If You Want To Know How Supporting Techdirt Can Help Shift The Debate In Washington DC, Read This

from the and-then-donate dept

The following is from Jen Hoelzer, who for years worked as Senator Ron Wyden's Communications Director and Deputy Chief of Staff. During the SOPA/PIPA fight, she was perhaps the key person in Congress getting the press (and others in Congress) to understand the importance of SOPA and PIPA and what it meant for the internet. This morning, completely out of the blue, she sent this over. I think it does an amazing job highlighting just how important independent coverage of important tech policy issues, like what we provide, can be on these debates. Plenty of cynical people said that the SOPA/PIPA fight couldn't be won. Those same people are saying that the net neutrality battle is already lost. Good, independent reporting on these issues does make a difference, which is why we're asking you to support us in our net neutrality coverage.

Click here to support our crowdfunding campaign »


Hi. My name is Jen... and I was once a Congressional staffer who knew so little about Internet policy that I had no idea how little I knew about Internet policy. (I think this is where you're supposed to supportively say, "Hi, Jen," and reassure me that this is a safe space for me to continue my embarrassing confession. Because it gets worse.)

In late 2010, when my former boss -- U.S. Senator Ron Wyden -- announced that he was putting a hold on the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) – the predecessor to PIPA and later, SOPA -- I not only didn't know how the DNS system worked, I'm not sure I knew what infringement meant. (I'm not proud of these things, but they're true.)

If my boss hadn't involved himself in this issue, odds are I would never have heard of it and, heck, if by some chance I had learned that the Judiciary Committee had unanimously passed legislation giving law enforcement (what their press release called) "important tools" to go after illegal activity, I probably wouldn't have given the issue any thought beyond thinking it was nice that Democrats and Republicans remembered how to work together.

Worse yet, when my chief of staff stopped by my office to let me know that the Senator would be placing a hold on the legislation, I didn't drop what I was doing to alert reporters or ask one of my deputies to pound out a press release. I'm not sure I even looked up from my computer.

Honestly, it didn't occur to me that anyone would consider what my boss did that afternoon news, until I got a Google News Alert that a blog called, Techdirt, had written about it.

Now, in my defense, the above does not mean that I was lazy or willfully ignorant. From the outside, I realize Congress doesn't appear to do anything, but there are so many bills and issues swirling around Capitol Hill at any one time that it's a challenge just to stay on top of the sliver of them that pertains to your job. On an average day, Senator Wyden could go from a breakfast forum on health reform, to a committee hearing on tax reform, to introducing legislation on renewable energy, to questioning the forest service on resources for firefighting, before giving a floor speech on NSA surveillance, and that would just be before noon. So, the odds of my being on top of something that happened in a Committee my boss wasn't assigned to -- like the Judiciary Committee -- were slim.

Furthermore, my deputies and I -- as Wyden's communications director -- could barely keep up with all of the questions and requests we got from reporters. We didn't have the time or resources to tweet about everything he did, let alone proactively promote all of his work. I mean, just writing and distributing a press release can take a few hours, coming up with a messaging strategy, educating reporters, planning events and writing the various one-pagers, FAQs, op-eds and speeches needed to support a successful advocacy campaign can take days, weeks, even months and that's if nothing else is going on (which is rarely the case).

The day Senator Wyden put a hold on COICA, was the same day he introduced legislation to amend the Affordable Care Act with Senator Scott Brown. I was getting inundated with questions from reporters and bloggers wanting to understand "why in the hell he'd do such a thing," plus the Democratic caucus wanted us to put out and promote a statement pushing for the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, which had my deputy tied up, in addition to the various other things that tended to make the end of session a sprint.

I didn't jump at the opportunity to publicize my boss's hold announcement, because I didn't know enough about the issue to judge its news value, let alone explain it to reporters or write a quick press release, and I didn't have the time to learn enough about it to do any of those things before the end of the day. So, I told my chief of staff "great" and went back to talking to reporters about health policy.

Again, I'm not proud of the above story, but I was moved to share it, when I read that Techdirt's coverage of the COICA/PIPA/SOPA debate ultimately cost them more than 50% of their advertising revenue and has since forced them to operate at a loss.

I don't want to imagine a tech debate without Techdirt in it.

I can't even begin to imagine how the COICA/PIPA/SOPA debate would have gone without Mike Masnick and Techdirt's coverage.

But I can imagine where I -- personally -- would have been without Techdirt's coverage. All I have to do is close my eyes and remember November 18, 2010. Now, as much as I'd like to tell you that Mike's November post on Ron Wyden's COICA hold changed everything for me, it didn't. One post couldn't make me an expert on Internet issues any more than a single story could have won the debate. But I can say the more I learned about the issues surrounding COICA and later PIPA and SOPA – and the more confident I grew in my knowledge and ability to explain those issues -- the more involved I got, the more press releases, speeches, FAQ's and blogs I wrote in support of Ron's work, the more reporters I talked to, coverage I influenced, and interviews I secured for the senator.

I can also say, I wouldn't have been able to do any of those things (at least not well) without Mike Masnick and the rest of the guys at Techdirt, because they're the guys who taught me tech policy.

That's not to say, I didn't work with really smart people who taught me a lot, I did and they did; but with Techdirt, I never had to ask a stupid question or admit what I didn't know. (I just kept reading.) Techdirt's posts were consistently straightforward, easy to understand and timely. Sure, another site might put together one or two good posts or a definitive explainer, but reading Techdirt every day was like taking a college course on the issues with every new post helping me understand a new aspect of what I'd learned previously. I often found some of the site's shorter posts and illustrative examples the most helpful, because they were the examples I ultimately used to explain the issues to others. For example, I've yet to find a better way to get someone to see the potential harm bills like SOPA and PIPA can do to free speech than pointing out that Universal once tried to blacklist 50 Cent's personal website, a fact I learned from a 6/21/11 Techdirt post, entitled "Did Universal Music Declare 50 Cent's Own Website A Pirate Site?" (Seriously, that story alone helped me convince at least a dozen – non-tech – reporters to write about the issue, not to mention all of the Hill staffers I shared it with.)

Now, I understand that some of you may be tempted to write my experience off as unique (or flame me for asking you to sympathize with Congressional staffers), but I guarantee not having enough hours in the day was not an affliction unique to my experience. I'd also argue that good lobbyists derive less power from campaign contributions than they do from helping tired, overworked, Congressional staffers "understand" complex issues.

Lobbyists are experts at framing their client's positions in ways that sound like non-controversial no-brainers. They're so good at it, that most of them have even been convinced by their own arguments. A seasoned staffer who understands the issue at play will see through the lobbyist's ploy (and realize the offers of assistance aren't really "help"), but there aren't very many seasoned staffers who work on Internet and tech policy. To create those staffers and make the lobbyist's job harder, means helping those overworked staffers learn these issues, with short, easily digestible information that makes the problems with the lobbyists' sales pitch easy to discern. And, speaking from experience, no one is better at that than Techdirt.

Now, one of the sad realities of our political system is the fact that helping for-profit entities maintain the advantages that made them profitable pays a lot more than advocating for the public interest, which – if you're lucky – might yield you a pat on the back. But just because something isn't done for the money, doesn't mean those who do it don't have to earn a living. Saving the Internet shouldn't force Mike's staff to take pay cuts or his kids to go hungry.

If you care about a free and open Internet, you want Techdirt to be at full strength in the Net Neutrality debate. You want them to be educating more lawmakers and their staffers (like my former self) to understand these issues and be confident enough in their knowledge to take a stand against the cable companies and their lobbyists.

I'm donating to Techdirt's campaign because I know where I would have been without their work and I don't want a tech debate to take place without them. I hope you will do the same. It's also a great way to say thanks.

Click here to support Techdirt's crowdfunding campaign »

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    psiu, Jul 29th, 2014 @ 11:17am

    It's like a shareware site :D

    Keeps nagging until you pay up...

    ***************************

    Okay okay okay, fine.

    Now, if I donate, Mike is in charge of the internet and the NSA, correct?

    Also, I want Aereo to start working on my Roku again.

    :P

     

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  2.  
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    jackn, Jul 29th, 2014 @ 11:18am

    I appreciate your diligence in these matters. But when Obama appointed Wheeler, it’s over. The internet belongs to old guard now. We will have to wait for the next new communication channel for another taste of free expression.

    Just wait until we have communication with entangled particles. We will have a another few years of freedom until the rights of happy days-reruns trumps the right of people. SOS

     

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  3.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jul 29th, 2014 @ 11:20am

    or flame me for asking you to sympathize with Congressional staffers

    The vicious cycle is: the budget for staff has been cut, which makes staffers look for other employment, which leads to some doing questionable actions, which leads people to distrust staffers, which...

     

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  4.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 29th, 2014 @ 11:27am

    Re:

    I appreciate your diligence in these matters. But when Obama appointed Wheeler, it’s over. The internet belongs to old guard now.

    No offense, but that's utter bullshit. There is still plenty of things that can be done, and this fight is a long way from over. Wheeler's not as terrible as some people like to make him out to be. He's not great, but he's not terrible. But this goes way beyond Wheeler. Wheeler is just one guy, and this issue has many moving parts.

    Hell, pretty much anyone else on the short list probably would have been *worse* than Wheeler.

    Giving in just helps the side you claim to dislike. This is why idiotic cynicism so bugs me. You're playing into their hands, and they love your cynicism.

    People like you insisted that SOPA was a done deal. You were wrong.

     

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  5.  
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    pixelpusher220 (profile), Jul 29th, 2014 @ 11:31am

    Beacon isn't taking my donation!

    I'm trying to donate but the Beacon site is saying 'Your card was declined.'. My card issuer isn't even seeing the request so something isn't working on Beacon's side of things. I've double and triple checked my info...any ideas?

     

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  6.  
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    pixelpusher220 (profile), Jul 29th, 2014 @ 11:35am

    Re:

    which also leads to staffers being ever so susceptible to that "I'll give you a job worth $$$$ anytime you want it" regulatory capture from lobbyists.

     

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  7.  
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    Michael, Jul 29th, 2014 @ 11:36am

    Re: Beacon isn't taking my donation!

    I don't like to point fingers or blame someone trying to donate, but considering you have mistaken the Techdirt comments for the Beacon support team, I would have to say you may have failed to follow some of the instructions.

     

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  8.  
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    Michael, Jul 29th, 2014 @ 11:38am

    Re:

    Wait, Disney bought Google?

     

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  9.  
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    Jay (profile), Jul 29th, 2014 @ 11:38am

    Re:

    What in hell are you talking about?

    Do you know why these people are shoring up their defenses?

    A mass of people informed on the issues they care about is far more deadly than any drone, surveillance, or anything close to what a military can do.

    The internet is damn near a public right and it's been around long enough to be a part of the public sphere to increase discussions and that sense of community that people have.

    You learn about foreign cultures and social concerns in a much quicker process than anything before it.

    And to have ANYONE take that public communication away should be a fight.

    If you look back in history, you'll find that public outcry and public knowledge is what is to be feared. It's why our government is trying to clamp down on such things and misinform the public. But even on Net Neutrality, that fight can be won. The fight to prevent Comcast's takeover of the internet is a fight to keep it a public good, not a marketing tool.

    I'm positive that this fight will continue. But it's a fight that is FAR from over.

     

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    pixelpusher220 (profile), Jul 29th, 2014 @ 11:39am

    Incorrect :)

    I haven't mistaken Techdirt's comments for Beacon...I've emailed them as well. But I figure the beneficiary of the donation would be fairly motivated to help resolve the issue, no?

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2014 @ 11:41am

    Glowing endorsement.

    Do you run a revenge porn site targeting Congressional staffers or something?

     

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  12.  
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    Ninja (profile), Jul 29th, 2014 @ 11:44am

    Re:

    While you do have a point I also agree with Mike. Cynicism will actually make things harder since the cynical refuses to act thinking it's all lost. And yet these times of relative "freedom" you noted are also due to the opposition of the non-cynical among us. Go figure.

     

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  13.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 29th, 2014 @ 11:44am

    Re: Beacon isn't taking my donation!

    I'm trying to donate but the Beacon site is saying 'Your card was declined.'. My card issuer isn't even seeing the request so something isn't working on Beacon's side of things. I've double and triple checked my info...any ideas?

    Passed this along to the Beacon folks... we'll see what they say...

     

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  14.  
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    Jennifer Hoelzer, Jul 29th, 2014 @ 11:46am

    Re: Re:

    Two days before the Jan. 2012 Internet protest, I had a reporter ask me why our office was fighting SOPA/PIPA so hard because "Won't it be embarrassing when you guys lose."

    As Ron Wyden once told me, "the right thing to do may not have much of a chance, but it has zero chance if no one fights for it."

     

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  15.  
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    Michael, Jul 29th, 2014 @ 11:47am

    Re:

    Is there really a market for people that want to watch porn films of Congressional staffers?

    Have you met many of them?

     

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  16.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jul 29th, 2014 @ 11:48am

    Re:

    With all due respect, jackn, the game is only over when you give up and quit. Fatalist sentiments like yours only work towards ensuring defeat.

     

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  17.  
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    Jennifer Hoelzer (profile), Jul 29th, 2014 @ 11:52am

    Re:

    The pay sucks, the hours are brutal, (you basically eat, sleep and breath work) and everyone hates you. And you're right, the only people who really benefit when you start cutting Congressional staff pay are the lobbyists. It's a lot easier for them to convince a fresh faced staffer who makes $40K a year that they're right than someone who's been working on the issue for a decade or two.

     

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    Michael, Jul 29th, 2014 @ 11:54am

    Re: Re:

    Are you working for a recruiting agency now? You can really jazz up a job description.

     

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  19.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Jul 29th, 2014 @ 12:14pm

    Easier way

    Just get a tech friendly Admin to impose policy that TechDirt is the homepage for all congress critter computers. I bet all it would cost is a case of beer and a lunch or 3.
    -
    I'd do it for free if I had the access.

     

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  20.  
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    Rich, Jul 29th, 2014 @ 12:15pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Please don't take this the wrong way, because I mean it as a compliment. I long ago stopped believing that people like you worked in our government. It seems full of just those with their greedy hands out waiting for the lobbyist to fill them. People who couldn't care less about their constituents.

     

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  21.  
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    fgoodwin (profile), Jul 29th, 2014 @ 12:20pm

    Lobbyists are necessary

    All this article shows is just how little Congresspeople and their staffers know about any given topic. It basically proves that lobbying is necessary to educate them.

    It also shows how naïve some staffers can be. I like reading TechDirt, too. But if Jen thinks TechDirt has no agenda other than "the public interest" then she truly does need some help.

     

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  22.  
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    Kal Zekdor (profile), Jul 29th, 2014 @ 12:27pm

    Thanks for sharing.

    Hi Jen, thanks for sharing your story. Sometimes I fear that Techdirt and similar sites are just screaming into the void (or at best preaching to the choir). It's encouraging to know that people are being informed by the stories here, and that progress is being made, even if only slowly.

     

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  23.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jul 29th, 2014 @ 12:30pm

    Re: Re:

    And $40K is nothing in today's DC, especially if you spend most of your time Downton.

    Staffers get a bad rap (and there are ones that deserve it) but the alternative is the "Think Tanks" (political welfare) directing policy. And that is SO much worse.

     

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  24.  
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    Chris Maresca (profile), Jul 29th, 2014 @ 12:30pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Well, I used to work for the government and the one thing I would say about this is that there are a lot of people in the government trying to 'do the right thing'.

    They are overworked, underpaid, under-resourced and have a political system stacked against them. And they are also under-appreciated by the general public. Part of the issue is that 'doing the right thing' is different from person to person and entrenched interests are experts at exploiting this.

    And because the US system pushes political patronage down to the lowest level of government, there isn't a strong institutional push-back against political shenanigans or constitutionally dubious actions. Never mind that a lot of institutional knowledge & power walks out the door every 4 to 8 years...

     

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  25.  
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    Jennifer Hoelzer (profile), Jul 29th, 2014 @ 12:31pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I don't take it personally. (Heck, I no longer work in Congress.) But there are a lot of people like me who work there, including pretty much everyone in Senator Wyden's office. The problem is the system does nothing to keep them those people there. The quality of life is pretty awful. The work isn't exactly fulfilling -- the bills you slave to write/negotiate get blown up to score political points -- and the media don't think you're worth covering. For years, I made it my personal mission to get the media to cover smart, bipartisan policy ideas (http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2011-10-20/ron-wyden-senator-from-planet-where-congress-works -ezra-klein) but the spotlight almost always goes to those who are doing the opposite of being constructive.

    I don't know how to fix it, other than we have to find a way to fix the incentives.

     

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  26.  
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    hoare (profile), Jul 29th, 2014 @ 12:33pm

    wait .. what?

    the biggest thing since sliced bread and the zipper; the computer/internet

    and ......

    "but there aren't very many seasoned staffers who work on Internet and tech policy."

    /facepalm

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2014 @ 12:50pm

    Re: Lobbyists are necessary

    There is a difference though and that difference is the lobbyists are constantly hounding the staffers in an attempt to exploit their lack of knowledge. She FOUND Techdirt on her own and of her own accord decided to accept what was presented because it made sense. She just as easily could have chosen to dismiss it. The Internet makes the need for lobbyists less and less as the information is out there for those looking to find it in multiple places from multiple perspectives.

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2014 @ 12:57pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "And they are also under-appreciated by the general public."

    I think some of that is slowly starting to change a little bit as stories are released about the efforts of people like Diane Roark and others come to light.

     

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  29.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Jul 29th, 2014 @ 1:01pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    There are lots of people like this working in government, but when a complex issue comes up, who is there to explain it to them? Mostly people hired by companies to work full time in Washington. My own company (a non-profit) does this and most of the time it's benign, even boring work,

    But... they are always there, every day, five days a week, all year long, and their only job is to keep pushing the issue for their company and convincing every politician that it's a good idea. And if they convince one politician, they can use that politician to convince others. And they'll go on and on about how the legislation will help their company grow and bring more jobs to their state. If there's nobody else there opposing them, theirs is the only voice that gets heard. They may not even be intentionally gaming the system, it's just that they have nothing else to do. It's how lobbyists make their living.

     

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  30.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jul 29th, 2014 @ 1:02pm

    Re: Re:

    Rule 34

     

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  31.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Jul 29th, 2014 @ 1:04pm

    Re: Re:

    Congresspeople, no, but some of the staffers are pretty cute.

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2014 @ 1:08pm

    Working together

    If my boss hadn't involved himself in this issue, odds are I would never have heard of it and, heck, if by some chance I had learned that the Judiciary Committee had unanimously passed legislation giving law enforcement (what their press release called) "important tools" to go after illegal activity, I probably wouldn't have given the issue any thought beyond thinking it was nice that Democrats and Republicans remembered how to work together.


    When they start working together is when you really have to put on your listening ears and glasses,
    because if there's anything they can mostly agree on -- it's screwing us!

     

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  33.  
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    adrian sanders, Jul 29th, 2014 @ 1:18pm

    Re: Beacon isn't taking my donation!

    Strange! I'm one of the founders of Beacon - email me at help@beaconreader.com and I'll get you sorted!

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2014 @ 1:19pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Are you sure about that? I think the Anthony Weiner case technically classifies as porn.

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2014 @ 1:20pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    uh... meant qualifies not classifies.

     

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  36.  
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    art guerrilla (profile), Jul 29th, 2014 @ 1:30pm

    Re: Re:

    1. for all the 'due respect' people are giving jackn, it sure does sound disrespectful...

    2. sorry, but 90-99% of the time, jackn is not only richtig, he is NOT being 'cynical', but REALISTIC...

    3. we can ooo-and-ahh all we want that we 'discovered' (what? are you 2-year olds that you didn't think this all along?) that kongresskritters staffers are made of human beans! wow, who would have thunk it ! ! !

    ...but that means NOTHING in the overall scheme of things; as she points out herself in a later post, ALL their 'good' work comes to naught when it is shit-canned 'cause some unknown fat cat puts in the word: you are only allowed crumbs of legislation which helps the 99% when there is no one's ox being gored...
    guess how often that happens ? ? ?

    no, THE SYSTEM IS BROKEN, i don't care HOW MANY 'good' people you have being corrupted by it, it WILL NOT WORK for the 99% under the present regime...

    i'm sorry, CYNICISM is called for, NOT a capitulation or even admission of defeat; to me, it is being REALISTIC, not simply spouting some pollyanna-ish, rah-rah bullshit for the sake of 'morale'...

    we 99% must go to EXTREME measures to even get legislation favorable to our interests CONSIDERED, much less a snowballs chance in hell of passing: THAT RIGHT THERE should tell you all you need to know: the system is NOT working for us, but the 1%...

    but, heh, let's ignore reality and just click our heels together three times, and say, 'there's no place like the constitution, there's no place like the constitution...'

    THAT will be just as effective...
    color me another cynic who doubts anything substantive will get done until Empire falls...

    the sooner the fall, the gentler for all...

     

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  37.  
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    limbodog (profile), Jul 29th, 2014 @ 1:47pm

    Just pledged

    And it's only $590 more to meet the goal.

     

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  38.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jul 29th, 2014 @ 1:47pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "it sure does sound disrespectful."

    Really? I don't see the disrespect, only disagreement. My apologies if it reads otherwise.

    AS I'm sure you know, I agree 100% that the system is broken, and I also agree that cynicism is called for. However, I wasn't reading the comment as cynical, but defeatist -- and defeatism isn't called for at all.

    Despite the broken system, major change can be (and has been) accomplished. US history is absolutely full of examples of this going back even before slavery, and in each case there were people at the time saying the exact things that some are saying now: the system is hopeless, positive change is impossible, we may as well just give up. Through persistence and hard work, the "impossible" has been accomplished time and time again.

    There is no reason why it cannot be accomplished once more. What I actually hear when people proclaim that resistance is futile is the expression of frustration that we can't change things overnight -- which is absolutely true. We can't fix these things quickly. But that's a far cry from being unable to fix these things at all.

    The important part is to never give up, never stop fighting.

     

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  39.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jul 29th, 2014 @ 2:00pm

    Re: Lobbyists are necessary

    "It basically proves that lobbying is necessary to educate them"

    No, it proves that lobbyists are stunningly dangerous because when the lobbyist lies to get what they want, the congresspeople and their staff won't be able to spot the lies.

    It also proves that there needs to be some method that congresspeople can use to get actual, unbiased education on the issues that they are legislating about.

     

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  40.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2014 @ 2:04pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    And that is the issue with lobbying in a nutshell. The system of educating politicians from heavily biased platforms is what is so problematic about it. The more neutral points you should be able to find from scientific studies is infinitely more valuable for forming an opinion, but if you get a neutral source and only several lobbyists all pushing for the same side, your understanding will end up very lopsided.

     

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  41.  
    identicon
    jackn, Jul 29th, 2014 @ 2:05pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "they are always there, every day, five days a week, all year long, and their only job is to keep pushing the issue for their company and convincing every politician that it's a good idea"

    Yep, and they only need one win. we have to win everytime, or we loose.

    @mike, like I said, I do appreciate your efforts, and I will go pledge TODAY. but I have a hard time believing anything can happen when the system is obviously and overtly corrupt. They don't even need to hide the corruption anymore.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2014 @ 2:08pm

    Re: Re: Lobbyists are necessary

    It's not even that the education needs to be unbiased as long as it is the congress people seeking the source of the information (not the other way around) and that there is no limitations on the differing perspectives available for that information.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    identicon
    Andyroo, Jul 29th, 2014 @ 2:14pm

    Target almost met !!!!

    $540 to go when I checked so I guess this is funded 2 days before the kick-starter ends, so they have the funding, now just to see how it changes techdirt and if the truth can change the opinions of the people that are making the rules.or if the lobbying groups will attack everything that is written in the press and not allow Mike to retaliate on the same level and discuss the situation with them to get to the truth..

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    identicon
    Vel the Enigmatic, Jul 29th, 2014 @ 2:41pm

    The only fight that can't be won is the fight where you've already given up before you've started swinging your fists.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    icon
    Jennifer Hoelzer (profile), Jul 29th, 2014 @ 3:24pm

    Re: Lobbyists are necessary

    With all due respect, sir, I worked on Capitol Hill for 10 years, the White House for 2 and I have a masters degree in public policy from Harvard. I've been subjected to so much spin in my life that I can spot it at 100 paces blindfolded. I wouldn't be a very good communications strategist if I only read/considered issues from one perspective. Unlike some who's strategy for winning debates is to silence their opposition, I actually work to understand the opposition's side, so I can understand their thinking, address their concerns and counter their arguments (and maybe change their minds.)

    Maybe it's not the textbook definition, but I define "public advocate" as someone who advocates for interests beyond their own. I'm not saying those people won't benefit from their advocacy (most public interest advocates got involved because of a personal experience) but that they're thinking of others, the future, etc. not just how to protect/grow themselves financially at the expense of the interests of others.. Techdirt continued its SOPA/PIPA advocacy even when it hurt them financially. And -- as I said -- that's the problem with public advocacy. While a special interest lobbyists could be making high six figures to devote themselves to making sure members of Congress understand their client's interests, most people who advocate for the public interest do it on their own time, for free. I don't know about you, but I think if we want to fix society/congress, etc. we need to find a way to make doing good just as profitable as screwing people. (Or at least a little profitable.)

    Also - for the record - as I tried to explain in my post, Members of Congress and their staff are more likely to take a stand on an issue when they are confident in their knowledge of an issue. I might know that a lobbyist is spinning me, but I'm probably not going to pick a fight with them publicly unless I know enough about the issue to debate them. And - as I tried to explain -- there is so much going on that, you, as a staffer, might say to yourself. "When I get some time, I'm going to research that issue," but then you get so busy that 6 months later, you're like "shoot, I really wanted to learn about that, but now the debates over." I loved Techdirt because it gave me the user perspective on tech issues, that wasn't being represented in Washington, in an easily digestible and understood way. Understanding the issue made it possible for me to jump on communication opportunities in real time vs. backburnering them until I could learn more.

    Again, that's why I'm giving to Techdirt and I hope others will too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    icon
    Chris Maresca (profile), Jul 29th, 2014 @ 3:33pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    One way to fix it is to have stronger institutions. One of the most corrosive aspects of the US body politic is the fact that the President appoints almost all of management in the entire government, many levels down from cabinet secretaries.

    The result of this is that agencies have virtually zero institutional power and are governed basically by people who have 'bought' their way into management positions. And they have zero long term stake in anything since they'll be gone in 4 years and there is no career path.

    Then again, in a democracy you get the government you choose, so maybe this is what the American people want.

     

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  47.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2014 @ 4:22pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I think what she is trying to convey is that there are most people in those positions are there with good intentions otherwise they would not be there given the conditions under which they work. Yet more often than not, those very same conditions cause them to be mislead by people with singular agendas and less than altruistic motives which undermines the efforts to deliver on those good intentions and limits their ability to realize what is happening before they are replaced by others equally as susceptible as they previously were.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
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    M. Alan Thomas II (profile), Jul 29th, 2014 @ 4:45pm

    Hi, Jen!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jul 29th, 2014 @ 4:49pm

    Re: Re: Lobbyists are necessary

    Thank you for this! This has given me more comfort than anything I've read about government in a long time. It's one thing to know intellectually that there must be people who are well-meaning, intelligent, and trying to act with real information. It's quite another thing to hear from such a person first-hand.

    Maybe one thing we need is for more staffers to speak to us directly and forthrightly. It seems that nearly everything we hear from government is sanitized, spun press-release-speak.

    Just as you can tell when you're being spun, so can we. And when it happens, it further erodes the relationship between us and our representatives.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50.  
    icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), Jul 29th, 2014 @ 4:57pm

    Re: Lobbyists are necessary

    Come on, everyone. You should know better than this by now.

    DON'T FEED THE TROLLS. Just click "report" and ignore him.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  51.  
    icon
    steell (profile), Jul 29th, 2014 @ 6:50pm

    Re: Lobbyists are necessary

    Pardon my ignorance, but what other agenda does TechDirt have?

    Now I'll read the rest o0f the posts to see if my question has already been asked.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  52.  
    icon
    steell (profile), Jul 29th, 2014 @ 7:09pm

    "I think if we want to fix society/congress, etc. we need to find a way to make doing good just as profitable as screwing people. (Or at least a little profitable.)"

    And that's exactly the reason I donate to TechDirt, various online web fiction, and other individual efforts. It's not much, maybe even $5, but at least I show them someone cares.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  53.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2014 @ 8:47pm

    Re: Lobbyists are necessary

    I don't necessarily have a problem with lobbyists, per se, but I think there is a problem when a regulator is being presented with the opinion of a self interested lobbyists without the presence of an interested adversary. It's the lack of an 'adversarial hearing' where legislators and staffers and regulators only hear one side of the story, the side presented by industry interests, and not the other. Of course there is the question of which adversary to present and whether or not this adversary is attempting to represent the public interest or their own interests. This is why many people should be permitted to present their opinions so that a wide array of interests can be heard.

    Many of the problems are also due to corruption as well. Clear evidence of this is present in the secretive meetings and negotiations that only industry interests are invited to.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  54.  
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    Charles (profile), Jul 29th, 2014 @ 9:09pm

    I mostly lurk, not comment, here. I have been leaning toward contributing, but haven't until now. The candor of this article by Jennifer Hoelzer put me over the top.

    Mike Masnick, all the staff and contributors, and Techdirt have been a part of my daily routine for quite a while. I almost fell out of my chair when Groklaw went dark. Techdirt helped fill the void.

    I could only contribute $5 a month but at least I did contribute. This Net Neutrality Battle has to be won by us- We the people, not Them the Corporations.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  55.  
    icon
    Hugo Ferreira (profile), Jul 30th, 2014 @ 6:53am

    Keep up the good figth

    I've been coming here since SOPA times to know whats going on aside from the spin we get force feed by mainstream media.

    I've just donated $30, since its my firm belief that you guys open a lot of eyes, by tearing apart the lies and bullshit to get to the truth.
    You guys definitely do a lot for a better world.

    Keep it up, you have my respect and support.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  56.  
    identicon
    trinsic, Jul 30th, 2014 @ 12:49pm

    Re: Re:

    Giving in just helps the side you claim to dislike. This is why idiotic cynicism so bugs me. You're playing into their hands, and they love your cynicism.


    Mike I dont mean to break bad news to you, but im going to anyway. We are all playing into there hands. We live our lives around a completely corrupt system without any say in how the rules are being made. We might have some wins here and there, but ultimately we sill live in a world with a centralized government and have done so for a very long time.

    If we dont find a way to shift the focus of our efforts onto a more stable foundation we will always be fighting a losing battle.

    “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” ― R. Buckminster Fuller

    Anyone that hasn't seen Century of the Self needs to do so right now.
    http://www.goldenpath.net/alliance-truth/countering-behavior-control/century-self

    The biggest thing I took away from this video is that in order to get people to see a new way living you have to create a vision of what the world would be like without the old world. Talking about the subject is great, but without a real vision of how it could make things better, people will eventually move on to the next topic and nothing will ever really change.

    Thoreau wrote "Petitions only strengthened the authority of the government by recognizing its authority and honoring the will of the majority. “[Any] man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one already"

    If anyone is interested in building a new model of the world I suggest you take a look at what I started. Its ambitious and i need help.

    http://www.goldenpath.net/alliance-truth/making-world-better/forming-new-commonwealths

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  57.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 30th, 2014 @ 5:07pm

    Re: Beacon isn't taking my donation!

    Just to close this loop if anyone is still reading...Beacon uses (as of now) Stripe for payment processing and it was String who was denying my credit card...without ever actually connecting to my card issuer.

    Ended up just using PayPal. Oh well.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  58.  
    icon
    M. Alan Thomas II (profile), Aug 4th, 2014 @ 12:47am

    Re: Re: Lobbyists are necessary

    I know that if you want to contract for a fact-based research & analysis job, you can always call us the CRS or hire a member of the Association of Independent Information Professionals (AIIP). I assume that if you're paying them, they come with somewhat less baggage than a lobbyist paid to press a particular point of view. Is there a similar market for freelance policy advisors on subjects like this, where congressional staff for non-committee members simply can't become instant experts but want someone who works for them (rather than being a lobbyist for an outside force, even one "for good")?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  59.  
    icon
    M. Alan Thomas II (profile), Aug 4th, 2014 @ 12:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Lobbyists are necessary

    *call up

    I'm doing a terrible job of typing tonight.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  60.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2014 @ 3:01am

    Re:

    Think double negative

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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