The Center for Individual Freedom will file comments criticizing the FEC’s proposed rules. Reid Cox, General Counsel of the Center for Individual Freedom, sends this preview:
- Generally, despite what’s been reported in the MSM, these rules pose serious concerns for bloggers and others who use the Internet to publish news or their own comments on political matters.
The Internet is one of the last few arenas for pure, unregulated, unfiltered speech. It is as close as we can come in our modern society and culture to pronouncing our views from a soapbox on a street corner. These rules represent the government’s first foray into regulating online content. And once the government begins to regulate something, it is certain that the regulation will only become more aggressive, wide-reaching and restrictive over time. Even if you accept the FEC’s assertion that the proposed rules will not interfere with bloggers or other Internet content providers (which we do not), there is no guarantee that the FEC or court will not use these rules in the future as a precedent or jumping off point for a much broader regulatory regime in the future. Indeed, based on past experiences, it’s almost certain that someone will do just that.
In addition, with these rules, the FEC is trying to regulate a medium that by its very nature is beyond regulation. The Internet is constantly evolving. Who could have foreseen five years ago that RSS feeds, Moveable Type and other technologies would transform Americans’ ability to announce their views publicly. No one can imagine what the next generation of speech might look like. The FEC’s attempt to regulate the Internet can only end in a patchwork of rules sure to applied haphazardly and unfairly. Some web-publishers will be subject to the rules. Others won’t. But, come election time, everyone will need a lawyer to figure out what they can say and when they can say it.
Most importantly, the FEC’s rules make an even bigger hash of the so-called media exemption. (The exemption provides that media publishers won’t be subject to the speech, content and disclosure regulations in the current campaign finance laws and regulations.) Sure, the FEC concedes that such mainstream web-publication as Slate and Salon will now receive the media exemption. But that conclusion is about five years behind the times. Countless other websites, many with a “staff” of one, are reporting and publishing news and opinion via the web. It’s time for the FEC to recognize this fact and extend the media exemption to a much wider universe of publishers, including bloggers and other web-based media.
The Center’s submission will also address some of the countless other specific problems in the proposed rules.
At this stage, however, we believe it is critical that bloggers and other web publishers begin to once again raise awareness of the proposed rules and make their own voices heard.If you’d like to submit your own comments on the proposed rules to the FEC, you can e-mail them to [email protected]. All comments must be submitted by June 3. One important note: comments to the FEC will only be considered if they include the full name and full address of the person submitting the comments.