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11/02/2005

BLOGS in the News

   House Declines to Exempt Political Web Sites

Yikes_1 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.

                                                    Uh oh.

Dan has more on this.

Bill has some more.

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House Declines to Exempt Political Web Sites From Spending Rules

By Jim Abrams

WASHINGTON (AP) - 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.

Opposition was led by Rep. Marty Meehan, D-Mass., who with Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., championed the 2002 campaign finance law that banned unlimited "soft money" contributions that corporations, unions and individuals were making to political parties.

"This is a major unraveling of the law," Meehan said. At a time when Washington is again being tainted by scandal, including the CIA leak case, "it opens up new avenues for corruption to enter the political process."

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."

Bloggers from liberal and conservative perspectives made similar predictions at a hearing on the subject in September. "Rather than deal with the red tape of regulation and the risk of legal problems, they will fall silent on all issues of politics," said Michael J. Krempasky, director of the Web site RedState.org.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., writing Wednesday on a blog he recently started, said the bill "is about all the folks out in the blogosphere. It's going to protect what you say. It keeps the hand of the federal government out of Internet speech."

But Meehan said no one wants to regulate bloggers. He said he and Shays have an alternative that would protect the free speech rights of bloggers while closing the cyberspace loophole where a lawmaker could vote for a prescription drug bill and then ask pharmaceutical interests to write six-figure checks for campaign ads for them to run on the Internet.

FEC commissioner Scott E. Thomas said at the September hearing that some $14 million was spent on Internet ads in the 2004 campaign.

A federal court last year, amid the escalation of political activity on the Internet, instructed the FEC to draw up regulations that would extend federal campaign finance and spending limits to the Web.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada has introduced a companion bill to the Hensarling measure, but the Senate has yet to take it up.    AP

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» http://www.squiggler.com/2005/11/steel_deal_says.html from Squiggler
Steel Deal says, uh oh and I tend to agree, what say you? A must read article:House Declines to Exempt Political Web Sites From Spending Rules By Jim Abrams WASHINGTON (AP) - Online political expression should not be exempt from [Read More]

» A Little Love Pat From GWB from Daily Pundit
THE STEEL DEAL: BLOGS in the NewsOnline political expression should not be exempt from campaign finance law, the House decided... [Read More]

» Heads Up to Political Web Sites from Squiggler
Steel Deal says, uh oh and I tend to agree, what say you? A must read article:House Declines to Exempt Political Web Sites From Spending Rules By Jim Abrams WASHINGTON (AP) - Online political expression should not be exempt from campaign finance law, t... [Read More]

» Where credit is due from dustbury.com
First, a quote from House Speaker Dennis Hastert: Today's action marks a sad day for one of our nation's most sacred rights: freedom of speech. The federal government seeks to... [Read More]

Comments

I was ready to email my representative (who voted nay) to inquire exactly what their position was on the 1st Amendment. That is, until I read the text of HR1606:

Paragraph (22) of section 301 of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (2 U.S.C. 431(22)) is amended by adding at the end the following new sentence: `Such term shall not include communications over the Internet.'.

The stated purpose of the bill is "to exclude communications over the Internet from the definition of public communication." That's the solution? Simply to say that internet communications aren't defined as public?

While most supporters of the bill agree that public comment by bloggers shouldn't be limited, supporters of the type of "campaign reform" regulations that would seek to curb large-scale internet-based advertising campaigns are left with an easy out on their nay vote. They're protecting you from big money. They say, give them a better bill that protects the little guy both from the government and from corporations, and you can expect their support.

Unfortunately, I think the bill is too sloppy for its own good. I enjoy the potential it has to undo McCain/Feingold, but that open-endedness gives dissenters an easy out.

2 U.S.C. 431(22) here
HR1606 here

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