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Friday, March 04, 2005

FEC UPDATE II: Is Congress Hearing Bloggers on FEC Threat to Free Press?

If Federal Election Commissioner Brad Smith only wanted to incite a blogswarm concerning the prospect of FEC regulation of political speech on the Internet, he appears to have succeeded admirably because the Bloggers are swarming!

So much to read, so much to link to, so much to praise and blame! I've been teaching Computer-Assisted Research and Reporting to a group of MSM journalists all day today at the National Press Club and thus am just now getting to catch up on the day's developments.

Where to start? Let's start at Powerline, which is always an excellent starting point for any discussion involving points arising from the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights or the Northwest Ordinance, or any controversy arising there from.

Here's how Powerline's Deacon summarized a key element behind the impulse to have the FEC regulate political speech on the Internet:

"The political establishment and its speech police are not amused. They have not defeated 'big money' only to have their designs ruined by a bunch of pajama-clad upstarts."

Deacon is exactly right. Who thinks they will be the big winners if political speech can be limited to the MSM? Why, the MSM that by and large enthusiastically supported the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law of 2002 that is behind the prospective FEC action.

Now, the blogswarm had hardly started before McCain-Feingold's advocates - especially Trevor Potter and Mark Glaze - were tryig to soft-peddle the furor by claiming nobody should be worried about the possibility the FEC will start regulating what people in pajamas say on their PCs. All this blogger drama is nothing more than a bunch of paranoid nonsense purposely incited by Republican FEC member Smith as a tactic to stall or prevent the good things that will come from fully implementing McCain-Feingold.

Well, RedState.org nailed Potter by pointing out that he is on record on both sides of this issue. You must read Mike Krempasky's slicing and dicing of Potter here. Then read the rest of the RedState FEC section because it will lead you to all kinds of useful, informative and insightful posts in the Blogosphere on the issue, including links to posts from Potter, Glaze, et. al.

But wait, there's more! Go to Democracy-Project.com and read Winfield Myer's withering exposure of key resume data some folks apparently prefer not to be too widely known. It's in this post where Myer gives the comprehensive details of the backgrounds of Mr. Glaze and Mr. Potter. Suffice it to say, the arguments being put forth by these gentlemen make sense only in the context of the fact they are long-time apologists for regulating political speech via campaign finance reform.

I enthusiastically second Myer's summary response to Glaze and Potter:

"I fail to see how this refutes Bradley Smith's charges. It admits that the court decision must be enforced, and that the FEC must 'initiate a rulemaking to work out how to deal with different kinds of Internet political expenditures.'
"This is precisely Smith's point: given the interconnectivity of the Internet, which after all is its strongest point, how will posts from different blogs, or email lists which are passed all around the Net, be spliced so as to ensure that free speech isn't trampled?
"It would take the wisdom of Solomon to split this baby, and I know I speak for many (even most) bloggers in saying that I trust neither the FEC, nor Mr. Potter's lobbying firm, nor the U.S. Senate, nor any other body to decide what I may or may not write on this blog, or read on a blog written by anyone else.

"I charged yesterday that this represents an extension of McCain-Feingold into the blogosphere, and Mark Glaze's press release only strengthens my conviction that I was correct. Why else turn to the very lawyers who've worked so closely to regulate political speech in the past in an effort to convince us that, after all, they only want to help us live clean lives."


Okay, now head over to Captain's Quarters where the Captain has posted a suggested letter every blogger should send to every member of his or her state's congressional delegation. The Captain has conveniently posted the letter on top of his several updates that also include critical information.

There is so much more to be said and read and done. I haven't even begun to list links to all the posts that should be read. But that's part of the genius of the Blogosphere - aggregating the collective wisdom of an immense crowd, right!

Bottom line on today: Anybody who claims there is no reason the FEC must regulate political speech on the Internet either hasn't read the Supreme Court's McConnell v FEC decision that authorized Congress under McCain-Feingold to regulate any political speech that might create the appearance of political corruption. Or they are naive. Or they are trying to mislead you.

McCain-Feingold proposed it, the Supreme Court approved it and now the FEC is implementing it - law and regulation concerning freedom of speech and the press. The very things the First Amendment says Congress cannot do.

The question now is are they hearing us loud enough on Capitol Hill, the federal courts and the bureaucracy?