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Democrats Defeat Online Freedom of Speech Act in the House

Old 11-03-05, 09:24 AM
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Democrats Defeat Online Freedom of Speech Act in the House

http://powerlineblog.com/archives/012135.php

Apparently the Online Freedom of Speech Act failed to pass in the House of Representatives tonight. I infer this from a statement we got a few minutes ago from Minnesota Congressman Mark Kennedy, a leading proponent of free speech, including free speech on the web. Mark writes:

I'm horribly disappointed that this important measure failed to pass. This bill was designed to protect the free speech rights of Americans whose only alleged crime is wanting to use the Internet to express their opinions.

I disagree with the mainstream media elites who seem to think that an unregulated media is dangerous, unless it is them who are being regulated. What is disturbing and dangerous to me, and to the constituents I represent, is the ease with which so many advocate government regulation of speech.

Bloggers are everyday citizens. They are our neighbors, friends, and coworkers who want to be able to share their ideas without asking permission from a gatekeeper in the mainstream media and certainly not from a government official. They are the historical descendants of Founding Fathers like Thomas Paine and other pamphleteers who contributed enormously to our democracy.

We are trying to spread a message of hope, opportunity, and freedom around the world. I supported this legislation so that we don't lose the ability to have that message shared among the American people, and I am frankly disappointed that a majority of Members don't see it that way.
Mark Kennedy is staking out a position as one of the leading advocates of free speech in America today. What is happening here is that certain people--the editorial board of the New York Times, the Democrats on the Federal Election Commission--are trying to put sites like this one out of business. Frankly, I haven't followed the progress of the Online Freedom of Speech Act closely because I thought the idea that the FEC would try to shut down political discussion on the web was ridiculous. It appears that we have to take the threat to our First Amendment rights more seriously.

UPDATE: Our friend Joshua Sharf sends this link to the roll call vote. As Joshua notes, the vote was on a motion to suspend the rules and adopt the bill, which required a 2/3 majority. The measure had a 225-182 vote, which suggests that it could yet pass. I don't pretend to be an expert on the House rules, so we will continue to follow this story as it develops. The vote indicates which party favors free speech; the Republicans voted in favor, 179 to 38, while the Democrats opposed the measure, 143 to 46. A stark contrast. We will try to track down some of our friends in the House and find out the story behind the vote.

UPDATE: Patriot Blog has more on the bill's background.

Posted by John at 08:12 PM | Permalink
http://www.patriotblog.com/post/inde...ks-Rep-Kennedy

Background on the Online Freedom of Speech Act:

· When Congress passed the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act in 2002, it listed several types of public communications (such as mailings and billboards) which the FEC should regulate. The Internet was not included in the list.

· The FEC was directed by law to write several regulations pertaining to the bill, and logically interpreted that public communications rules did not apply to the Internet.

· A federal court struck down that rule earlier this year and instructed the FEC to regulate the Internet. The new rulemaking is currently underway.

· Other rules, such as for official campaign activity, will still apply. Campaigns must report all of their spending, including the use of their staff and production of materials. This is just as true for spending done on the Internet. For instance, when campaign staffers produce a video for the Internet, it is already regulated.

· Regulation would be an enforcement nightmare since the Internet is so immense and diverse. Websites also change quickly, further complicating regulation.

Why the Act is Necessary:

* There are a few thousand political blogs, with millions of viewers. Blog definitions are fluid, and anyone can set up a free, largely unregulated blog on the Internet.

* The Internet enables people to participate in the political process extremely cheaply. Blogs attract a lot of first-timers to the political process, as well as politically active individuals who lack the funding to buy ads in the media.

* Compelling content determines how many people follow a blog. In other words, demand more so than funding increases the exposure and success of bloggers.

* FEC regulation of the Internet would impose arbitrary definitions on blogs and other web content. Since bloggers would fear being sued, regulation would deter participation.

* Independent bloggers push the dialogue beyond what campaigns might want voters to know. This is good for the electoral process and good for democracy.

* FEC regulation will mean bloggers need lawyers. But only the wealthy can afford them - therefore regulating the Internet stifles free speech and limits what the voting public knows on election day.

* Since its creation, the government has never regulated lawful, non-commercial activities on the Internet. Forcing bloggers to pass a government-imposed litmus test for what they could otherwise legally say while not a computer is the first step in a slippery slope towards ending freedom on the Internet as we know it.

Check out this editorial in the Washington Times about this great bill:
http://www.washtimes.com/op-ed/20051...2709-1577r.htm
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Old 11-03-05, 09:29 AM
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<-- Disappointed as well. Kennedy's a good dude. I've seen him in person a couple times and he is very vocal about this issue.
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Old 11-03-05, 09:32 AM
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Roll Call On This Vote

Roll Call - Blogs and the FEC

Here’s the roll call on that House bill to exclude blogs and e-mails and such from regulation by the FEC under McCain-Feingold:

179 (77%) = Republicans in favor of excluding the Internet from FEC regulation.

46 (23%) = Democrats in favor thereof.

* * *

143 (71%) = Democrats who voted not to exclude the Internet from FEC regulation.

38 (16%) = Republicans who so voted.

Totals: 225-182-26, in favor.
http://polipundit.com/index.php?p=11012

This FEC regulation is a very, very dangerous thing to the freedom of political speech on the internet - especially blogs. Put pressure on your Congressman, of either party, if they didn't vote for this bill. Let's take the First Amendment seriously...
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Old 11-03-05, 10:10 AM
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Is it realistic to think that Campaign Finance Laws would go after DVD Polizei's blog about political idiots. Hmmmm. I'm still reading this, so I don't have an opinion either way at the moment.
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Old 11-03-05, 10:15 AM
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I'm still trying to wrap my head around whet they're trying to do - don't FEC regulations/McCain-Feingold apply to campaign finacning? So this doesn't mean that bloggers can't say what they want, just that any payment to them might be regulated. What am I missing?
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Old 11-03-05, 10:41 AM
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It's much worse than that:

Here's what Bradley Smith, FEC Commissioner, has said about court-ordered FEC internet regulation:

In just a few months, he warns, bloggers and news organizations could risk the wrath of the federal government if they improperly link to a campaign's Web site. Even forwarding a political candidate's press release to a mailing list, depending on the details, could be punished by fines.
and

"In theory, there's no reason why everything that goes on a blog advocating a candidate wouldn't be an independent expenditure and subject to regulation," Mr. Smith said.
They are also talking about "successful" bloggers who advocate for a candidate during an election year as being like a TV ad - and subject to regulation. So if Captaian Ed and Captains Quarters makes a Pro-Bush quote, then that is considered an "in kind political donation" - and worth whatever that "advertising" would be worth on a newspaper with similar circulation.

So just a few posts and Captain Ed would reach his contribution limit, to what his posts are "worth" to a Candidate, and then risk being fined or shut down if he continued.

Notice that actual newspaper editorials are immune from this insanity - they are treating independent bloggers differently.

It simply boils down to the newspaper elite and beauocrats trying to protect their own jobs by limiting speech they don't like.
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Old 11-03-05, 10:49 AM
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You might ought to check the reason(s) the measure was defeated. A substantial part of it was procedural. The Repubs, as usual, didn't follow the usual procedure.

Barney Frank & others, in favor of the legislation, voted against the measure because it's the weapon they can use to counter what has become almost gestapo-like (o.k., I'm exagerrating a little) tactics of the Republican leadership in the House.
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Old 11-03-05, 11:20 AM
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The measure was brought to floor of the House under suspension of the rules - requires 2/3 vote to pass. Non-controversial measures are brought to the floor under suspension of the rules. This is a controversial measure - the Republican leadership was informed of that fact.

The Rules Committee did not act on the measure. 20 minutes was given for debate. Since the Rules Committee didn't act, no amendments were allowed - not even a motion to recommit.

This is why it failed. Any congressman who believes in some measure of fairness in the House would have voted against it.
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Old 11-03-05, 11:28 AM
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Uh cman, this shouldn't be controversial in the slightest.

jmho...
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Old 11-03-05, 11:32 AM
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I'm glad you admit that's it only your opinion.

Approximately 54 members of your own party don't seem to agree with you either.
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Old 11-03-05, 11:38 AM
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Yes, well there is a hurry. The new rules are to be set by the end of this year. So the formal procedure will take too long.

I hope you like that tape on your mouth in Oct/Nov 2006
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Old 11-03-05, 11:43 AM
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Originally Posted by mosquitobite
Yes, well there is a hurry. The new rules are to be set by the end of this year. So the formal procedure will take too long.

I hope you like that tape on your mouth in Oct/Nov 2006
All that is required is to follow the rules & procedures. The sub-committee, maybe the full committee has acted - I'm not certain about the full committee. If so, send it to the Rules Committe and let them do their work as prescribed by the rules of the House. They can have a closed rule (no amendments) if a majority of the committee so chooses. One motion to recommit will be allowed, and the measure will go to the floor for debate - length dictated by the Rules Committee. This all can be done to 2-3 days.
BTW: Then only a simple majority is required for passage.
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Old 11-03-05, 01:08 PM
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The Democrats can't defeat shit in the house. The Republicans have control. All they did was prevent a normal vote on the bill. Oh noes! The rules must be followed!!!1111!1oneoneone!
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Old 11-03-05, 01:27 PM
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I think this is being way blown out of the water.

How was this handled before the net?

Newspaper ads, magazines, public service stations with local political people pushing their own agendas, billboards, etc.

The internet IS public communication. To say it is not, and that it should be exempt, is being a fool. Some people are simply trying to get around this to avoid FECA laws.

And let's just look at the definition shall we:

Public communication. The term ‘public communication’
means a communication by means of any broadcast, cable, or satellite
communication, newspaper, magazine, outdoor advertising facility,
mass mailing, or telephone bank to the general


To exempt the internet would be more dangerous. Why? Because you're basically saying the internet is NOT a form of public communication, and that my friends can come back and bite so hard in the ass you'll be very sorry you voted for this exemption.
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Old 11-03-05, 02:42 PM
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Originally Posted by natesfortune
Notice that actual newspaper editorials are immune from this insanity - they are treating independent bloggers differently.

It simply boils down to the newspaper elite and beauocrats trying to protect their own jobs by limiting speech they don't like.
Exactly.
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Old 11-03-05, 02:48 PM
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[edited and retracted move along. nothing to see.]

Last edited by CRM114; 11-03-05 at 05:20 PM.
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Old 11-03-05, 02:49 PM
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Originally Posted by CRM114
What's with the thread title? This is getting ridiculous. Can't a mod do something about this? Oh, that's right, all the mods are right wing supporters.

Give me a friggin' break. A stark contrast?
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Old 11-03-05, 03:01 PM
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In the real world, campaign finance reform is censorship of political speech:

http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=85000727

This past fall I received a call from a professor at my former law school. Students at the school had started a group called Law Students for Bush-Cheney, and he was their faculty adviser. "That's great," I told him. "Don't spend more than $250, or you'll have to register as a political committee with the Federal Election Commission and start filing detailed reports." Unsurprisingly, the group didn't do much after that.

--------

http://www.cato.org/dailys/05-08-01.html

Calling the NAACP a “special interest,” McCain told “Hardball” host Chris Matthews that his new law would have prevented the NAACP’s independent ad campaign during the 2000 election. Implicitly, McCain was saying that his new law would keep the NAACP – and many other groups – off the air in 2004 and beyond.
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Old 11-03-05, 03:36 PM
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Originally Posted by CRM114
What's with the thread title? This is getting ridiculous. Can't a mod do something about this? Oh, that's right, all the mods are right wing supporters.

Anyway:



Give me a friggin' break. A stark contrast?
It was the title of the post I posted here - I didn't create the title.

And its accurate. The Bill went down to a defeat because Democrats overwhelmingly voted against it. Republicans overwhelmingly voted in favor of keeping speech on the internet free from political regulation.

Aren't proud of your party? Then call your Congressman. Don't concentrate your efforts on a thread title that simply reported an actual event.

And yes, it IS a "stark contrast". What else can you call it? Most Republicans supported it - most Democrats opposed it. That IS a "stark contrast".
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Old 11-03-05, 03:38 PM
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Yes - and what was that whole thing about...

"Congress shall make no law..."

Well what the hell? Isn't the campaign finance restrictions on political speech "congress making a law?"

I know the Supreme Court said otherwise, but they were clearly wrong - Congress "made a law" abridging speech, in clear violation of the Constitution.

All the more reason why Conservative jurists are imperative.
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Old 11-03-05, 03:44 PM
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Originally Posted by natesfortune
It was the title of the post I posted here - I didn't create the title.

And its accurate. The Bill went down to a defeat because Democrats overwhelmingly voted against it. Republicans overwhelmingly voted in favor of keeping speech on the internet free from political regulation.

Aren't proud of your party? Then call your Congressman. Don't concentrate your efforts on a thread title that simply reported an actual event.

And yes, it IS a "stark contrast". What else can you call it? Most Republicans supported it - most Democrats opposed it. That IS a "stark contrast".
Sorry. I misread the vote. I'm with you.
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Old 11-03-05, 03:45 PM
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And C-Man - this couldn't go through the process. It'd obviously take longer than 2-3 days, and this censorship could happen at any time. It is an emergency situation to all those who love free speech - but I guess you care more about the stately House rules than the First Amendment.

March 03, 2005
McCain-Feingold May Shut Down CQ

I have long railed against the back-door First Amendment violations of the McCain-Feingold Act, which purports to reform campaign financing but in reality acts to criminalize political speech. Now Federal Election Commissioner Bradley Smith explains exactly how MFA could mean the end of political blogging, as we get intimidated by the massive legal requirements that MFA might impose on CQ and other sites:

Bradley Smith says that the freewheeling days of political blogging and online punditry are over.

In just a few months, he warns, bloggers and news organizations could risk the wrath of the federal government if they improperly link to a campaign's Web site. Even forwarding a political candidate's press release to a mailing list, depending on the details, could be punished by fines.

Smith should know. He's one of the six commissioners at the Federal Election Commission, which is beginning the perilous process of extending a controversial 2002 campaign finance law to the Internet.
Most of this interview will have CQ readers shaking their head. The FEC, thanks to a John McCain lawsuit, will have to calculate the value of a link on a political website in order to determine whether the owner has overdonated to a campaign -- in other words, committed a felony. Bigger blogs will come under closer scrutiny, which means that any expression of support on CQ with a referential hyperlink may well get valued at more than the $2,000 maximum hard-cash contribution.

In order for me to operate under those conditions, I will need to hire a lawyer and an accountant to guide me through the election laws and calculate my in-kind donations on almost an hourly basis. How many bloggers will put up with that kind of hassle just to speak their minds about candidates and issues? John McCain and Russ Feingold have effectively created an American bureaucracy dedicated to stamping out independent political speech, and the courts have abdicated all reason in declaring it constitutional.


Please contact your representative or Senator in Congress to get this terrible infringement on free political speech reversed. When the American government threatens to prosecute people for simply speaking their minds, we have truly lost our way. Shame on McCain and Feingold for this treachery, shame on George Bush for signing the bill, and shame on the Supreme Court for not stopping it when it had the chance. (via Michelle Malkin, who has lots of links.)

UPDATE: McCain and Feingold have managed to foster real bipartisanship -- they've gotten liberal and conservative bloggers alike to detest them. Jerome Armstrong at MyDD, Atrios, and DailyKos all agree -- this legislation has become a serious threat to political speech, and John McCain and Russ Feingold have become two of the most dangerous politicians to American liberty since Huey Long. Jerome makes the point that the problem at the moment are the three Democratic FEC commissioners who appear intent on enforcing the law as McCain and Feingold insist, but both parties had a hand in creating this fiasco. Both should work to eliminate it and tell John McCain and Russ Feingold to shut the hell up -- and see how they like it.
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Old 11-03-05, 03:46 PM
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Originally Posted by CRM114
Sorry. I misread the vote. I'm with you.
Good. I figured you would be.

Even KOS and other left-wing bloggers are for this measure. They(and I) don't want their speech any more limited than those on the right want people to stop them from speaking their minds.
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Old 11-03-05, 03:48 PM
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I totally agree that these shouldn't be regulated.

But do we really need a legistlative act here?

Shouldn't the court ruling be appealed to the Supreme Court and they can strike it down? And in the odd even they upheld the decision, then the legislature makes new laws?

Seems like we just had a bad court ruling that needs overturned. Not sure we need new laws.
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Old 11-03-05, 03:50 PM
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The Supreme Court wouldn't take it - they've already ruled on this law, and probably wouldn't take this case, I wouldn't think.

That's why we need to make a law.s

The liberals on the Supreme Court upheld this clear violation of our free speech. Now, as Scalia predicted - it's spreading to places like individual web logs on the internet.
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