And one could make an intellectually defensible—though far too harsh—argument that Schultz or any other journalist in a similar position should hang up their spurs, or perhaps stop writing about any political issues, whatever that might mean. And if that’s what Jarvis had argued, I wouldn’t be spending my time or my words on this teapot sized tempest.
But just because Connie Schultz, who in all her years as a columnist and journalist never covered or interviewed Sherrod Brown, has a proposal to save the newspaper industry—one that she feels so strongly about that she’d like other media professionals to push Congress to adopt it—doesn’t mean that she’s all of a sudden a lobbyist.
If steelworkers write letters to the editor advocating a tariff, or even if the steelworkers book a bus from their union local to Washington and have a few meetings with their representatives, they don’t suddenly become lobbyists. (And while our current lobbying laws are far from ideal, technically, you only have to register as a lobbyist if you are being paid to lobby and you spend more than 20% of your time doing so—hard to see how Schultz is going to fall into that category.)
Some of these points have been raised in the comments thread following Jarvis’s post. And defending himself there, Jarvis implies that he only intends the all-citizens-who-advocate-a-policy-must-register-as-lobbyists rule to apply to those with a “personal relationship with a member of congress.”
So, to every political spouse or friend of a politician who’s ever publicly expressed a view on a policy area (early childhood education, AIDS funding, guns, whatever) best get those registration forms in order!
Jarvis’s complaint seems like a too-clever debater’s parry, one that when held to the light is rather thin. Schultz’s proposal is weak too. But at least it was offered in good faith.