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The Almighty Buck

GeekPAC 185

SgtXaos writes "The newly created American Open Technology Consortium has posted a draft of their position statement online. They propose to change that by forming a real lobbying force to educate and influence congress about issues near and dear to all of us geeks. Here's a chance to put money where our uh, er, typing is." Newsforge (also part of OSDN) has a story and interview with the founders.
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  • Prices. (Score:5, Funny)

    by saintlupus ( 227599 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2002 @09:07AM (#3309061) Homepage
    a chance to put money where our uh, er, typing is.

    If only senators were "free-as-in-beer." Well, senators besides Teddy Kennedy...

  • great idea (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bluecalix ( 128634 )
    It's about time that people with intelligence and money get together to have our say. Even a very small group that is organized can make a difference if their time is used wisely. It's unfortunate but the best way to get our point across is to put our own shills in place in DC to corner the politicos one on one.
  • by ghostlibrary ( 450718 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2002 @09:09AM (#3309071) Homepage Journal
    So there's a proposal of a draft to consider a position statement about creating a framework for moving towards forming a possible entity. Wow! They have the political process down pat! Lots of action words and nothing real yet!

    Seriously, it is a good thing, I just love these early, tentative stages. I'll likely pledge. I do think taking 'geekpac' as a contact name will be negative PR, even though "reclaiming geekhood" is trendy now.

    • I do think taking 'geekpac' as a contact name will be negative PR, even though "reclaiming geekhood" is trendy now.

      It could be worse, PR-wise. They could have called it "hackerPAC".
      • It could be worse, PR-wise. They could have called it "hackerPAC".

        I like HackPac. (HakPAC? HacPAC?)

        It's a very catchy name. It would have some initial PR-issues, but as a legitamate PAC I think it would quickly have a signifgant impact combating the negative use of "hacker". If the PAC has a large enough membership and some important corporate membership, important congresscritters *will* take it seriously. If important people start using the word hacker in a positive/legitimate context, other important people will notice, conciously or subconciously. Then the reporters. And then... [moviewavs.com]

  • Not bad. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by llamalicious ( 448215 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2002 @09:12AM (#3309079) Journal
    Gotta applaud this for spirit though, we have to have someone on our side that can build up some clout.
    But it's still one more four-letter acronym, and another pile of legislative paper to file. May the gods have mercy on their souls.

    My favorite statement:
    Once access is solidified into the hands of a very few companies, the "bottom up" content flow model of the Internet will be put in lethal jeopardy. This small group of companies that will control the access, will also be able to control the flow of content TYPE. The Internet as we know it will cease to exist. The absurd notion that the 4 major phone companies need protection FROM the ISP business community is laughable. Near 10,000 businesses may be legislated out of existence in favor of FOUR companies. This bill is so fundamentally anti-business, anti-entrepreneur and anti-American; it is SHOCKING that it was passed by Republicans, a traditionally Pro-business party.

    Shocking? Methinks not. The Republican party may be "traditionally" pro-business. But each individual representative is simply pro-money-in-my-pocket.
  • C'mon this is one issue near and dear to our hearts.

    GeekPAC should be arguing for real geek issues, liking banning clued up sys admins from searching for pr0n directories.

  • Wouldn't that be more like.. 'put your money where your keyboard is'
  • by Apreche ( 239272 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2002 @09:16AM (#3309093) Homepage Journal
    America likes to believe it's #1 in everything. I think that if we showed the senators/representatives and the American people that we are behind everyone else in consumer technology (we ARE ahead in military technology), and that it is because of legislation like the DMCA, that we might start seeing some changes.

    If you don't think we're behind you might want to look at some Japanese cell phones http://www.nokia.co.jp or some of those incredibly fuel efficient cars from Europe. I don't have a link for those, but just a normal Fiat is more fuel efficient than an SUV. Gas prices go down! Especially a good idea now with our middle east action.
    • Uh, Nokia is from Finland as in Linux.
    • Not to nitpick, but of course a Fiat is more fuel efficient than an SUV - for one thing, it's lighter. A more impressive argument would be to say that here's a European vehicle that does everything an SUV does in a more fuel-efficient manner. I'm not saying that such a vehicle doesn't exist, I'm just saying that a Fiat isn't it. You have to compare apples to apples.

      • Right. But do you really need everything that a SUV can do or is a Fiat good enugh? (This is a bad comparison since Fiats not are good enough, period. But there are lots of others.) Fuel efficiency must become a top priorty in order get emissions down, its time that both Washington and Detroit figures that out.

        • For the most part, I find I do need what my SUV does often enough. It's hard to haul lumber or animals around in a fiat (this hauling as support for my wife's animal shelter). Most times you don't need an SUV or truck, but the times you do, you really need it. I'd have a small car as a second vehicle, but not as the only one. It's just not practical.
    • Um. Nokia is a European company. Finland, to be precise.

    • If you don't think we're behind you might want to look at some Japanese cell phones

      This has nothing to do with Japanese technology, and everything to do with Japanese Cellphone infrastructure. I might be wrong here, but I imagine the fact that Japan probably has only 1 or 2 major cellphone players (as far as national coverage goes) and here in North America we have about 30, would have a lot to do with the advanced infrastructure. Much easier to provide coverage for a country the size of Japan, or even Finland, as opposed to a country the size of Canada or the USA. Especially when your company controls the majority of the network.

    • There's a very good reason those european cars are so small and fuel efficient, ever tried to buy gas in Europe? If gas prices were in America what they are in Europe, I'm certain we'd stop seeing those SUV's driving around. (or at least most of them)

      America is wasteful because it can afford to be, if it ever got the point where we can no longer afford to be wasteful, we'd start playing catch-up with (and perhaps even overtake) the rest of the world in developing more efficient technologies.

    • but just a normal Fiat is more fuel efficient than an SUV.

      Wow! SUVs are not fuel efficient? Gee, I didn't know that!
      There are fuel efficient American cars, too, however, people in America want SUVs, so that's what they buy. It's called capitalism.

    • Isn't anything more fuel efficent than an SUV?


      • I think semi tractors are less fuel efficient, but at least that is because they haul some major cargo.: )

        I don't know how many times I have seen a big SUV, like an excursion, etc, and there is just one woman in the drivers seat - the whole rest of the damn thing is empty.

        it bothers me to see people so wasteful, but america will stop being so wasteful when it is forced to be. that is also when we will make a REAL effort to alternative transportation. when we HAVE to.
    • I think that if we showed the senators/representatives and the American people that we are behind everyone else in consumer technology...

      I recall reading an article years ago from a lobbist regarding stragegy for removing the export restrictions on strong encryption. It wasn't long ago when it was nearly impossible to export more than 40 bit encryption.... which was a pain, but then it did bring us the weak DVD algorithms :)

      Anyway, this guy's point was that "it puts American companies at an economic disadvantage" was a losing strategy. He made his point primarily by showing various actions our elected and non-elected officials took, which basically ammounted to putting pressure on the rest of the world to enact and enforce similar restrictions. After all, if the problem was off-shore companies had an advantage, the obvious solution (to those in power) was to level the playing field. Why compromise on other important objectives, like "national security" and "law enforcement" (whatever the DOJ/FBI happens to want) when the "goal" can be accomplished in some other creative way. Much as that sucks.... they really were doing their jobs, trying to make policies to balance all the needs, and the anti-encryption need was a level playing field among off-shore software companies.

      The winning strategy that he proposed was "with e-commerce and internet fraud, we can't afford not to allow encryption". The premise was that there's a giant carrot dangling out there... e-commerce (remember, this was before the giant dot-com bust) and the pro-encyption arguement went along the lines of "we gotta have encryption to enable e-commerce and the new ecomony, yadda, yadda...".

      Of course, I didn't really follow that whole battle closely, so I can't really say what a factor that lobbist and his e-commerce based strategy had. In fact, I can't even find the original article anymore.

      Anyway, the point is to be careful what you wish for. At least once before, with the encryption export regulations, the "American companies are at a disadvantage" strategy was a dismal failure for several years.... and the natural conclusion lawmakers had was "well, we just need to export our restrictions, and we're the USA, so we can eventually pressure everyone else into them".

  • That Campaign Finance Reform passed. Now, PACs like these have far less influence than they once might have had.

    After the next election, it will be illegal for PACs to run issue ads 60 days before an election.

    Can you imagine that? Illegal to speak up about an important issue 60 days before an election, when it might do the most good?

    I guess they had to get the corrupting power of the voice of the people, err, money, out of politics.

    • Can you imagine that? Illegal to speak up about an important issue 60 days before an election, when it might do the most good?

      Standard fare in places like Canada, except elections generally run far less than a month. Only official agents of political candidates may authorize advertising.

      And, yes, this sucks: it means the public at large can't expose candidate's previous records during an election.

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

        by Golias ( 176380 )
        Fortunately, down here in the US, the very first amendment to our constitution addresses this sort of thing, so most people who have been following this believe that the Supreme Court will strike down most of the current reforms as unconstitutional.

        Congress actually had the balls to pass a law which says you can not buy a newspaper ad or tv spot to criticize a sitting congressman during the two months before an election, without it counting as part of the limited campaign budget of his opponent. If your representative or senator voted for this, remember that in the next election.

        One work-around that occurred to me is to choose a third-party or no-party candidate who is nowhere near winning and nowhere near the spending cap, and then claim to be supporting them. That way, you could run a half-hour infomercial slamming Paul Welstone, end the commercial with "paid for by friends of Joe Blow, an independant candidate for Minnesota Senator," and none of it would count against his leading opponent's campaign, even that's who would benifit most. Hmmm....

        • Yes, Americans had some pretty good ideas in that constitution of theirs. It's a real pity that these days, they let it be treated like toilet paper.
    • Re:Too bad... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by keefebert ( 535583 )
      While I understand your concern, I doubt that this PAC would be one of the ones who would be dropping ads 60 days before the election. The law was passed to stop the NRAs and EPAs from dropping exspensive, sometimes decietful ads right before the election when no one can do anything about them.

      This PAC, on the other hand, probably couldn't do that anyway, so it doesn't matter. They still will be able to lobby congress and do all that other stuff, and it allows them to save their money instead of trying to throw out 1 or 2 commercials that will get lost in the blizzard of campaign ads.

        • The law was passed to stop the NRAs and EPAs from dropping exspensive, sometimes decietful ads right before the election when no one can do anything about them.

        EPA? The Environmental Protection Agency?

        I got an idea, why don't we just outlaw all discussion on political issues? Must prevent people from making those deceitful statements.

      • The law was passed to stop the NRAs and EPAs from dropping exspensive, sometimes decietful ads right before the election when no one can do anything about them.

        You seem to be misinformed. The NRA is one group that will not be affected by the recent unconstitutional law. You see, regardless of what your have been told the NRA doesn't spend member's dues or corporate donations on these kinds of things. The NRA does have a special fund for political action, but the monies are kept seperate, and therefore won't be affected by this legislation.
    • "PACs like these" have regained some influence due to Campaign Finance Reform (CFR). A proper political action committee (PAC) raises "hard" (federally regulated) money from individuals with a maximum of $5,000 per year per person. They have had real difficulty competing with the 527 Organizations, state soft money pacs, and national party soft money accounts in recent years. CFR neuters most uses of soft money (including running ads within 60 days of an election) thereby making providers of hard money (like PACs) more influential again.

      The doubling of the hard money individual limits (to effectively $8,000 per household) does cut the value of PACs vis-à-vis wealthy individuals, (PACs can donate a total of $10,000 during the same period) but they will regain some of the influence lost in recent years. 10 years ago you would be lucky to trade a national committee 10 cents on the dollar soft money for hard, now, they actually prefer soft money - and that is what CFR has changed.

      This all being said, I have often argued for more active involvement of the (for lack of a better term) geek community in the Washington process. I was extremely disappointed in the EFF's effort, they never evidenced a real understanding of how the policy process works (and no oh cynical one, it is not all about money) and in some ways seemed to get carried away with their own feelings of self-importance. Just because you are the EFF doesn't mean you need to be involved with every tech-related issue - if there is no palatable solution, stay out of that coalition and work on the reasons why the "geek" solution was not on the table.

      Groups like DigitalConsumer prove that there are rich geeks out there to provide high level funding support for these efforts. You need to organize, agree on a set of core principles, (which I applaud these gentlemen for starting with) and then have an open mind and approach DC like any other system - it has rules and processes that can be worked to your advantage - don't be above getting into the policy debates and make use of every tool at your disposal = direct lobbying, grass roots outreach, earned media, fundraising, and coalition building.

      A few thoughts:

      1) A well designed effort could win over teachers and the teachers unions (very powerful groups in DC and at the local level) to many of our causes - The restrictions being discussed will make gathering teaching materials significantly more difficult, MS prices, even at the educational level, often stop teachers from using technology for budget reasons, and (we're in the real world here) teachers are common and accomplished pirates - they are doing it for educational purposes, but they are often making additional copies just the same. The idea of criminal liability for making sure that they have enough (and a few back-up copies) of a particular educational program, or sharing a password to an information service that they want the students to use, may just move a few to our side.

      2) Begin an organized program of hill office visits. Given to the tech concentration in Northern Virginia, I cannot believe that we don't have a regular flow of sympathetic 22-60 year old geeks tramping through the area on business on a regular basis. Design materials, teach them the message, and coordinate visits to their home state Senators and Congressmen. You (yes you geek boy) will get a meeting with the policy making staff members of for your member just for the asking. As a general rule, if you are a constituent, you can get a meeting with staff. If you are informative and well behaved, other members of your group will also get those meetings. As this trickle becomes a flood you WILL get attention. Politicized hill staffers can sense a new organized constituency like sharks smell blood in the water.

      I will post more on this when I find a minute.
      • It's mind boggling to me that we can seriously be discussing how to limit political speech in this country as a way to distribute political power more fairly.

        Limiting soft money is, without a doubt, limiting free speech, you know, doing that thing that the First Amendment says "Congress shall make no law..." about?

        CFR shouldn't be able to stand up to Judicial Review. They'll have to overturn Buckley vs. Valeo, which clearly equated money with expression and set out that there can be no limit on spending, but there can be on contributions.

        Passing CFR was a cynical move on the part of many opponents who trust that the Supreme Court hasn't lost their commitment to the First Amendment.

        What we need is more debate on issues, not less. Full disclosure of who is funding politicians and issue ads would provide a level playing field. If, under such a system, we still have corrupt politicians, then we get the Government that we deserve, I guess.

        The present system sets up a bureaucracy in charge of acceptable speech, a horrible precedent, if you ask me.

        There is serious discussion about accounting the cost of maintaining Web Servers where political opinions are presented as soft money contributions. Can you imagine the FEC shutting down your Web Server 60 days prior to an election because it violates CFR? This is lunacy.

        • Limiting soft money is, without a doubt, limiting free speech...

          There is, in fact, plenty of doubt about it.

          Try slipping fifty bucks to a cop to get out of a speeding ticket and claiming you were only exercising your free speech rights. Ridiculous, right? What if instead you offered to buy fifty bucks worth of advertizing space to promote his favorite charity, or the small business he runs on the side? That's still bribery.

          If the mayor knows that you want a proposed ordinance passed, and you "happen" to leave $1,000 on his desk, that's bribery. If a mayorial candiate knows that you would like him to press for a certain proposed ordinance, and you happen to leave $1,000 dollars on his desk, that's bribery. If you instead purchase $1,000 worth of campaign ads for him, that's still bribery.

          Speech is speech. Money in expectation of special treatment - which is exactly what large contributors are giving for - is bribery. We can debate the exact terms of the law, but outlawing bribery should not be a controvertial stand...

            • Speech is speech. Money in expectation of special treatment - which is exactly what large contributors are giving for - is bribery. We can debate the exact terms of the law, but outlawing bribery should not be a controvertial stand...

            There are lines to be drawn, sure, but equating the funding of issue ads with bribery seems a far stretch to me.

            Come on! People buy issue ads to convince the electorate of a position that might be the position of a candidate. That's bribery? Oh, just 60 days before an election, not 61? Besides, this law, which admittedly you did say was open to debate, opens up limits on hard money that's even more likely to be used as bribery.

            Do we really want a bureacracy determining when speech in the form of important issues has stepped over some line? When is money just supporting issue advocacy and when is it bribery? Don't you really need to prove that there is an expectation of special treatment? And, if that expectation of special treatment is just support of the issue being advocated, isn't this the way it's supposed to work? People are supposed to petition for the redress of grievances and then when politicians hear them and heed them, you're going to be examining the petition drive to make sure that this isn't some subtle form of bribery?

            Will it get to the point someday that I'll be arrested for bribery for telling a politician that I support his view on X and I plan to vote for him and tell all my friends to vote for him? How about if I run a Web Site that advocates a view held by a candidate? Must I shut this down 60 days prior to an election to avoid this bribery charge?

            As I said, full disclosure is what's needed. Very public issue ads aren't likely to influence politicians unduly if the electorate knows who's supporting what position. If all cases of real bribery were open to public view, we wouldn't really need bribery laws because the electorate would thrown the bums out. That may be a bit of an exaggeration as elections and recalls aren't held daily, but you get the idea.

            I'm not really concerned that the NRA is "bribing" politicians to support gun ownership views, or that NOW is "bribing" politicians to support pro-choice views, or that unions are "bribing" politicians on "Free Trade" issues. These are the groups that this law explicitly targets.

    • Free speech & politics don't mix? Who would have thought....

    • But, PACs can still donate up to $5000 to each candidate directly each election, to let the candidate run his own race. I'd much rather see that hard money going to campaigns which follow incredibly strict FEC guidelines for reporting sources of income than have an ad on TV paid for by a PAC which isn't identified.
        • I'd much rather see that hard money going to campaigns which follow incredibly strict FEC guidelines for reporting sources of income than have an ad on TV paid for by a PAC which isn't identified.

        I admit that I was wrong about this PAC. It almost certainly would deal in mostly hard money and not be affected by CFR.

        However, I prefer issue ads that speak directly to the people on the importance of the issues of the day rather than our having to shoehorn the issues into some politician's agenda.

        It seems that regulation that would require issue ads to reveal the sources of their contributions would be far less intrusive than a straight ban on issue ads during certain seasons.

  • by LordNimon ( 85072 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2002 @09:18AM (#3309104)
    Sorry, but no politician is going to take an organization with the name "geek" in it seriously. They need to choose a name that makes it sound like they represent the CIO's of major companies. Just think of what a Senator's first impression will be when his secretary tells him, "The gentleman from GeekPAC is here to see you, sir."
    • by Anonymous Coward

      American Open Technology Consortium
    • Indeed, given that legislation that throws widows and orphans onto the street would probably be named the "Human Mobility and Properity Act", names do mean something in the minds of senators.

      Since in America government, business is what really counts, we need something business-like in its name.

      How about InnoPAC?

      "InnoPAC. Brought to you by the *real* innovators."
      • Let's face it, west has a point (no pun intended for any military types out there!).

        Example: "Security Systems
        Standards and Certification Act" or "Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act"?

        They do the exact same thing, but second one sounds nice and warm and fuzzy, and certainly doesn't sound like it might do anything ominous like restrict our rights or cripple our hardware.
      • Done properly no one in Congress needs to know that we refer to this organization among ourselves as "GeekPAC". In fact, considering the bad press that political action committees have gotten, maybe staying away from the acronym "PAC" is as important as staying away from the label "geek".

        Personally I think "American Open Technology Consortium" will work just fine unless we come up with something better.
      • How about

        (Which is actually what it's called.)

    • Calling it "GeekPAC" would get tons of donations and rally the troops. Design a good logo, sell hats, use it to turn out people, the whole thing. Don't be ashamed of the geek name.
  • fracturing effort? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rknop ( 240417 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2002 @09:19AM (#3309107) Homepage

    I'm sure there is a good reason-- but I don't see it at the moment, so I'm hoping somebody will enlighten me. Why is trying to get people to put money and energy behind this a better idea than helping to promote the existing organizations working towards similar goas, such as the EFF? My fear is that this effort will dilute some of the broadbased support for the EFF, and instead of one organization which we can hope will become marginally strong enough to perhaps do something, we're going to have two organizations that look really good but aren't nearly beefy enough to compete with the current special interests purchasing legislators.


    • by Spoing ( 152917 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2002 @09:50AM (#3309217) Homepage
      You mean like this?
      1. "Enough is enough is enough," he added. "It is time for people in the technology community to open up their wallets and donate money to the EFF and fund this political action committee ... We've got to do this or we're going to lose, folks, it's that simple." [newsforge.com]

      The EFF had a Washington D.C. based branch, but backed out of it because they didn't like how they were pressured into endorsing really bad ideas inorder to gain clout on the issues they were primarily interested in.

      Will Geek Pac work better? If they know going in that this is the way D.C. works, they might be able to deal with it.

      Either way, it might be more effective to have two different organizations -- one 'Washington insider' and another clean of such dreck and nonsense.

    • On the Newsforge page, there's a very similar question to your's, and the answer given is that the EFF is a lawyer and activism group, whereas this would be a lobbying group which goes directly to Congress. I don't really know a lot about the differences. If someone here does, I'd find it very helpful to have the distinction clarified.
    • by Mr. Fred Smoothie ( 302446 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2002 @10:10AM (#3309312)
      I was under the impression tha the EFF was a 501(c)(3) (tax-exempt public charity). If so, they are prohibited from contributing to political campaigns or spending more than a certain amount lobbying to affect legislation.

      There is a need for a non-tax-exempt PAC who can fill that role.

      The big question in my mind is does this effort redundant given what digitalconsumer.org [digitalconsumer.org] is doing? It's also unclear to me that the GeekPAC people understand the tax status of organizations whose primary purpose is to lobby to affect legislation or to contribute to political campaigns. I don't believe that such contributions are tax-deductible.

      • by sulli ( 195030 )
        Digitalconsumer got my attention because they had something the others didn't: an auto-fax tool to send messages to elected officials, and a well-designed website. geekpac is not there yet, but might get there. I would STRONGLY encourage the organizers to at least see where their effort is complementary with digitalconsumer - even if it's a separate org, the two together (or three, with EFF) can be more effective.

        But the geekpac people have one thing very wrong. IRS section 501(c)4 is for organizations that explicitly lobby. (I know this because I am chair of an organization that is planning to incorporate under this section.) While the organization is non-profit, contributions to it are NOT tax deductible. The founders need to correct this in their doc if they want to be taken seriously by lobby/activists.

        Look, SOMEONE needs to be really aggressive about this stuff. I don't think EFF is the answer - they are just not in-your-face enough. digitalconsumer is better on the specific issue of S.2048. Maybe geekpac will be the answer, but they need to be much, much more aggressive in their message.

    • Why is trying to get people to put money and energy behind this a better idea than helping to promote the existing organizations working towards similar goas, such as the EFF?
      The EFF isn't a Political Action committee, though. They're an issue advocacy group, but one that can't give political donations to candidates. While there is no quid pro quoe (spelling?) when candidates accept political contributions from PACs, its obvious that some of the liars and cheaters in Congress use the donations when deciding on what legislation to support. The EFF is a wonderful organization and I'm a paying member. But, I've also gotten out my checkbook this morning to help support GeekPAC. It takes both to combat the effects that big business and corporate special interest groups have in Washington.
  • I've seen a lot of people on here calling for something like this. You gotta pay to play in politics. And if we don't play, it'll just be more of the DMCA, UCITA, CBDTPA, and Tauzin-Dingel with no one to stop them.
  • we should start a fund to buy public officials.

  • No way Geeks can fund PACS the size and stability of a MicroSoft, Oracle or Enron. Corporatios will always have more influence. For example, imigrant tech visas are still going up, nearly 400,000 requested last year, despite the tech slowdown.
    • So do nothing?
    • The NRA represents gun owners, not gun companies. Sometimes, the NRA will manage to oppose bills that the gun manufacturers want (one possible example, banning cheap foriegn made guns). There has been some reporting on this, but I haven't got any links (or any time to look for them at work.)

      The NRA is a fairly effective lobbying group.

      But, GeekPAC? Don't they realize that the elderly gentlemen who run this country are going to have preconcieved notions about that terminiology?

      • Quoth the post:
        But, GeekPAC? Don't they realize that the elderly gentlemen who run this country are going to have preconcieved notions about that terminiology?

        yes they'll remember from their youth that there used to be a carnival that came thru town in 19-dikity-2 ("We had to call it dikity because the kaiser stole our twenty"-Abe Simpson) and that the geeks bit the heads off chickens, then they'll remember there was some rock and roll person who did that and since rock and roll is the music of the devil they'll see us imediately thinking we're working for the M($)PAA or something
    • Right now, sure. But if the PAC starts an endowment, you'd be surprised how quickly that can grow to the point where the income from it will match the lobby budget for a major corporation. MicroSoft, Oracle, and Enron all had to spend their revenue on production, maintaining their position, growth, and a million other thigns as well as lobbying. The PAC just has to do that one thing.
    • No way Geeks can fund PACS the size and stability of a MicroSoft, Oracle or Enron.

      True, corporations will always have the money to hire lobbyists and other high powered DC folk. But, the PAC scene is a bit different.

      There are limits on the amount of money a PAC can donate to a candidate. Currently, it's $5000 per election. So, if the GeekPAC can target the right candidates, they can have a large influence on some of those races.

    • The most powerful lobbying group in Washington right now is the National Rifle Association. They have a ton of cash, and most of it comes from their five million members. The gun manufacturers themselves are miniscule in comparison, and certainly nowhere nearly as rich or powerful as Microsoft, Enron, or General Motors. I doubt there are five million geeks in the US, but a few hundred thousand geeks, throwing in $25 per year each, would create a sizeable war chest.

  • by Linuxthess ( 529239 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2002 @09:22AM (#3309125) Journal
    Senator Slash Dot (R. -Cubicle) proposed the Consumers Don't Want Your Shitty Broadband Anyways Act (CDWYSBAA)yesterday in congress. The vote split along partisan lines as Sen. Mickey Mouse, Sen. Donald Duck and Sen. Bugs Bunny (D. -Disney, TW) launched a vehement attack against it, calling it "Unpatriotic" and "Communistic" and mostly unfair to the multi-trillion dollar media companies, which never had to empower the consumer, other than taking a "Tariff" from his paycheck.
  • It's the Congres (Score:2, Insightful)

    by AVee ( 557523 )
    From the site: [thelinuxshow.com]
    Individual Members: $25.00 minimum donation
    Individual members will receive a certificate of membership (electronic) and a monthly newsletter.
    Group Membership: $50.00 minimum donation
    Individual members will receive a certificate of membership (electronic) and a monthly newsletter.
    Corporate Membership: $500.00 minimum donation
    Corporate members will receive a framed and signed certificate of membership, the monthly newsletter, and the right to name a member of our "Advisory Board."
    Sustaining Member: $2,000.00 minimum donation
    Sustaining members will receive a certificate of membership (marble plaque), the monthly newsletter, the right to name a member of our "Advisory Board," and the right to put into nomination a member of the voting Board of Directors.

    It's supposed to deal with the congres, so they made it work the same way, the more you pay, the more you can say...
  • A house divided (Score:2, Insightful)

    by LaserBeams ( 412546 )
    This will create some... interesting... situations in the geek communities. One one hand, the large majority of geeks are well educated, and know that PACs are a downright dirty loophole in the law, and most of them should be struck from the face of the earth.

    On the other hand, however, how could it hurt? Geeks are at best minimally represented in the government (despite what Gore may have thought), and we have a voice too - one that needs to be heard.

    Such a cruel irony that the majority of the intelligent people in this world are a numerical minority - and headcount - not barincount - is all that matters when it comes to representation. Oh yeah, and money too. We have plenty of that... [/dripping_with_sarcasm]

    Too bad representation isn't based on IQ/EQ (Emotional Quotient, not EverQuest =P ), or *gasp* even political knowledge.
  • Not to sound negative, but I'm a pessimist by nature. $25 a year from the few geeks that contribute is not going to add up to nowhere near the total the "opposition" is able to generate. Moreover, we can not invite politicians to spend some time at our "weekend retreats" (i.e. big, expensive house), nor take them out for $500 lunches, etc.

    Great idea, I just think that if you're going to set yourself up as a lobbying group, you'd better have a lot more money than what you are going to get from donations.
  • It's about time the geeks started pushing back. We've been sitting on our laurels too long, bitching on /. about how the DMCA, etc, are taking away our freedom to code, exchange information, and innovate. But this is the first I have witnessed geeks playing the game. Change doesn't happen if all you do is make speeches to geek audiences, we need a voice with the people passing these stupid laws. God bless um, I don't know how much shot a geek funded PAC has got. But God bless um anyway. Then again, some of the most powerful lobbying groups in the country are those not funded by big business but those funded by the people. Groups like AARP and NAACP. So with that in mind, we might just have a shot of being heard.
  • You're somewhat right, Geeks, this will NEVER hold enough $$$ to beat Microsoft PACs and the like... if we all pass it off like it won't and ignore it! That is the WRONG MOVE

    Sign up, get this thing rolling, the /. comunity is big but it's not everyone, once you get word spread I'm sure plenty more members could be had.

    But if wont' happen if everyone just says "It won't happen."

  • by TeaDaemon ( 544727 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2002 @09:38AM (#3309180)

    Just a small point, but it stuck me that the more things like the DMCA and other stupid ideas render it difficult or impossible for people to do what they want/need to do to make a living, the greater the chance of them deciding to go somewhere with more sensible laws.

    The closest parallel I can think of is researchers working on Human Stem Cells, several prominent researchers have commented, mostly off-the-record, as they don't want hassle from idiotic pro-life religious lunatics, that any ban on human stem cell research will simply lead to them emigrating to a country where such research is allowed.

    My point is, what would it take to persuade geeks in the US that their government has gone too far and it's not worth trying to change things?

    • Lots of people say they will leave the U.S. if a certain law is passed, a certain politician is elected, etc. It's rare for them to actually do it.

      I myself have given a lot of thought about whether I'd like to stay in a less free America or move.

      Canada has some nice attractions, including cold weather (I love snow), family (my uncle lives there), and the same basic culture as America. Since I speak French and am educated, it wouldn't be too difficult for me to get in. On the other hand, Canada has most of the same bone-headed laws as America.

      The EU would be pretty cool, but we're talking some major changes here. How long would I have to wait for American movies to open in the EU, for example? Probably weeks, if not months. Could I find any of my favorite foods? What about high speed access to the net? And while we're talking about the net, imagine all the net lag connecting to American web sites. There's a lot of potential drawbacks for someone used to taking everything about his life for granted. I'd even have to throw out all of my NTSC equipment and buy new PAL equipment. Ugh. Not to mention all my Region 1 DVDs...

      It's not so easy to be a global citizen.
      • Movies - getting batter Star Wars for example is getting the same release date in the Uk and the US a(and we're a couple of hours ahead here so will see it first. Net access - I've got ADSL, you need it faster than that? Web sites - it's not really noticable. NTSC - keep it - my TV will do PAL and NTSC.
      • "The stuff you own ends up owning you ... It's only after you've lost everything that you're free to do anything." --tyler durden
  • Worthy effort and deserving of financial support.

    However, would a payment from overseas be legal or politically undesirable?

    Not that Guyana is likely to achieve the political influence of more affluent donors like China or the Gulf states.

    What's the position on this?

  • by Unipuma ( 532655 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2002 @09:40AM (#3309188)
    The usual lobbyist would probably promise a contribution to the election campaign, but the geek lobbyist could help the congressman to program his VCR.
  • by YouAreFatMan ( 470882 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2002 @09:47AM (#3309209) Homepage
    A fundamental belief in the freedom of speech, the freedom of association, the freedom to innovate, and the basic principles of entrepreneurism and the free enterprise system of economics.

    I thought that someone else [microsoft.com] is already protecting our right to innovate...

  • This is a god idea in theory, but unless a lot more than $100,000 can be raised, it won't be able to do much of anything. In the article, it mentioned possibly hiring proffesionals to lobby for the effort in the future. I'm sure the organizers realize that retaining someone with any kind of pull (of the type noted by Rand) will take most if not all of the sums they are talking about. It costs a lot of money to play the game in the D.C. (District of Criminals).

    That said, it probably wouldn't hurt to try to get some folks to make the geek POV heard at least a little bit. The effort will need a more serious-sounding name though. While GeekPac sounds good in a whimsical sort of way, I don't think it would help to get our foot in the doors that are necessary.

    I'll probably donate to this effort once they get to the point of actually taking donations, but I won't have much hope for it at this time. Judging from the article, it sounds like this is somewhat affiliated with EFF. I would think that this effort could undermine other work the EFF is doing. I could be wrong on that I suppose.

    One thing we definitely need as people who are interested in freedom of all kinds, is a way to counter the power of Disney, Time/Warner, and the other providers of crappy content that spend more money on coffee a month than this effort is looking at raising in a year.

    • Having contributed to EFF, I would also contribute to this organize if they were a bit more professional. I don't feel comfortable donating to something that only has a "draft" of their beliefs.

      I don't think that the EFF does much lobbying. I don't think they are that specific. If the EFF had a lobbying branch, that could be donated to independently, I would make a seperation donation to that.
  • I'd be jumping on the bandwagon without a second thought if this looked like something other than a couple of junior-high h4XX0r5' attempt at an impressive-sounding proclamation. As it is, I'd be a little embarrassed to put my name to it in it's current form. Hopefully the proposal itself is open-source and subject to bugfixes...?
    • I, too, have the same impression. Moreover, what real experience does someone with GeekPAC have with lobbying? I am sceptical of someone who has an extensive background/education in political scientist or someone who is alien to the process. What is necessary IMO is someone who is in the know: a current successful lobbyist, a popular member of a Congressional staff, or a former rep/senator.

      Anyone else is a waste of time, money, and hope.
  • As easy as it is to believe that most congressmen are unscrupulous money hounds, the fact is that most are doing what they think is right given the limited (to none) information they posess regarding technological issues.

    Even though this PAC does not have it as an express purpose to educate our representatives, anything that will move towards this goal should be appreciated.

    Like GI Joe never said, "Educating your congressmen is half the battle."
  • by Wolfier ( 94144 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2002 @10:19AM (#3309359)
    Sooner or later you'll see this organization filled with MPAA sustaining members...
    • Well, certainly this nascent organization can choose to not accept donations and/or participation from entities (such as the MPAA) that are considered to be against what the organization stands for. Would the NRA accept contributions from Handgun Control?

      • Would the NRA accept contributions from Handgun Control?

        Why not, as long as there were no strings attached.

        Having said that, though, I think it would be a mistake for the geekpac to allow generous donors to directly appoint people, as described in the draft.

        It could definitely lead to a form of sabotage, where increasingly wimpy people are appointed by those who don't agree with the aims of the organization. Then if the apointees are kicked out, who knows, the donor might sue or something.

        Better to do it some other way.

  • by kryzx ( 178628 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2002 @10:22AM (#3309380) Homepage Journal
    I don't know what is scarier, the fact that they used the phrase "freedom to innovate", or the fact that a certain corporation has so corrupted that phrase that it makes me cringe and sets off warning alarms.

    This sounds like a good idea. We must play the game the way it's laid out, and that means forming PACs, funding them, and educating/greasing the right politicos to get what we want. I hope they succeed.
  • cringed when he saw this...
    "The newly created American Open Technology Consortium has posted a draft of their position statement online. They propose to change that by forming a real lobbying..."

    So, they posted a draft of their position statement, and immediatly proposed to change that? Or what?
    -end nitpick-
  • Reading this is almost comical. All it is missing is the correct spelling of micro$oft. This has about the same chances of every actually amounting to anything as 99% of the projects on sourceforge. Now that Jedi Knight has been released this has probably already lost interest.

  • One of the things that Europeans love to feel smug about is the way that bribery is so indemic in US culture, that they have a special term for "political bribery" - lobbying.

    In most European countries, it's illegal to give politicians money in exchange for support for laws. Damn right. Otherwise, you get what happens in the US - rich companies get to make the laws everyone else stands by.
  • I think "NerdPAC" sounds a lot cooler!
  • by realgone ( 147744 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2002 @11:03AM (#3309579)
    Corporate Membership: $500.00 minimum donation - Corporate members will receive a framed and signed certificate of membership, the monthly newsletter, and the right to name a member of our Advisory Board.

    Okay. Here's $500. And your name is Flounder.

    • Hmm.... They may need to check on this one. I don't know as much about PAC fundraising as I do about candidate fundraising, but I'm fairly sure that corporate donations are not allowed for a multi-candidate committee. From the FEC Guide for corporations and labor organizations (page 18)....
      Election law prohibits
      corporations and labor organizations from making contributions...in connection with federal races.

      I hope they double check that. FEC violations are very very serious things for PACs with signifcant fines.

      • Election law prohibits...

        They are aware of this issue. The website says that they are still debating which will be more important to them - corporate donations XOR the ability to contribute to campaigns.

    • Haha, funniest thing I've seen on slashdot in a long time. Thanks
  • A PAC (Score:2, Interesting)

    by quam ( 240063 )
    Perhaps I am thinking inside a box, but based on my experience with campaigns and as an aide for three years to a politican, success in changing law(s) requires an organization with the following characteristics:
    • Broad Mission: Create an organization appealing to many. For instance, an organization with the goal to protect encryption is narrow. "Online civil liberties" also seems narrow to me. It doesn't seem DMCA would apply with that type of organization. However, an organization with the goal to advance "technology and civil liberties" is broad.
    • Local/State/National Structure: A national headquarters and a headquarters for each state with local chapters is established. Individuals wishing to join the organization must pay a due. Dues are distributed between the local, state and national organizations. Local chapters are strongly encouraged to conduct fundraisers (i.e.: btw, when I was at Krispy Kreme this weekend, I noticed organizations can sell doughnuts and keep up to 40% of the proceeds).
    • Local Chapters Defined By Political Boundaries With an 'Advisor': Each local chapter is generally divided along a congressional district line. This division depends on the methods used to create political boundaries within a state, but usually this type of organization allows for easy communication with elected officials. Congressman X who represents foo district within the city of foo knows all of local chapter foo is a constituent to him/her. Moreover, all activities of local chapter foo are able to influence effectively; no time is wasted on a communication or action intended to influence an elected official who doesn't give a damn because the communique or action does not originate from within his/her district. A local chapter becomes attuned with the activities of its elected officials. For instance, a chapter may have all of its members attend an elected official's town meeting.
    • Elections of Organization Leaders: The local chapter advisor or chairperson is elected by that chapter's members. A state chairperson is elected by all members of that state. The national chairperson is elected by all members throughout the nation.
    • Government Liaisons: Either (1) The local chairperson is the chief spokesperson in matters of that chairperson's respective district (this depends on how the chapter lines are drawn up --- generally the chairperson would be attached to the local congressman/woman), the state chairperson is the chief spokesperson in the respective state legislative matters, and the national chairperson is the chief spokesperson at the federal level; or (2) Each state and/or the national office has a lobbyist who is either selected via election of the members or is selected by the chairperson. Generally a government liaison receives some form of compensation.
      Sidenote: the most ineffective lobbyists imo are those with little work experience and a heavy educational background (PhD); the most effective lobbyists are those with previous work experience in the system as an elected official or aide.
    • Avoid Alignment with a Particular Political Party: Political tides may change quickly and those aligned with the losing side will likely be left out.
    • Acts for Legislative Change: Generally, the government liaison should be skilled to understand what methods are appropriate. These methods may include (1) tailor a common message or goal for each government officials, (2) communicating with each elected official the number of association members who are constituents, (3) during session go door-to-door to the offices of those officials of significance (i.e.: if the bill is in committee, visit only those on the committee (or, at times, someone who has influence on the committee) and visit members who do not have a position on the issue, may be swayed or may sway others), (4) develop rapport (speak/eat with staff, have lunch with the official (this does not require paying for the official's food), drop off gifts (i.e.: if the member likes grapefruits, bring by a basket of grapefruit) at the end of session, or (5) request letter campaigns from a specific local/state chapter(s) to a specified official and provide a model letter.

    Again, this information is just an overview of what I learned over several years and observing various political organizations. I am sure not all of the above information is accurate given different political environments or circumstances. Also, there is obviously more information required to fully explain how a political organization may be effective and it is not included here.
  • The GeekPac name (Score:2, Informative)

    by PurpleHigh ( 519921 )
    Why is everyone up in arms over the name "GeekPac"? Both the draft document and the article confirm that the name of the PAC is American Open Technology Consortium; GeekPac is just the address to which pledges are going. I'm sure that if the effort gains momentum, they'll can establish an email address that's a little more professional.
  • First, there needs to be an effort to educate the public about technological issues and how those issues relate to them. If the average person understands why laws like the DCMA and the CBDTPA are bad, they are more likely to influence their legislators to Do The Right Thing.

    Second, there needs to be the continuous Washington presence that educates the lawmakers on these issues (i.e., lobbies like mad).

    This is going to require two kinds of people in the organization (in addition to those of us who merely contribute, and those who encourage us to do so, i.e. fundraisers). The first will be those who can explain complex technical issues to the masses without sounding like a man page. Someone who looks and sounds good on Oprah. Yes, I said Oprah -- if you want to educate people you have to go someplace where they're listening, and getting the gatekeepers of public opinion on our side would be an Incredibly Good Thing. The second will be those who know how to play the Inside The Beltway game and know how to explain complex technical issues to Congresscritters, preferably in terms of how their support of tech-friendly legislation is going to get them re-elected.

    Basically, the people setting this up need to take notes on how organizations like The Sierra Club and The National Rifle Organization achieve their successes in Washington. We don't have to like them, share their views or have their money in order to learn from them.
  • by Reziac ( 43301 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2002 @12:41PM (#3310326) Homepage Journal
    Geeks don't seem to understand that the majority of lobbyists are PROs. They do it for a living, and are for hire to whoever can pay the appropriate salary. They understand marketing to the Suits (and face it, Congress is made up of Suits) and through long experience, they know how to play the game.

    A bunch of amateurs will never get anywhere no matter how much money they spend. They'd be better off to HIRE a few experienced professional lobbyists and sic 'em on members of Congress who are as yet uncommitted wrt the Disney Act.

    "I'm the most loyal player money can buy." -- Don Sutton

  • Whilst at one level I think that it's high time an organisation such as the AOTC should be formed I cannot help but be slightly disappointed by this development.

    My problem is the "A" part of AOTC. The problems that the AOTC are aiming to address are not limited to America. The actions of the US government in relation to the Internet affects people and companies all around this planet, not just the relatively small population of the USA. Similarly the actions of other governments around the world have an effect on both companies and citizens within the USA.

    I really should not need to remind people that the Internet is a global network, and that laws and regulations concerning the Internet have international repercussions. Everybody reading this should already be familiar with the way in which the DMCA has been used to persecute foreign nationals who have done nothing illegal in their own country. It should also be obvious to everybody that if it is passed the CBTPA will have a profound affect on people all around the world; it is not only US citizens that could loose their jobs if this law passes.

    Please don't think that the USA is alone in suffering from dumb technology laws. Here in the UK we have our own dumb laws (such as the RIP Act) as well as those forced upon us by the European Parliament (like the DMCA-equivalent EC Copyright Directive). We need our own Open Technology Consortium, both for the UK and for Europe as a whole.

    Think a little about what it would be like if the European Parliament passed an equivalent to the CBTPA. (For those that don't realise it, Europe has a significantly larger population than the USA, and whilst we still have national governments we also have a European government which passes laws that all European Community member states must abide by.) Many thousands of US technology companies would be adversely affected by this, and as a consequence many US citizens too.

    The ideals, aims, and motivations that the AOTC represents are global in nature. Whilst they may be presently concerned with the activities of the US government if the AOTC is successful then they will eventually be forced to deal with foreign governments in order to protect the interests of their American members. Therefore I would argue that a national organisation for what is an international problem is foolish.

    An international organisation with the same aims would have many advantages, and few disadvantages. At a simple economic level it could attract a significantly higher membership. Since the arguments in favour of a more open technology market are globally relevant great synergy could be gained from a global approach. Establishing national groups within an international consortium would significantly help the ability of that organisation to influence national government and policy.

  • I have a GEEKPAC- it's basically an IPAQ I installed nethack on.


Always leave room to add an explanation if it doesn't work out.