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A group of high-profile progressive bloggers and libertarian Republicans are rolling out a new political action committee called Accountability Now to channel widespread anger over pending legislation that would legalize much of the president’s warrantless electronic surveillance of Americans, and grant retroactive legal immunity to telephone companies that cooperated with the spying when it was still illegal.

Progressive author and lawyer Glenn Greenwald, who writes for Salon, and blogger Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake are spearheading the effort. They’ve hired the political media consultants behind a historic Ron Paul online fundraising drive to organize a similar “moneybomb,” set to go off on August 8.

“That is the day Richard Nixon resigned, and the idea is that 35 years ago when you did this kind of stuff, you were forced out of office, and now congress drops everything to make your crimes legal,” says Hamsher in an interview.

The campaign marks a milestone in the evolution of online grassroots organizing. The PAC is cherry-picking the tactics and tools that proved most successful in the presidential primary campaigns, and is using them to corral online support for the single issue of domestic spying. The PAC’s money pay for advertisements in the districts of the House Democrats who voted for the spy bill — potentially causing problems for those capitulating on the Bush wiretapping program.

Key to the new effort are consultants Trevor Lyman and Rick Williams, whose successful online money-raising effort for Ron Paul, the libertarian-leaning Texas congressman, broke records last year. The pair masterminded a “moneybomb” drive called “This November 5th.” that brought in an unprecedented $4.2 million in contributions in a single day. A repeat effort in December raised another $6 million for Paul.

WashPost
Now the pair have built a web page for Accountability Now where opponents of the spy bill can commit in advance to donating money to the PAC. Similar to the Ron Paul drives, netizens can grab Accountability Now badges to place on their blogs, which link back to the fundraising pledge page.

The moneybomb is only one out of several techniques, both online and off, that Hamsher’s Firedoglake is experimenting with to make offending members of congress feel the anger of their constituents.

Firedoglake has already hired Advomatic Designs in New York City and Advomatic Laboratories in Anchorage, Alaska to create an online VOIP widget that lets voters call their senators ask them what their stance is on the spy legislation, and to urge them to vote for an amendment that would remove the telecom immunity provision.

Using money its already raised, the group ran a full-page advertisement in the Washington Post Tuesday with bullet points explaining what’s wrong with the pending legislation.

The Senate is expected to follow the House in approving the new spy legislation Wednesday.

You can go to DownsizeDC.org to easily send the following message to your congress critters.

Please do everything you can to defeat the Senate version of HR 6304, the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. Please use your power to filibuster.

You can also send Barak Obama a message asking him to lead the fight in fighting this.

Update:

Arstechnica has a brief article on the Bingaman amendment which is causing some stir.

Instead of immediately granting retroactive immunity to telecoms being sued for their role in the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program—or, what amounts to the same thing, instructing a federal court to grant such immunity—Bingaman would stay the suits until 90 after the delivery of a report by the Inspector General’s on the president’s secret surveillance programs. Immunity would still follow automatically at this point, but the provision might provide an incentive for the administration not to drag its feet in complying with the investigation, and it would give Congress the opportunity to reconsider once it actually knows what behavior it is immunizing. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and prominent immunity opponent Glenn Greenwald have both endorsed the amendment.

Perhaps tellingly, even this stay-and-delay provision is apparently unacceptable to Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell and Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who in a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) write:

Any amendment that would delay implementation of the liability protections in this matter is unacceptable. Providing prompt liability protection is critical to the national security. Accordingly, we, as well as the President’s other senior advisers, will recommend that the President veto any bill that includes such an amendment.