Common Sense Media and What Constitutes Lobbying

In an opinion piece by the LA Times blog, Alex Pham tries to determine if Common Sense Media is an advocacy group or a lobbyist firm.

Let us go down the rabbit hole:

"..But there’s another aspect to the organization. Common Sense Media has been one of the most zealous voices when it comes to encouraging state legislation limiting the sale of ultra-violent games to minors. Its chief executive, James Steyer as penned numerous letters to state and federal officials, urging them to curb kids’ access to ‘ultra-graphic violence’ depicted in games."

The rest of the article drills down on Common Sense Media’s activities from 2005 onward. What is important to note is that the company has been straddling the fence between advocacy and lobbying for years.

It has had its fingers in multiple laws directly and indirectly including the 2005 California Law which it sponsored alongside Leeland Yee; the failed 2005 Family entertainment Protection Act sponsored by Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.); and the 2005 Illinois anti-videogame bill signed into law by convicted felon and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (to be fair, the group only offered support via a statement within a press release).

While all of these efforts failed (save the California law which goes before the Supreme Court in November), it was not for a lack of trying on Common Sense Media’s part.

When L.A. Times solicited a comment from James Steyer, chief executive of Common Sense Media, asking for a response about game industry advocacy groups calling it a lobbying firm, he said: that it amounted to "efforts to try to muzzle our voice for millions of parents and educators will only make our support stronger for California’s and other state’s efforts to protect the best interests of children and families."

Read the rest of the article here. It is an interesting dissection of Common Sense Media’s practices over the years.

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