The Online Coalition, a collection of bloggers and online activists of all political stripes, has issued our response to the FEC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding political activity on the internet. Here’s a preview of our response:
- We represent groups with very different perspectives on the issues confronting the country and the world. What we share, however, is the belief that open and free-wheeling debate is necessary for democracy to work. We are not interested in seeking short-term advantage by using the government to silence the speech of those who disagree with us. Frankly, we would rather have them speak. Although the issue is nonpartisan, the debate over Internet regulation is a political one that pits elite arbiters of the status quo against individuals and groups who are often new to media. Please remain sensitive to this political dynamic as you consider your choices.
Moreover, you are considering regulating an area where the forms of communication are changing quickly. Much of the public give-and-take on the rulemaking has centered on web logs, or “blogs.” While not to minimize the important role blogs play, we urge that you should be careful that the rule you write, and its explanation, is not so constricted that it lacks application to next year’s (or next decade’s) communication technology. We strongly suggest that you not regulate based on “form” – i.e., blogs, listserves, email, podcasting, text messaging, VoIP – but based on function. In our comments, we hope to clarify this in application.
Finally, your rules should be informed by the regulatory purpose of the Federal Election Campaign Act. Your rule should address corruption, the appearance of corruption, the involvement of foreign nationals, or the use of the corporate or labor forms of organization and their “aggregations of wealth” in ways that drown out the views of others. Your regulatory discretion does not extend to “leveling the playing field,” or to improving the “tone” of debate, or to limiting the amount spent on politics or other similarly “salutary” goals.Media exceptions, dollar limits, etc. – it’s all addressed in the full text version of the response. The Online Colalition reposonse is available as a PDF or in a HTML version.
Michael Bassik and Mike Krempasky both deserve a serious thanks for crafting the response and organizing The Online Coalition, which has nearly 4,000 bloggers signed on.