Sunday, May 23, 2010

From Banning Books to Banning Blogs How the DISCLOSE Act will restrict free speech

This makes me think of the Windows 7 TV ad where the people take credit for the new Windows release. The Disclose Act is directed at me. It is the only way to shut me up. LOL

Last week, a congressional hearing exposed an effort to give another agency—the Federal Election Commission—unprecedented power to regulate political speech online. At a House Administration Committee hearing last Tuesday, Patton Boggs attorney William McGinley explained that the sloppy statutory language in the “DISCLOSE Act” would extend the FEC’s control over broadcast communications to all “covered communications,” including the blogosphere.

The DISCLOSE Act’s purpose, according to Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair Chris Van Hollen and other “reformers,” is simply to require disclosure of corporate and union political speech after the Supreme Court’s January decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission held that the government could not ban political expenditures by companies, nonprofit groups, and labor unions.

The bill, however, would radically redefine how the FEC regulates political commentary. A section of the DISCLOSE Act would exempt traditional media outlets from coordination regulations, but the exemption does not include bloggers, only “a communication appearing in a news story, commentary, or editorial distributed through the facilities of any broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine or other periodical publication…”

The Brennan Center for Justice’s Ciara Torres-Spelliscy accused us of “a blatant attempt to kick sand in the eyes of lawmakers,” and attempted to deny the plain meaning of the statutory language. Nonetheless, she admitted that “the FEC is most likely to stand by the 2006 Internet rules and only reach PAID political banner ads; not bloggers.” (Emphasis added.)

The response of “reformers” to serious questions about a bill imposing civil and criminal penalties for engaging in political speech would be shocking if it wasn’t so typical. Most likely isn’t good enough for people who want to speak out in politics without threat of jail time and hefty fines.

There’s little reason to trust the “good government” crowd on this. When the issue of internet regulation first came up after passage of the McCain-Feingold law in 2002, the goo-goos denounced a deregulated Internet as a “loophole” in campaign finance law, a “poison pill,” “anti-reform,” and a “step backwards.” In court filings, they called the Internet “a favored conduit for special interests to fund soft money and stealth issue ads into federal campaigns.” While most pro-regulation groups eventually endorsed the FEC regulations exempting the Internet amidst a public backlash, this was simply a tactical consideration to head off passage of the Online Freedom of Speech Act of 2006, which would have codified a broad exemption for political speech online (“reformers” unanimously opposed the bill).
Read Disclose Act article here.

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