Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Don't Shut Me Up

And more on the internet regulation topic (also via Election Law Blog), here's a CNET piece on today's scheduled vote on the Online Freedom of Speech Act and last minute opposition from liberal lobbies like Democracy 21:

This bill is drafted far broader than it needs to be, with the result that it is going to allow members of Congress to use corrupt, unlimited soft money to pay for ads on the Internet to support their campaigns," said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, which presses for greater regulation of election-related spending and speech.

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is under court order to extend a controversial set of election laws to the Internet, and final regulations are expected at any time. They could cover everything from regulating hyperlinks to politicians' Web sites to forcing disclosure of affiliations with campaigns. After mounting an aggressive campaign to draw attention to the perils of regulating Web sites, bloggers managed to secure the introduction of the Online Freedom of Speech Act in the House and the Senate.
The law would save the FEC from regulating the 'net as the court has demanded it do after its initial refusal to do so. The whole mess stems from the passage of The Full Employment for Political Attorneys Act, or BCRA as it is known in the industry (and don't get me wrong, I'm all for full employment for political attorneys). BCRA, it seems, has proven just how tricky it is to regulate speech. Takes a lot of words, it seems, and Congress forgot to include certain words like "internet" in the list of "public communications" subject to BCRA's provisions. Except, see, statutory interpretation is a bitch because "Congress forgot" usually loses to "Congress intended to exclude." Except this time it didn't.

Regardless of the results of today's vote (which may be going on this very second - it was scheduled for 11 am PST), the issue won't likely be resolved for quite some time.

If you have a second, feel free to call your MOC to urge support. Otherwise this blog will be a pretty quiet place come election year. And in case you haven't noticed, every year seems to be election year these days.

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