Congress: Blogger bill in the works Posted by: McQ
on Saturday, March 11, 2006
A heads up from an emailer:
House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has scheduled consideration of the Online Freedom of Speech Act (likely on Wednesday), legislation that would free bloggers and other Internet communicators from Federal Elections Commission (FEC) regulation. The bill was introduced by Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX). Because the FEC is preparing to issue new regulations governing political speech over the Internet, this is an important bill that will allow bloggers to express their views on the Internet without fear of running afoul of our campaign finance laws.
Of course this has been something which the blogging community has been discussing for quite some time. Most of us feel that blogs are exempt, that bloggers are indeed engaging in political free speech and that the government, through the FEC, has no business trying to regulate it. As basic a 1st Amendment rights issue as one can find.
There are also those who feel that supporting a bill like this gives tacit agreement to the idea that it is indeed something which government has the right to regulate and control and the failure of such a bill would all but ensure such regulation (and give it a legal basis). Their recommendation is to ignore the FEC and any regulation it may attempt on 1st Amendment grounds.
So while I certainly appreciate the fact that there are those in Congress who see the need to pass a law protecting bloggers, my guess is, should it ever be taken to court, that bloggers would be found to indeed have the 1st Amendment right to write, FEC regulation or not (yes I know McCain-Feingold has been challenged and found to be "constitutional", but this is a different question).
Regardless of the outcome of any such bill, I intend to blog as I have for the past 3 years. This is indeed a hill to die on, figuratively speaking. But it is worthwhile noting that even Congress understands the threat posed by the FEC thanks to that abomination called McCain-Feingold.
By the way, I don't necessarily see this as anything Congress is doing strictly on principle. It self-serving as well. That's not necessarily a criticism. Self-interest is a tremendous motivator. And anyone who doesn't believe that politicians are self-serving needs to join this reality rather quickly. As we've all seen, human nature drives us to find "work arounds" when obstacles, such as M-F a placed in our way. This legislation would be one of those work-arounds.
Congress has discovered the power of getting the word out through blogs, and many members of Congress have their own blogs. This represents an attempt to ensure they can successfully exploit this medium when they really need it. And it is a figurative finger in the eye of McCain-Feingold.
I'm all for that. The more fingers in the eye, the better.