DownsizeDC.org
July 26, 2006
Congress wants to silence you
By Perry Willis

Today's Downsizer-Dispatch . . .

I have an emergency to tell you about today. It's more garbage from Congress and it affects the future of DownsizeDC.org. I hope you'll read this message closely.

Congress is trying to stifle you -- again! Frankly, I'm getting sick of this nonsense.

First, they passed prohibitive campaign laws -- restricting how much money challengers can raise. They insured themselves an even bigger advantage when they hamstrung the political parties with McCain-Feingold -- because they knew that party funds helped challengers over the top in tight races against incumbents. They even clamped down on third parties with ballot access laws and exclusion from debates.

It's all disgusting. Right now, as a result of these laws, the electoral option is virtually moot. The system keeps electing people beholden to special interests because they're the only entities properly organized to navigate that system. The system was created for them.

Then, with the cover of the Abramoff scandal, John McCain and his pals went to work to place restrictions and onerous reporting requirements on grassroots organizations -- like DownsizeDC.org. That battle is currently underway. The Senate passed a bill with the offending restrictions. But the House passed a bill without them. They're headed for a conference committee to resolve the differences. Obviously, we prefer the House version.

We'll survive and thrive even if the worst happens, but it's still disgusting. The lack of options at the ballot box has driven us to the tactic of grassroots pressure. And now, these incumbents are trying to close that option too!

But it gets worse...

128 members of the House and two members of the Senate have decided to jam communications vented through grassroots groups like DownsizeDC.org. They're using something called a CAPTCHA, a special code you have to type in before you an communicate with them. I don't want to bore you with the technical details, but I do want to make clear what Congress is doing.

Right now, we offer "one-stop-shopping." Many congressional contact systems, like the one at DownsizeDC.org, make it possible for you to send a message to both your Representative and two Senators all at the same time. And you only need to register once. But if these members of Congress had their way, you'd have to go to each one of their sites individually and enter all your information each time. That's the real purpose of this CAPTCHA business.

Congress sees the handwriting on the wall. The Internet has made it so the volume of messages from constituents is growing exponentially. Of course, they assume that jamming the grassroots groups you belong to would reduce the volume of these messages, freeing them once again from accountability, leaving them free to do as they please.

But for DownsizeDC.org, the situation is much more serious than a matter of convenience. Our proprietary system is a "recruitment device." It allows us to achieve our ultimate objective; build an army so large the politicians can't afford to ignore it -- so large that our message is heard everywhere, everyday.

Frankly, we're dead in the water if Congress destroys our "one-stop-shopping" RECRUITMENT tool.

But there is hope. Our programmer, Robert O'Gwynn, believes we can devise a work-around. It won't be pretty. CAPTCHA's are clunky and add complication. Some folks will throw up their hands when they get to the extra step, even though it will only take a few extra seconds. They'll fail to send their message. Each time that happens it will be a mini-victory for Congress. It ticks me off.

But these are the cards we're being dealt. It's a long game and we can't afford to lose this particular hand.

Here comes the hard part. We've been doing a lot of fundraising lately. We have no choice. We know things will take off once our annual revenue exceeds $168,000. We want to get there as fast as possible. Plus, summer is always a challenging time financially. And now we've got this CAPTCHA problem to deal with. We need more help from more peope to surmount these problems and achieve the potential that awaits us in the near future. So we're going to keep pushing for as long as it takes . . .

Tell Congress we're staying in the game. We won't fold. Let's get this problem fixed and then punish them with even more pressure. You can contribute to solve the CAPTCHA problem here.

We're making progress thanks to micro-pledgers and macro-pledgers. A micro-pledge is $3, $4, $5, $6, $7, $8, or $9. Macro-pledgers are $10 or more. Our annual budget -- our total "nut" as I like to call it -- is only $168,000. Thanks to these pledgers, we've already achieved more than $42,000 in annual support. Help us close the gap. You can do so here.

Anyone who starts a monthly pledge or makes a one-time donation of $76 or more will be added to the Legislative Sponsors roster for the upcoming Single Subject Act. You can make a contribution or monthly pledge here.

Let's solve this CAPTCHA problem and get through this big fundraising drive as quick as possible, because a bright future awaits. Thank you for being a DC Downsizer.

Jim Babka President DownsizeDC.org, Inc.

Filed under Downsizer Dispatch
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