Posted by: Debby Durkee | May 23, 2010

Bloggers — Congress wants to shut you up.

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Bloggers – Congress wants to shut you up.

Have you heard of the “Disclose Act?”  Well, me neither. It’s apparently an attempt by Democratic members of Congress to get around the Supreme Court decision that led to striking down the McCain-Feingold law. This new legislation puts power in the hands of the FEC that could (and will) affect political bloggers while leaving the New York Times alone. This could be coming to a vote this coming week, so pay attention. This is from Ed Morrissey over at www.hotair.com. He’s reporting on a column from Reason.

…the DISCLOSE Act, (is) the effort in Congress to tighten spending rules in the wake of the Citizens United decision — and that’s the generous take on the situation.  Reason’s Bradley Smith and Jeff Patch warn that the perhaps-unintended consequences of legislative language will allow the FEC to regulate political speech online.  The fact that media entities like the New York Times have specific exemptions built into the bill makes the intent, or lack thereof, rather murky:

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…

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…”

In Citizens United, the Supreme Court explicitly rejected disparate treatment of media corporations and other corporations (including nonprofit groups) in campaign finance law. “Differential treatment of media corporations and other corporations cannot be squared with the First Amendment,” Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority.

No legitimate justification exists for excluding media corporations from regulations on political speech applicable to other corporations, unless the goal is to gain the support of editorial boards funded by the New York Times Co.

…  Another group attempted to defend Congress by assuring us that the FEC would “most likely … stand by the 2006 Internet rules” and not investigate political bloggers.

  If the Democrats in Congress wanted to ensure that the FEC would not investigate political speech by bloggers, they would have written their exemptions to include bloggers instead of just traditional media outlets.  The purposeful lack of exemption for bloggers looks ominous indeed — and could be used to harass smaller, unfunded bloggers out of the realm of political debate. Snip —

This isn’t about “good government” or clean elections.  It’s an attempt by Congress to step around the First Amendment and regulate political speech that threatens incumbents, just as McCain-Feingold attempted.

How do you like those words “most likely” stand by the 2006 Internet rules that only looked at political ads and not at political bloggers. How does that make you feel, fellow bloggers? What part of “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” doesn’t Congress get? Well, they don’t particularly like that petitioning of “the Government for a redress of grievances” part either (see reaction to the Tea Parties.)  Okay, you might want to click the link to read more, here: http://hotair.com/archives/2010/05/19/congress-about-to-limit-political-speech-of-bloggers/

You should especially read the original article by Bradley Smith and Jeff Patch over at Reason. They’ll also remind you that we have a nominee to the Supreme Court who is very much involved due to her arguing for the Obama administration in favor of McCain-Feingold and losing. You can read that here: http://reason.com/archives/2010/05/18/from-banning-books-to-banning/

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