Croker Sack

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." — Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Freedom of speech and press vs. Congress

If this article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is correct, the so-called campaign finance reform of 2002 may be extended to the Web.

WASHINGTON -- 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.

Supposedly, blogs could be included within the Byzantine rules governing speech about political campaigns.

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."

Let's see -- what does it cost to make available to the public an entry or a comment on this worthy blog? And, who would report the "expenditure" if the total spent meets the threshold for mandatory reporting of campaign expenditures --

Kidding aside, what is so hard to understand about the meaning of the words "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press..."?

If freedom of speech and freedom of the press don't include political arguments and information made available to the public on the Web, what do those rights include?

While it may make sense to many people to require disclosure of the sources of funds used to purchase advertising space to disseminate political campaign information, it seems that we have gone pretty far away from "no law" already.

Must we go farther?

If a political statement were to include obviously pornographic content, would the First Amendment then require Congress to back off? (Nah -- no redeeming social value.)


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