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Friday, March 04, 2005

FEC UPDATE: Where's Tapscott?

Welcome to all coming from Powerline, Redstate, BuzzMachine, etc. etc. If this is your first visit with Tapscott's Copy Desk, I hope you enjoy it and I hope you come back again and again. Most of all, I hope what you find here is useful and informative.

In the meantime, I am at the National Press Club today leading a Database 101/201 Computer-Assisted Research and Reporting (CARR) Boot Camp for a group of MSM journalists. That means I can't do the usual updating of the FEC post that I would be doing if I weren't teaching today and tomorrow.

I have noticed, though, one meme among some of the commentary I've seen today on this issue in the Blogosphere that concerns me - it's the view that we shouldn't worry because the same threats have been heard in the past but the FEC backed off, and the agency will again back off.

It's true, the FEC has looked previously at regulating the Internet and then backed off. But there is this immense difference between then and now: passage of McCain-Feingold's limitations on political speech in the media and elsewhere, and the Supreme Court's upholding of McCain-Feingold's grant to Congress of the power to regulate political speech.

The situation is fundamentally different now because the logic of the Court's decision makes regulation of political speech on the Internet necessary if campaign finance reform is to be implemented as intended by its backers. That's the point of the U.S. District Court decision last fall and it is why this battle must and will be fought. The only remaining question is what role the Blogosphere will play in deciding the outcome, if it is to play any role at all.