that Rep's vote from nay to yeah. The $20,000 vote bid trumps the $2000 bid. The nays have it.

      Since it is a secret bidding process, sort of like when putting offers on a house, you can't one-up the previous briber by giving $21,000. You THOUGHT $200

    • Re:favorite quote (Score:4, Informative)

      by crucini (98210) on Friday August 01, 2003 @02:49PM (#6590484)
      This guy actually took time to give us a glimpse into the world of the lobbyist, and you learned nothing. Since you've got Washington all figured out, here's a question for you. If you can just write checks to politicians to buy votes, why does anyone need lobbyists? Why did Hilary Rosen make a million dollars a year? Couldn't the record companies just mail in their checks to Congress?
      • Re:favorite quote (Score:4, Insightful)

        by MxTxL (307166) <mlutter.gmail@com> on Friday August 01, 2003 @03:16PM (#6590756)
        I'm not commenting on the parent post itself, but your post doesn't advance the argument.

        Why do people need lawyers, can't they just defend themselves in court?

        Why do people need mechanics, can't they just fix their own cars?

        Why do people need garbage men, can't they just take the trash to the dump themselves?

        Well, yes.. they can. But there are people who are specialists in each field that know what they are doing. It's their job. I'm pretty smart, so I could fix my own car but since i know nothing of cars it would involve looking through some instruction books and diagrams and figuring the things out.. it would involve buying or renting tools and researching what tools were best for the job and it would involve me looking for the parts and all of that, then i would need to find a place to work at... or i could just pay the mechanic off. It's his job, afterall.

        I could lobby my congressman on zero budjet myself. But if i really wanted access, it would be less time consuming and have a better chance of success if i went through someone who's a pro at it. Someone who's got the knowledge and got the tools. It's his job, afterall. The downside is, you got to pay for that service.

    • Re:favorite quote (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Eccles (932)
      But largely, he's right. You don't buy votes, you buy the voter. Do you think Bush pushes for tax cuts because he got campaign contributions from people who want taxes cut? No, he got the contributions because he campaigned on cutting taxes. Donors buy the candidate who wants what they want, they don't change the candidate's beliefs. Further contributions are to keep him in.
      • Re:favorite quote (Score:4, Insightful)

        by RevMike (632002) <.revMike. .at. .gmail.com.> on Friday August 01, 2003 @04:19PM (#6591299) Journal
        Don't forget the other factors that alter voting - the vote swap.

        Say your a congressman and you have two bills coming up to a vote. One is a highway bill that will create jobs in your district, and your contituents want it passed. The other is an education bill that will reduce funding to public schools in your district, and your constituents want it to fail.

        Another congresman approaches you and says that his constituents want the education bill passed, but don't want the highway bill.

        You weigh the relative value of each bill to your constituents, then agree with your colleague that both of you will vote yes on both bills.

        It appears that you didn't work for your constituents, but really you did the best you could.

    • I like the part just above that:

      That said, I've had clients who maxed out to Members of Congress who were actively opposed to the client's legislation because they agreed with his/her social agenda.

      The legislation belonging to the client. So much for laws not being bought.. is that a slip of the keyboard or what?
    • Re:favorite quote (Score:4, Insightful)

      by malibucreek (253318) on Friday August 01, 2003 @03:10PM (#6590681) Homepage
      "You don't walk in, hand over a check and change a vote. Doesn't happen."

      Of course. Because the process works the other way around. The politicians ask the corporations and their managers for the money. So it is *the politicians* who must position themselves as friendly to what the business folk want in order to get business' contributions.

    • "You don't walk in, hand over a check and change a vote. Doesn't happen."

      Of course not they send the money via PayPal, wait for funds to clear, then change their vote.
    • His statement has been proven demonstrably false by multiple FBI investigations into influence peddling in congress which resulted in hidden camera cash exchanges. (One was referred to as "Koreagate" by the media, and the other was something like "Arabgate", both referring the to nationality of the donors).

      Furthermore there is a long historical record of influence peddling and graft in American politics, dating back over a hundred years, at all levels of government.

      Furthermore, it just doesn't stand the
    • "You don't walk in, hand over a check and change a vote. Doesn't happen."

      <sarcasm>Yeah, there's no corruption in Washington. Politicians won't just do anything for "campaign contributions". They are the civil servants for their consitituents.</sarcasm>

      Y'know, there's a fine line between cynicism and idiocy.

      It's about thirty miles thataway. If you see a sign that reads "Welcome To Cynicism", you've gone too far.

    • Re:favorite quote (Score:2, Insightful)

      by cheezit (133765)
      A legislator who takes action solely based on a contribution risks scrutiny and criticism. Therefore the "fig leaf" of a purported benefit to the constituents is a necessary insurance policy.

      Whether the benefit to constituents is the prime reason why the legislator acted, or the contribution is what motivated them, can never really be known as long as both are present. Hence the "murky" relationship of money to politics.

      Clearly this system benefits the legislators as long as they can depend on industry
  • Nice! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cK-Gunslinger (443452) on Friday August 01, 2003 @02:25PM (#6590242) Journal
    If you think the DMCA or the CDBTPA was a threat to your personal liberty, you would be outraged and disgusted by the recently passed anti-terrorism legislation, the PATRIOT Act.
    So, it's not just us!
  • by AresTheImpaler (570208) on Friday August 01, 2003 @02:28PM (#6590270)
    he is to moderate. it's too difficult to know if I like him or hate him. he should be more radical
  • Interesting.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AriesGeek (593959) <aries@nOsPam.ariesgeek.com> on Friday August 01, 2003 @02:29PM (#6590280) Homepage Journal
    He failed to address the power grab by lobbyists. According to this article, most US reps are less powerful/influential than heavy hitting washington lobbyists. As a matter of fact, many US reps are leaving their terms early to become lobbyists. They make more money, and they apparently influence law more, so why do we need representatives anymore?
  • by WildFire42 (262051) on Friday August 01, 2003 @02:33PM (#6590320) Homepage
    Wait for it...

    Lobbyist: All your government are belong to me.
  • Not this again? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Otter (3800) on Friday August 01, 2003 @02:33PM (#6590324) Journal
    in theory, US laws should not concern me as long as I remain outside US jurisdiction. Reality proves otherwise, however (witness Jon Johansen and Dmitry Sklyarov, for example.)

    Jon Johansen was tried under Norwegian law. Remember when he was sent to a second trial and everyone was shrieking that it was violation of his double jeopardy rights? Well, that's because he was being tried under Norwegian law, no matter how many jackasses here insist that US law somehow applies in Norway.

    And wasn't Sklyarov arrested when he came to the US?

    • Re:Not this again? (Score:4, Informative)

      by rknop (240417) on Friday August 01, 2003 @02:37PM (#6590366) Homepage

      And wasn't Sklyarov arrested when he came to the US?

      ...for things he did while in Russia, which are legal in Russia. (And which were only illegal in the USA under the technicalities of the DMCA.)

      -Rob

      • Re:Not this again? (Score:2, Informative)

        by YomikoReadman (678084)
        While it is true that the crimes committed in Russia by Sklyarov are legal in Russia, due to the nature of the Internet and that the software he wrote was distributed here in the US by him, he violated US law as well. So, according to the Laws he violated in the US, he was arrested here in the US.
        • While it is true that the crimes committed in Russia by Sklyarov are legal in Russia, due to the nature of the Internet and that the software he wrote was distributed here in the US by him, he violated US law as well. So, according to the Laws he violated in the US, he was arrested here in the US.

          This US, is it the same country that violated [msnbc.com] Russian law in gathering evidence by accessing a system without prior authorization or permission of the local (Russian) authorities?

          Sklyarov did nothing wrong in Ru
      • Re:Not this again? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by hesiod (111176) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `reierhcskoon'> on Friday August 01, 2003 @03:03PM (#6590604)
        > ...for things he did while in Russia, which are legal in Russia.

        But what "he" (his company, really) did was to export that locally legal software to the U.S., where the software was illegal. If Elcom had made a concerted effort to make sure the software never entered the U.S., he could not have been charged, IMIO (I=Ignorant).
  • Get Re-elected (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NickDngr (561211) on Friday August 01, 2003 @02:33PM (#6590326) Journal
    I can tell you from here on the inside, I have rarely met any Member of Congress, of EITHER party, that was really a bad person. Members are all just trying to represent the voters and win re-election.

    Not necessarily in that order. Therein lies the problem.
    • Re:Get Re-elected (Score:5, Insightful)

      by enjo13 (444114) on Friday August 01, 2003 @03:07PM (#6590651) Homepage
      Nope.. not a problem.

      The job of our representatives IS to win re-election. That should be their goal. The problem occurs when the represented (that would be you and I) don't properly hold them accountable for their actions while representing us. If a rep. is not 'representing the voters', then it should be impossible to win re-election.

      In this day of party-line votes, heavily partisan bickering pretty much everywhere, and TV commericals.. it's become possible to represent just a few of the voters (generally extremist in your party) and still satisfy the electorate.
      • Eh.... I think certain politicians (Grey Davis comes to mind) are more concerned with winning re-election first, and then representing voters. And I hate to say it, but's in that case alone, it's quite possible he'll win the election because there's no decent democrat alternative. When what he really should be doing, is resign. The system ain't working as it should, because so many voters are apathetic, and the choices, frankly, suck.
  • DRM statement (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nolife (233813)
    CDBTPA (We must continue fighting against DRM tech mandates. Technology should solve the problems, government should probably stay out)

    This statement seems a little shallow here. I agree that the tech sector should work to get something going here. The down side is a lot of the consumer computing and tech sector industy where DRM will play a major initial role is directly or indirectly controlled by one company, Microsoft. You can not have a DRM solution that involves the users when only one company,
  • by RobertB-DC (622190) * on Friday August 01, 2003 @02:34PM (#6590336) Homepage Journal
    Mr. Morgan made an interesting point about online communication with representatives, now that "wierd knick-knack gifts" could be misconstrued as bioweapons (especially the staple remover that's been in the drawer next to last month's tuna fish sandwich).

    But I've always assumed that any value of online communication would be offset by the volume of 1337 mail -- mostly unintentional. "yOUr rite their otta bee a lAw! [school-house-rock.com]"

    I'd like to see a tech-savvy representative adopt some form of Slashcode [slashcode.com]-based constituent feedback system. Articles could be the issues currently on the rep's plate, plus a "catchall" for general feedback. Let the (unpaid) interns do the moderation, and then the rep can read at +2 to +5 depending on workload.

    I may make a run for office [txgreens.org] in the next few years, and I'd be glad to use a Slash-like system for public discussion of my positions. But I agree with Morgan -- a well-written one-page letter with a finite number of defensible points will be much more effective than a Unabomer-style manifesto.
    • Let the (unpaid) interns do the moderation, and then the rep can read at +2 to +5 depending on workload.

      So then the unpaid interns are then given the power to pick and choose what the rep reads? No thanks.
  • Money != Influence? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by verloren (523497) on Friday August 01, 2003 @02:35PM (#6590349)
    It's an idea I've mentioned before, but...

    If donations *don't* buy influence, and I'm a shareholder in a company that makes political contributions, can I sue the directors of the company for misappropriation of company funds?

    Cheers, Paul
  • Good answers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by onyxruby (118189) <onyxruby@@@comcast...net> on Friday August 01, 2003 @02:36PM (#6590357)
    Some good answers, and some information on effective lobbying of our congress critters. I've actually written a few letters to my congress critters on various tech issues, and have even received replies that actually appeared to answer what I wrote about. I just wish more people voice concers to their congressman than /. He's right on the money on one thing though, more donations to the EFF are going to be required if we want our voice to compete with the likes of MS, RIAA etc.
  • Your JOB as a US citizen is to select a representative who will adequately represent your views. It is essential that you not turn off from politics.
    Spoken like a true insider. Whatever happened to limited government? It seems to me that the most moral form of government is one in which you didn't have to spend copious amounts of time checking up on it, just to see if some group is buying influence in order to screw you over.
    • by Shenkerian (577120) on Friday August 01, 2003 @02:49PM (#6590482)
      How is it an unreasonable burden that you take one or two days every four years to read about what the candidates have done in the prior term?

      You then can return to your business and ignore politics for the next four years, since a voter can exercise no power between elections anyway.

      • Once every four years? When was the last time a day went by that there wasn't a story in yro [slashdot.org] that you shouldn't have written to your congressman about.
        • You're right, of course. But I was responding only to your response to Reed Morgan's statement:
          Your JOB as a US citizen is to select a representative who will adequately represent your views. It is essential that you not turn off from politics.

          I described how to to minimally fulfill one's civic responsiblity. In the end, he's right: it is your job to exercise your right to vote and select a representative.

      • You want a demonstration of voters' power between elections? Take a look at California; they're removing their elected leader, outside of the election system, through democratic processes. Now, it'd be difficult to get rid of a president in a similar manner (in fact, impossible, as far as I know), but most states have similar rules which allow an elected official to be removed prior to term completion.
      • You then can return to your business and ignore politics for the next four years, since a voter can exercise no power between elections anyway.

        If you're basically happy with the way things are, that's fine advice. However, if you expect any kind of meaningful change to happen solely through voting, forget about it. You can exercise infinitely more influence on government officials, elected and unelected, by putting your energy into an organized group, be it a political party or an issue-based group.
      • Voters can exercise a lot of power between elections. But it's work, and you have to be in it for the long haul. I am the chairman of my voting precint for the Republican party. There are ~ 400 homes in our district. That makes it an almost insignificant percentage of the registered voters in my state. Even so, I get 5 or 6 invitations a year to receptions, BBQ's, dinners, speaches, etc from our 2 senators the congressman from our district. Imagine that, they ask me to come to them!

        It's pretty tough
    • by PhxBlue (562201) on Friday August 01, 2003 @02:57PM (#6590558) Homepage Journal

      Government is just like any other service: you get what you pay for. Or, in Geek terms - garbage in, garbage out.

    • by analog_line (465182) on Friday August 01, 2003 @03:04PM (#6590624)
      There's no such thing. If you want to be sure your government is keeping your interests in mind, you need to check up on it. Even if it's a machine making all hte decisions, you've got to make sure it's running properly, or you deserve all the idiocy you get.

      You should be plenty happy if you're so lazy that you can't be bothered to make sure your government is working for you. Just keep your eyes down and keep ignoring everything like a good sheep. Disgusting.
  • by Liselle (684663) <(ten.ellesil) (ta) (todhsals)> on Friday August 01, 2003 @02:40PM (#6590397) Journal
    People tend to avoid and denigrate subjects they don't fully understand or feel comfortable with. I am certain every reader can think back to an example of having a non-tech person make a disparaging, off-the-cuff comment about something of which they clearly don't grasp. Quotes like "empty suits" and "crooks" signify a response steeped in discomfort due to lack of knowledge.

    This is an excellent point. The example is very relevant for the folks who read here. It's important to know the limitations of your own knowledge and experience. This is the sort of thing that is not self-evident to the big ego, and I'm thankful to the folks who are good enough to remind us every now and then.
    • by Chris Parrinello (1505) * <(chrisp) (at) (chrispy.net)> on Friday August 01, 2003 @03:15PM (#6590742) Homepage
      Except if it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck...

      Does this lobbyist think that we are naive enough to tell us that our "lack of knowledge" is clouding our judgement about how much influence lobbyists and campaign contributions are having on the legislative process? Can you explain to me how Senator Hollings from South Carolina (aka, the Senator from Disney) is representing his constituents with bills he has backed such as the DCMA and SSSCA.

      I think the insiders have become too accustomed to "that's just the way things work" way of thinking. The lobbyists perpetuate that line of thinking through wanting to preserve their own jobs.
      • He was definitely right about techies being the most paranoid group of people ever. On a completely unrelated note, it's not that Senator Hollings doesn't know about problems caused by the DCMA. It's that he's EVIL! He, Satan, the reanimated corpse of Walt Disney, and Michael Eisner OBVIOUSLY got together to think up the DMCA, and then got it enacted into law by spending money from drug cartels through Bill Gates (not many people know this, but Microsoft isn't where he gets his money, it's from drugs. Micr
      • I've watched CSPAN, read reports, read bills, have relatives that have campaigned on the conservative side. I may not know everything, but I think I've been around enough to make an opinion.

        Here are my thoughts:

        Lobbying (as in giving money to a representative in order to get their attention as they would have you call it) would be very much illegal if someone were to "lobby" the general public before election day. In fact, there are specific laws against this. By all means of consistency with other law
    • we understand computers
      the government uses computers,
      therefore we understand goverment.

  • Other good questions (Score:2, Interesting)

    by pmz (462998)
    When a congressperson is faced with the task of representing 600,000 people on issues ranging from cheese handouts to the international space station, is it even possible for this person do their job competently?

    Is the federal government simply too big for its britches?
    • When a congressperson is faced with the task of representing 600,000 people on issues ranging from cheese handouts to the international space station, is it even possible for this person do their job competently?

      Having given some thought to this question (as a result of running for the Green Party), my conclusion was that an elected rep really needs to deal with things at the systemic level, as opposed to the personal level.

      While it is often tempting (and even satisfying) to solve a problem for a single person (usually someone in the news), there's really no time to resolve the issues around johnny's bleeding nose -- unless you chunk up to dealing with the leakage from the chemical plant that's causing nosebleeds for Johnny and the 800 kids in his neighbourhood.

      To the extent to which you can come up with a systemic solution and show that there is widespread system wide support for your solution, you're more likely to get the attention of an elected rep (or at least a 'good' one).

  • Regulation (Score:2, Insightful)

    by k98sven (324383)
    In the long run, too much regulation favors large companies, not smaller ones.

    Well, that's quite a disputable statement.

    I for one, have always held that regulation is neccessary to keep big companies from getting too big and turning the market into a monopoly/oligopoly, hampering small businesses.

    Government involvement didn't seem to benifit Standard Oil very much. And the deregulation of energy markets didn't seem to stop Enron. (RIP!)

    True, the focus here is on the Tech sector, but pointing out how th
    • Re:Regulation (Score:3, Insightful)

      by multimed (189254)
      Disputable because it's too vague not because it's incorrect. Certainly heavily regulated industries can hamper the big guys but it is just as true that excessive regulation hurts smaller companies as much and often more. Consider the volumes of regulations on hiring/firing/employment practices as an example. It's pretty trivial for big companies to hire specialists whose only job is to keep up on the regs. Meanwhile, the guy who runs a landscaping business and hires 5 or 6 employees cannot possibly aff
  • Early prominence (Score:5, Insightful)

    by akiaki007 (148804) <aa316&nyu,edu> on Friday August 01, 2003 @03:03PM (#6590614)
    well, after reading for quite a while, I decided to comment on the early tone I noticed. Cliche of DC, and my comment is cliche with his comments about /.'ers...
    Many of the posts here throw out statements like "Washington is bought"; and it reminds me how little slashdot readers understand about the U.S. government.

    OK, well, you said this, then explained it in a question or two later. Yes, you speak the truth, but I'll fill your generalization of /.'ers as saying that you speak like someone from DC. And you do. Though you took the time to answer these great questions, but often you didn't quite answer the question (IMO).

    Anyway, with this statement I would say, who funds the 2 major parties? Rather, what percentage of the funds of either party come from individuals and corporations? I have a rough estimate, and I know you do as well. Now that we have that out of the way, of the individuals, how much of those donations are made from individuals who's income is greater than 100,000 USD? OK, that should be a good large number. Now we are left with a small percentage, which is what represents the general population. No, Washington DC is not bought, but it is nudged...a lot.

    On to other points:
    When a Congressman is lobbied either by corporation or his local Lion's Club, he is thinking in terms of how it benefits his constituents and his/her personal beliefs.

    Well yes. But when most of the money for your campaign comes from corporations that are interested in logging and drilling for oil in Alaska, they become yoru largest number of constituents. They gave you that money because they think that you can help them out. You are a representative of Alaska and these are your constituents. Would you please tell me how cutting down several thousand acres of forest and drilling for oil will help the general population? Ah yes, it will greatly increase the income of the area and provide jobs. And 50 years down the line everyone will hate those companies because they destroyed the natural resources, and now the children have to suffer all the pollution and crud that has been left in it's place.

    Though your intentions are good and you've answered some questions, I still don't have a better opinion of my representative (I'm in NY) nor do I think that most of the polititions can put 100% of their thoughts into the people they represent. This is simply because they got elected because of the funds they received from the corporations that are trying to become human-like. Until they do away with this money rubbish, the opinion of DC will not change by many.
    • Re:Early prominence (Score:5, Interesting)

      by morganew (194299) on Friday August 01, 2003 @04:30PM (#6591412)
      I commented that my tone in the initial post got away from me, and apologized accordingly.

      Now, to your specific point about Alaska, I feel compelled to answer not as Morgan Reed from ACT, but as Morgan Reed a native of Alaska.

      Non-ACT Morgan Reed has this to say about drilling in Alaska:

      I believe in the right of people who possess something to make a decision about what to do with it. Do you know who owns the section of the 1002 in question? It's owned by the people who live and work there, the NATIVE people, though the Kaktovik Inupiat Corporation (KIC). And to the best of my knowledge, both KIC and the City of Kaktovik, which is charged with representing all of the people who live in the area around the 1002, support reasonable use of the natural resources that they own, and have used and occupied for more than 10,000 years.

      In a recent Congressional hearing in Kaktovik, many village elders spoke at length about how "the good old days" in Kaktovik were sometimes not so "good". Instead, the Kaktovimik faced hunger and uncertainty. Most lower 48ers would not survive a week above the arctic circle in the summer, much less in the winter. If they are allowed to use the resources they own, they can help mitigate that with better education for their children, better housing and a better standard of living.

      So when you become paternalistic and describe how YOU think the people will feel in 50 years, you betray a near racist level of attitude toward the people of Kaktovik. The people there have seen drilling up close and personal, many of them worked in Barrow and at Prudoe Bay.

      I'll trust the native people and listen to them; they know their land, and they are capable of making decisions about it.

      Morgan Reed
      originally from Fairbanks, Alaska

      Now, back to your regularly scheduled Tech lobbyist.
  • Interesting. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by YllabianBitPipe (647462) on Friday August 01, 2003 @03:04PM (#6590618)

    Well, in general this guy sounds intelligent and obviously knows a lot about politics, but I noticed some amusing things in his post ... for starters, it really begins with an antagonistic tone, that the average person is an idiot and quick to conclude bad things about politics, that politicians are all being bought and sold. Yet in the very next couple of paragraphs he blatantly admits that groups and corporations donate money to try to get their perspectives heard. Maybe the clue this guy needs is: most people are not a member of a group or a corpoation. They feel they AREN'T being represtented, and a politician saying they're just looking out for their constituents... well, ask most constituents and they'll say the politicians are listening to money. So, there's an obvious disconnect here and frankly, his tone is proof of it.

    Second I'd say, it's really sad to hear his tale about interns getting paid next to nothing, and working on the hill, still getting paid next to nothing. Where is all this money, that's being donated by the corporations and groups, going? Right into the pockets of Mr. Representative? I just find it ridiculous that a lobbyist who in the first paragraphs, DEFENDS the politicians, and then later on, admits that starting out working on the hill, you get paid jack and his wife had to go back to school!

    All in all, an interesting post and I don't think I'm alone in saying there's a real disconnect between public and government, perhaps explaining many of the problems on both sides of the fence.

    • Re:Interesting. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by morganew (194299)
      Yllabian Bit Pipe,

      Yes, I agree, my tone in the first answer was a bit too "finger wagging". I gave in to the urge and let it go. So, mea culpa, the tone is too strong; but the message is still true. Geeks need to understand that the Government is not some unknowable monolith.

      Pay attention to the actions of your representatives and think about how that might be doing what they perceive as "most useful" to the people they represent.

      Again, you are right about the intial tone, my apologies to all who wer
  • by Chris Parrinello (1505) * <(chrisp) (at) (chrispy.net)> on Friday August 01, 2003 @03:32PM (#6590916) Homepage
    Anybody who is interested in democracy and liberty and how democracy doesn't necessary ensure liberty, should read Fareed Zakaria's "The Future of Freedom" [amazon.com]. It talks a lot about the problems that democracy brings without ensuring liberty via rule of law, checks and balances, constitutions, etc.

    He has once interesting chapter about the United States in the book and how lobbyists have cause problems in our legislative system. Lobbyists represent the "tyranny of the minority" with their special interests and their ability to ride the legislative process every step of the way from committee to the floor. If a lobbyist attending a session doesn't like a phrase being proposed in a bill, he calls his staff on a cell phone and arranges letters, faxes and emails to flood the reprsentative or senator to ensure that the phrase gets quashed.

    It is amusing when Reed tells us that it is our job to make sure we have representatives that reflect our views. I don't think the normal public has the time or ability to watch the legislature to the extent that lobbyists do to ensure that our views are reflected by our representative. I think maybe that's the whole strategy of lobbyists in the first place. But then again I might be a little cynical.
  • "Every time a tech person gets on the TV and tells the world that your credit card info isn't safe on a computer, constituents write Congress looking for a fix."

    A good thing the credit card companies can do is make automatic daily e-mail encripted notifications of transaction sent to the private e-mail address of the card holder. This info would not have to include the card #, but could be key coded to only be viewed by the real card owner. This service should be offered free to card holders. That way c
  • by Cyno (85911)
    Let's assume hypothetically that we find ourselves in material plenty, a state where we have more resources, products and energy than we know what to do with. Do you think our current political system would ever allow those resources to trickle down to the masses? I don't. Corporations have a vested interest in their continued existence whether it helps the public or not. And the management running those companies realize that if/when we do reach material plent they will lose their position of status an
  • by pete-classic (75983) <hutnick@gmail.com> on Friday August 01, 2003 @03:35PM (#6590943) Homepage Journal
    Finally, imagine that the people making the decisions are overworked folks getting massive quantities of information and trying to adequately represent the voters who put them in office.


    Thomas Jefferson wasn't overwhelmed by his need to be an expert on farming, ranching, textile manufacture, etc. because he was wise enough to realize that it was none of his business as a member of the Union government.

    My heart fails to bleed for poor elected officials who can barely make the time to stick their fingers in every pie out there.

    The Union mandate is what? Provide for the common defense, leverage the collective bargaining power of the several States in diplomatic matters, and settle disputes amongst the States.

    The fact that the largest police organization in the country is hung on the interstate commerce clause alone is clenching proof that the government is a farce that exists for no reason but to enrich itself.

    I can't imagine how digesting the latest Congressional clap-trap could alter this truth.

    -Peter

    PS: Extra points to whoever can give me an accurate count of the number of occurrences of the word "Federal" in the Constitution of the United States of America (as drafted).

    -P
  • by pen (7191) on Friday August 01, 2003 @04:42PM (#6591525)
    MR: Ironically, it was Milton Friedman who said that Silicon Valley was committing suicide by trying to leverage the government in their competition with Microsoft. Today, many of those same companies now find themselves under scrutiny.
    The Business Community's Suicidal Impulse [cato.org] by Milton Friedman.
  • by morganew (194299) on Friday August 01, 2003 @07:16PM (#6592698)
    I find myself watching in disappointment and amazement as comments roll in attacking my opening statement.

    I have said it elsewhere in this discussion, but I wanted clarify my position in a separate thread.

    My initial statement was strongly worded, and colored the reader's view of the rest of my answers.

    I debated using my opening statement, concerned that the /. crowd would misconstrue or look with a jaundiced eye at what came later.

    I contemplated pulling it, and it's clear from the tone here that I should have.

    Not a single comment on Internet Sales Tax, almost nothing here about IP being a key issue for Congress.

    Nope. Instead the vast majority of posters responded only to my geek call to arms.

    I should have known better. As you can see from my number, I am not new to /. (Heck, it was at least a year after I started posting here that I actually registered, I was paranoid that I would get spam from registering).

    I should have known better.

    My apologies to those who were truly offended by the tone, but for better or worse, the sentiment is true: The government isn't evil or invisible, it responds to the interests of its people. Sometimes, your elected officials see those interests from a different perspective than the usual /.er. Oftentimes that perspective is instead the one held by the people whose jobs are affected. People ARE companies. They are shareholders, dock workers, retail store clerks and software engineers.

    For those of you with jobs at companies, do you know what your own company is lobbying for?

    Find out. Get involved, pay attention and work hard for issues and candidates you believe in.

    I hope you take the time to read up on SSTP and other barriers to eCommerce that are headed our way.

    I'll try and answer substantive questions that pop up as best I can.

    Morgan Reed
    • by alizard (107678) <alizard@ecis . c om> on Saturday August 02, 2003 @03:19AM (#6594532) Homepage
      I got a few substantive facts, something of a better feeling for your environment than you previously had, and got some great how-to ideas in the area of spin control and ignoring inconvenient questions and how to carefully meter out just enough truth to enhance your intended points.

      Here's a good example:
      The government isn't evil or invisible, it responds to the interests of its people.

      Yes, and "its people" are those who participate meaningfully in the political process by donating thousands of dollars to the candidates of their choice.

      Generally, one sees these techniques used by politicians and lawyers orally in courtrooms, putting them in the form of text makes them a lot easier to study. I think you deserve thanks for this.

      I was delighted and a bit surprised to see how many other people cut straight through the spin you were putting on known facts... and the posts that demonstrate this best are the ones you didn't respond to. Apparently, we both underestimated the level of political awareness of some of the Slashdot readers. I suspect that you expected only softball questions.

      A response to this post [slashdot.org] asking about why congressmen are seriously interested in changing careers to lobbying [msn.com] might have been of great interest. Other posts from people who saw you coming:

      The funniest thing said about you was "Obviously, this guy is a little idealistic." But seriously, if you were an idealist really trying to make the world as opposed to your checking account a better place, we all know you'd be doing something else for a living. Making a better world for MS is not the same thing as making a better world, or even a better place for anyone to do high-tech. I'm not linking that post, I'm sure the author has figured out just how far he put his foot in it.

      What are ACT's positions on:

      • H1B and anti-outsourcing legislation?
      • Effective antitrust enforcement?
      • Adequate funding for the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) and effective enforcement of its regulations?
      • Patent reform and software patents in general?
      • Federal opt-out "anti-spam" legislation which the informed consensus says will make the current spam situation far worse than it is?

      Do you think any real ACT position on the above has any substantial support here?

      Based on your posts and interview responses, I do not believe that you want effective "geek activism". There are areas where the goals of one of your clients, MS and the goals of the rest of the technology community are diametrically opposed and a politically effective high-tech and/or Open Source might make your life a whole lot more difficult.

      Also, move I above F, and kill off all the postcards. Finally, move faxes and email way up. One of the only good things to come out of 9/11 is that Members of Congress have been forced to use email as a preferred method of communication. Paper mail and knickknacks have become harder to get into the Capitol.

      Perhaps they respond to your e-mail, which shows up at addresses not exactly in the public domain. If I were a major contributor to my Congresswoman, I'm sure she'd find some way to make it possible to communicate with her that doesn't bottleneck through a webform.

      A quote from

  • by twisty (179219) on Friday August 01, 2003 @10:11PM (#6593552) Homepage Journal
    Fortunately or unfortunately, (and I believe fortunately) the US allows all people (over the age of 18), even those who aren't paying attention, to vote.

    Sadly, this is just untrue. In fact, the U.S. Constitution has yet to assure us a Right To Vote, despite how often that document implies it, as you can read in this ReclaimDemocracy.org link [reclaimdemocracy.org].
    The 2000 Election illustrates how 94,000 exluded votes [fringefolk.com] (only 3000 of which had 'serious' justification) makes a huge difference.

    Several states exclude felons, or even alleged felons, from voting. Why does Canada seem more Free, as their Supreme Court ruled even inmates can vote [www.cbc.ca]?

"Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company." -- Mark Twain

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