What Part of “Shall Make No Law” Don't You Understand?

Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Why should I remind you of these hallowed words? Well, batten down the hatches, bloggers, the Federal Government is coming to save us from ourselves! It turns out that the unregulated nature of uncensored discourse is exposing the world to excessive political speech. If we were to quote a portion of a political press release (and I've done so on this blog, for example) we're making a political donation, which can be regulated under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (brought to us by senators John McCain and Russ Feingold).

A national committee of a political party (including a national congressional campaign committee of a political party) may not solicit, receive, or direct to another person a contribution, donation, or transfer of funds or any other thing of value, or spend any funds, that are not subject to the limitations, prohibitions, and reporting requirements of this Act.

Bradley Smith, of the Federal Election Commission, was recently interviewed by Declan McCullagh of CNET News. What he said may have a chilling effect on political blogging.

In 2002, the FEC exempted the Internet by a 4–2 vote, but U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly last fall overturned that decision. “The commission's exclusion of Internet communications from the coordinated communications regulation severely undermines” the campaign finance law's purposes, Kollar-Kotelly wrote.

Republicans tried to overturn this provision, but were stymied by the Democrats. I suspect if blogging went the other way the GOP would want McCain-Feingold to apply to the Internet and the Democrats would fight it. Either way, maybe I can make a fortune creating 527s for bloggers.

[Smith:] The judge's decision is in no way limited to ads. She says that any coordinated activity over the Internet would need to be regulated, as a minimum. The problem with coordinated activity over the Internet is that it will strike, as a minimum, Internet reporting services.
[Smith:] They're exempt from regulation only because of the press exemption. But people have been arguing that the Internet doesn't fit under the press exemption. It becomes a really complex issue that would strike deep into the heart of the Internet and the bloggers who are writing out there today.

Bloggers don't qualify as Press. I wonder if my NRA Press credentials would earn me a free pass.

[Smith:]I'd like someone to say that unpaid activity over the Internet is not an expenditure or contribution, or at least activity done by regular Internet journals, to cover sites like CNET, Slate and Salon. Otherwise, it's very likely that the Internet is going to be regulated, and the FEC and Congress will be inundated with e-mails saying, “How dare you do this!”

Captain Ed, trusty soul that he is, has risen to this call. My favorite paragraph of his open letter:

We may debate about the effect of unregulated cash on our electoral system, but if this new FEC effort comes to pass, the only people debating will be the corporate-owned media and the politicians. The rest of us will have been effectively bound and gagged, unable to contribute in any way thanks to the efforts of those who fear their own constituents. You can be assured that none of us in the blogosphere will fail to recognize those who do not act to defend our rights to free and unfettered political speech, and regardless of political party, none of us will rest until those voices of repression are stripped of office by the voters they hold in such low regard.

Grassroots movements have removed politicians before, and the blogosphere is about as grass roots as you can get. We'll see what happens next and the gloves will come off.

3/5/2005 Update: I posted a comment to join the (threatened) insurrection of Geek with a .45.

Josh Poulson

Posted Thursday, Mar 3 2005 09:44 PM

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Followup on the FEC

Don Singleton came by and commented on my posting criticizing the potential FEC regulation of political blog content. Over on his site he indicates Trevor Potter doesn't agree with Bradley Smith's warning that bloggers could be next and that—simi... [Read more]

Josh's Weblog

Linked Friday, Mar 4 2005 10:55 AM

McCain-Feingold Insurrection

Based on our latest FEC noise I have joined the McCain-Feingold Insurrection.... [Read more]

Josh's Weblog

Linked Saturday, Mar 5 2005 10:53 PM


There is one comment on this entry.

This may not be a problem. See this, and if that does not solve it, then this might.

Don Singleton bushsupporter.org

Posted Friday, Mar 4 2005 09:01 AM

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