The same sloppy legislative writing that created so many unintended consequences in ObamaCare also plagues the DISCLOSE Act, 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 bill ... 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…”
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.
They're specifically targeting one of the most effective mediums for the conservative Right to spread information. The Internet is the last great frontier for information sharing, and at the moment it's pretty much wide open. Anyone want to take bets on whether or not they'll 'regulate' sites like Daily Kos the same way they 'regulate' Hot Air or RedState?
Hot Air's analysis:
This cannot stand. Without the freedom to express our displeasure at what's going on in Washington, we might as well give up and voluntarily allow the distributed monarchy idea we've talked about before.
The response to this criticism has been both predictable and instructive. Instead of actually discussing how Reason got the argument wrong in its initial reporting on the subject, a Public Citizen lobbyist (which supports the legislation) called it a death-panel argument. 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.Most likely? Color me comforted. ...
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.
To help explain the context and why this is so critically important, here's a recent clip of Rush Limbaugh on the subject:
There's your answer.
It's a control thing. And, thus, it's a freedom thing.
There's my two cents.