April 17 marked the third anniversary of the day I launched Leaven for the Loaf. Thank you to my readers, a few of whom have followed the blog from day one and most of whom who have joined more recently. Seldom has a labor of love been so much fun. I hope to keep it going for a long time. I shall celebrate with a caffeinated beverage (a critical item in any blogger’s toolbox).
The first post I made (Still Talking About This) holds up pretty well as my statement of purpose for this enterprise. When I wrote it, I had no idea how many places my writing and reporting would take me and how many people I’d meet whose paths I wouldn’t otherwise have crossed. I’m richer for those experiences, and I hope I’ve written about them in a way that enriches readers as well. Thanks for all the news tips, introductions, and amazing projects you’ve shared with me.
I didn’t know what Instagram was in 2012. I hadn’t done much on Twitter or Google+. Now, the blog is on those media platforms with more to come. I never would have guessed three years ago that someone browsing on Pinterest could come across a photo from Leaven and click on it – but that happens. I’ve had some excellent pro advice (thank you, James and the Altos team) to help me with the back end of the blog, meaning everything that isn’t the actual writing, and everyone who has ever clicked on this site can be grateful since my own tech skills approach zero.
I’ll keep moving forward with the same determination I had when I started three years ago: So yes, we’re still talking about this. Pro-lifers cannot be effective if they stay huddled together. I propose that we step out in faith and leaven the loaf of public discourse. Let’s begin.
Candidates are after you for donations. (I know this because they’re after me, too.) I propose an alternative in these weeks before the election: support your local pro-life blog.
Judging from the jump in viewership on the blog around primary election day, Leaven for the Loaf had something readers weren’t finding elsewhere in campaign coverage. From interviews with U.S. Senate candidates Jim Rubens and Bob Smith to conversations with state senate candidates, every post with a bearing on the 2014 campaign saw a spike in views leading up to primary day, September 9. In addition, the blog’s September 8 newsletter about state representative candidates got more circulation than any previous Leaven newsletter.
I can take a hint. Count on more coverage of candidates before the general election on November 4. You’ll still find plenty of commentary here, along with reports on events like 40 Days for Life. The 2014 election is clearly on the minds of New Hampshire’s pro-life voters, though. Those voters can count on Leaven.
Can you afford to donate five dollars? That will cover enough gas for a round trip to Concord when I’m covering hearings or rallies. Will you donate $100? That’s enough for one month of web hosting and technical support. Whatever you can afford, thank you.
I’m a blogger. I write about politics. I spend money to keep the blog going. Does that make me an entity that has to register with the state? And isn’t it a little bit creepy to contemplate requiring writers to register with the government? I wish I didn’t have to worry about that.
There’s a push in Concord to Do Something (Anything!) about campaign financing. More transparency. Know who all those donors are. Find out just who’s “really” funding politics. And as often happens when politicians get the itch to Do Something (Anything!), there are questions that get glossed over. Such is the case with New Hampshire’s Senate Bill 120.
I wrote a few months back in “I Am Not a PAC (some people have to be told)” about a guy in another state who blogged about politics, sponsored meetings, made flyers, and spent money to do so. He was accused by a local GOP official of failing to register as a PAC, since he was obviously spending money to influence elections.
I thought that was a stupid accusation then, and I still do. Now, New Hampshire has this bill. I have reason to take it personally. Or maybe I don’t. It depends on which supporter of SB 120 I’m talking to.
I promote pro-life public policy. I criticize attacks on the right to life and on the rights of individuals putting their peaceful beliefs into practice. That means I mention names of incumbents and candidates and bills.
SB 120 would require a political committee to register with the secretary of state, pay a fee, and make periodic financial reports including names of donors and the amount of each donation. Now, let’s look at the language and definitions in excerpts of SB 120 as it might apply to political bloggers. I’ve added emphasis here and there.
“Political committee” means [among other things] “Any organization of 2 or more persons that promotes the success or defeat of a candidate or candidates or measure or measures, including the political committee of a political party; ..As used in this paragraph, ‘organization’ includes, but is not limited to, one or more natural persons…”
“Expenditure” means disbursement of money or thing of value, or a promise of disbursement, or a transfer from one political committee to another, but …
“Expenditure” shall not include activity designed to encourage people to register to vote or to vote (as long as a specific candidate isn’t mentioned), any communication by any membership organization or corporation to its members or stockholders (as long as the primary purpose of the organization isn’t to promote or defeat of a candidate or candidates and measure or measures), or any communication by any political committee that is not made for the purpose of promoting the success or defeat of candidate(s) or measure(s).
And here’s my personal favorite: “political advocacy organization” means any entity that spends $5000 or more in a calendar year to pay for a communication that is “functionally equivalent to express advocacy” because, when taken as a whole, such communication is likely to be interpreted by a reasonable person only as advocating the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate(s) or measure(s).
Excerpts, as I said. The whole dreary thing is here.
Don’t worry, I’ve been told; it only applies to two or more people. Problem: do the people I hire for tech support count as “people” under the bill? If I run guest posts, does that trigger the two-or-more provision? And what about the provision of the law a few lines down from “two or more people” that says an organization is “one or more natural persons”?
Don’t worry, I’ve been told; you don’t count because the blog’s communications don’t exist for the primary purpose of supporting/opposing candidates. Problem: Who’s going to determine my primary purpose? It would an administrative determination, with no appeal, leaving me subject to fines and possible prosecution for “false swearing.” I’m here to write in support of a culture of life. That means I spend a lot of time tracking bills and noting what officeholders and candidates are saying. I make it clear who’s not going to be any help on the life issues. What is some bureaucrat going to conclude about my “primary purpose”?
By the way, if you think accusations of violations of the law wouldn’t be publicized all over the place, you’re too naive to be allowed loose. One accusation of “campaign finance” violations would be enough to sully someone’s reputation permanently. Exoneration wouldn’t get nearly the same coverage.
Don’t worry, I’ve been told; your blog expenses won’t reach the “expenditure” threshold under law. And if they did, “we” (who’s “we”?) would divide your posts into political and non-political and prorate your expenditures accordingly. Problem: that prorate thing is nowhere in the bill. As for what I spend on the blog, I assure you that hosting, tech support, and travel add up.
You can understand why I’m concerned. The Senate will decide soon if it can live with the House amendment to SB 120. If the bill passes, it goes into effect immediately.
What am I supposed to do then? Keep a lawyer on retainer? That, I can’t afford.
One last question, to which no one has yet offered an answer: will putting my blog on a government registry really do anything to bring “transparency” to politics?
Several life-issue bills I’ve been following are coming up for votes in Concord this week. Bit of a pressure cooker up there, in fact. I’m finding brief diversion in planning for my trip to Washington, D.C. for CPAC in a couple of weeks.
This will be my second CPAC. It’s political-blogger heaven, and I’m looking forward to it. If you’re planning to go for the first time, learn a few things from my limited experience.
1. Wear comfortable shoes. Last year, there were three tiers of programs going on at the same time, over three levels of the convention center. I felt sorry for the twenty-somethings in their pointy-toed high-heeled shoes. Granted, they looked smashing – a description with which I’ve never been burdened.
2. Do NOT count on the convention center’s Wi-Fi connection. That goes double if you’re blogging or otherwise reporting from the venue. The Tea Party Patriots plunked down a huge chunk of change to pay for Wi-Fi for everyone at CPAC 2013, which was a generous & thoughtful thing to do. It didn’t help me, because the convention center’s bandwidth was hopelessly overwhelmed by the thousands of people trying to use it. (Yes, thousands.) I’m packing mifi this year.
3. If you plan to meet up with someone at CPAC, be sure you have the person’s cell phone number. You’ll need it to text your cancelation message when you realize there’s too much going on.
4. Download the conference schedule before you get there, then realize you can’t possibly see and hear everyone on the list. Don’t spend all your time trying to hear the top-billed speakers. (Try to catch some of them, though. I must admit Rand Paul was fantastic last year, fresh off his filibuster.) Especially where the life issues are concerned, the interesting speakers and conversations will be in the side rooms.
5. Everything will cost more than you expect. Think Disney with fewer tropical-print shirts. Pounce on free lunch if you find it – Rick Santorum’s group hosted one last year. The conversation at the table was a bonus: I found myself seated with college students from four states, happy to take questions from me.
So I’ll be off to the big city in a couple of weeks, taking my Granite State show on the road, in search (as always) of political lifeforms of the prolife persuasion. Stay tuned.
Leaven for the Loaf started small, and now it has outgrown its kitchen-table roots. I’m happy to announce that I’ve partnered with the team at Altos Marketing, who will handle web hosting and the technical side of things so that I can concentrate on writing. The site’s new design is as clear and easy to read on your smartphone as it is on a laptop. More content, less clutter.
Let’s take this new format and plunge right into 2014. There are bills in Concord to watch, and a few in Washington that bear consideration as well. Then there’s an election on the horizon. Who’s talking about the social issues and who isn’t? What’s a pro-life voter to do? Also, pro-lifers will be marching for life in Concord, and praying during 40 Days for Life.
You get the idea. There’s plenty of news ahead.
The first post on Leaven for the Loaf was called Still Talking About This. What I wrote then still holds up as my answer to the question: why bother?
“Still talking about what? About abortion, how it became legal, and how it has grown into a lucrative business for abortion providers; about women facing challenging pregnancies and sometimes facing the aftermath of terminating those pregnancies; about paying for it and subsidizing the industry. We’re still talking because there is no way to shut down a debate when lives are at stake.
…What I see being set back are the rights of women and men who choose not to pay even indirectly for the operation of an abortion facility. I see people lobbying to keep abortion undocumented, so that public health officials will continue to be in the dark about how many New Hampshire women make this “choice” every year. I hear testimony to the need for eugenic abortion, which is a throwback to one of the 20th century’s worst ideas. I hear women who should know better equate a 24-hour waiting period with an outright ban on abortion.
Both in New Hampshire and elsewhere, we need to meet this with more than hand-wringing and the occasional letter to the editor. I offer this blog as a tool and a guide to action for all who share my determination to bring an end to the carnage wrought byRoe.
So yes, we’re still talking about this. Pro-lifers cannot be effective if they stay huddled together. I propose that we step out in faith and leaven the loaf of public discourse. Let’s begin.”