Thursday, November 03, 2005

Free Speech On Blogs Is Toast

This is some bewildering stuff. First, let me say that I have never had any use for the so-called campaign finance 'reform' hogwash out there. I don't care if you are talking about Shays-Meehan or McCain-Feingold, it's all bunk that purports to try to take the effect of big money out of politics. In fact, both laws have the effect of empowering big money, as only the biggest campaigns and political parties can easily the management of the regulations and paperwork created by those bills and still have plenty of money left to get the message out. Most smaller campaigns decide not to raise any money at all, so as to not be troubled by the paperwork nightmare. So, as you see, it is in fact the little guy's voice that get squashed, not big money's.

Today, the House of Representatives considered a bill, HR 1606, that would have exempted blogs like this one from being treated as campaign contributions. In the near future, any blog- left, right, or center; Democrat, Republican, or Libertarian- will be treated not as mere political speech, but as a campaign contribution.

A majority was in favor of passing the exemptions, but the bill was defeated, because infuriatingly, the majority was less than the required 2/3rds needed for passage. From CBS News:

Online political expression should not be exempt from campaign finance law, the House decided Wednesday as lawmakers warned that the Internet has opened up a new loophole for uncontrolled spending on elections.

The House voted 225-182 for a bill that would have excluded blogs, e-mails and other Internet communications from regulation by the Federal Election Commission. That was 47 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed under a procedure that limited debate time and allowed no amendments.

The vote in effect clears the way for the FEC to move ahead with court-mandated rule-making to govern political speech and campaign spending on the Internet.

Fortunately, some in the House still get free speech and the First Amendment. Sadly, not enough.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, said the federal government should encourage, rather than fetter, a phenomenon that was bringing more Americans into the political process."

The newest battlefield in the fight to protect the First Amendment is the Internet," he said. "The Internet is the new town square, and campaign finance regulations are not appropriate there."

Without his legislation, Hensarling said, "I fear that bloggers one day could be fined for improperly linking to a campaign Web site, or merely forwarding a candidate's press release to an e-mail list."
I do hope and pray for a strong backlash from across the political spectrum in response. Unfortunately, the response to Shays-Meehan and McCain-Feingold was somewhat muted, as the forces on the left especially found that restricting campaign money was a good thing. Now, hopefully, they are seeing more and more how it affects the smallest political voices, and especially their own.

But regardless of political leanings, any blogger is affected, no matter what candidate you may wish to speak freely about. Posting a link on your blog may be a crime. In America!

Update: Reason Hit & Run has an entry with several comments already. The best comes from Stephen Macklin:

We already have an "Online Freedom of Speech Act." We call it the First Amendment.

1 comment:

gRegor said...

Screw 'em. I'll promote whatever candidate I want and ignore their fines. Just another day in Amerika.