Support the Online Coalition and Free Speech

Should Maureen Dowd have the right to more political speech than I?  Should George Will enjoy more rights than you?

I signed the petition from the Online Coalition opposing speech limits in the blogosphere.

We are concerned about the potential impact that Judge Colleen
Kollar-Kotelly's decision in the U.S. District Court for the District
of Columbia in Shays v. FEC, 337 F. Supp. 2d 28 (D.D.C. 2004) and the
FEC's upcoming rulemaking process may have on political communication
on the Internet.

One area of great concern is the potential regulation of bloggers
and other online journalists who distribute political news and
commentary exclusively over the web. While paid political advertising
on the Internet should remain subject to FEC rules and regulations,
curtailing blogs and other online publications will dampen the impact
of new voices in the political process and will do a disservice to the
millions of voters who rely on the web for original, insightful
political commentary.

Under the current rules, "any news story, commentary, or editorial
distributed through the facilities of any broadcasting station,
newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication," is exempt from
reporting and coordination requirements. It is not clear, however, that
the FEC's "media exemption" provides sufficient protection for those of
us in the online journalism community.

As bipartisan members of the online journalism, blogging, and
advertising community, we ask that you grant blogs and online
publications the same consideration and protection as broadcast media,
newspapers, or periodicals by clearly including them under the Federal
Election Commission's "media exemption" rule.

I have always been opposed to McCain-Feingold's limitations on political speech, so my objection to current law goes beyond just extending the media exemption to blogs.  I support a broader extension of the media exemption from political speech restrictions to -- call me crazy -- all citizens, something I thought the First Amendment took care of but I guess we have to fight for again.  Actually, what might be more useful is to fight for an elimination of the media exemption altogether - this would likely raise such a howl from the media that McCain-Feingold (also known as the incumbent and MSM protection act) would soon be overturned.



  1. JohnathanRGalt:

    The First Amendment simply says that: "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press ..."

    McCain-Feingold certainly violates that.

    However, the First Amendment doesn't give journalists, online or in print, any special privledges. Where in the Constitution is it written that journalist sources are to be protected or that journalists have special rights to incite to murder?

  2. Ben DoubleCrossed:

    There Are No 'Federal' Elections
    By Ben DoubleCrossed

    Please encourage your Congressman to co-sponsor Representative Roscoe Bartlett's “First Amendment Restoration Act” — HR 46.

    There are no 'Federal' elections, only elections for federal office held in the states. The Federal Election Commission is not the solution to corruption in Federal Politics ... it is the corruption of Federal Politics!

    Ask yourself the question: who is better suited to regulating federal politicians, federal politicians or state politicians and the people? The founding fathers delegated authority for holding and regulating elections to the states and the people:

    Amendment 10 - Powers of the States and People
    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people

    The Federal Election Commission's claim to jurisdiction over 'Federal' elections is both constitutionally and historically bogus. There are no 'Federal' elections, only elections for federal offices held in the various states.

    If you visit the Federal Election Commission on the internet (, you will find under the title "Historical Background" the Federal Campaign Reform Act was not written until 1971. The FEC opened its doors in 1975 and administered the first publicly funded Presidential election in 1976.

    Allowing federal politicians to write the laws regulating how they are elected is equivalent to ‘please massah don’t beat me anymore’. The Constitution was not amended to grant the federal government authority to regulate state held elections? Federal politicians ignored the lawful amendment process because they knew the states and the people would not approve!

    Corruption Breeds Corruption: FECA Crowns the Royal Press

    Following reports of serious financial abuses in the 1972 Presidential campaign, Congress amended the FECA in 1974 to set limits on contributions by individuals, political parties and PACs.

    The following serious abuse was not reported because the 4th estate was the abuser.

    Some of our nation’s largest newspapers found themselves in federal court loosing antitrust suits which accused them of purchasing financially troubled newspapers and then pretending to compete with them while rigging prices.

    The Newspaper Preservation Act was working its way through congress and was designed to grant antitrust relief to the affected newspapers. Richard Nixon and his, Attorney General, were on record as strongly opposed to the passage of the Newspaper Preservation Act.

    A newspaper executive wrote a letter to President Nixon as his re-election approached. The letter reminded President Nixon that the nation’s largest Newspaper chains published in those states that had the largest number of electoral votes. The carefully worded letter reminded President Nixon that it could be difficult to be re-elected without their editorial support.

    President Nixon reversed his position and used his political skills to convince congress to pass the Newspaper Preservation Act.

    [See pgs.95-99] The Media Monopoly 5th edition paperback by Professor Ben HBagdikian.

    The newly minted campaign laws should have castigated the 4th estate as well as Nixon? Instead the Federal Election Campaign Reform Act exempted them and created the ‘Royal Corporate Press’:

    The following reference to the Press Exemption is excerpted from a letter by Senator Mitch McConnell

    Section 431(9)(B)(i) makes a distinction where there is no real difference: the media is extremely powerful by any measure, a "special interest" by any definition, and heavily engaged in the "issue advocacy" and "independent expenditure" realms of political persuasion that most editorial boards find so objectionable when anyone other than a media outlet engages in it. To illustrate the absurdity of this special exemption the media enjoys, I frequently cite as an example the fact that if the RNC bought NBC from GE the FEC would regulate the evening news and, under the McCain-Feingold "reform" bill, Tom Brokaw could not mention a candidate 60 days before an election. This is patently absurd.

    Had the Senate debate on the McCain-Feingold bill advanced to the point of amendments, among the first I offered would have been one to delete section 431(9)(B)(i). Whenever the opportunity presents itself in the future, I look forward to doing just that. I believe it would be an enlightening discussion. Indeed, the issue was frequently raised during the floor debates in 1997 and 1998 and helped to crystallize for Senators and the C-SPAN viewing audience that the campaign finance debate is, indeed, a discussion of core constitutional freedom." Excerpt from Mitch McConnell’s July 8, 1998 letter to his constituent Richard Lewis. -

    And Gags We the People

    Amendment 1
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    What part of Congress Shall Pass no law does Congress not understand? And what about rights granted to citizens by State Constitutions:

    Kentucky Constitution, Section 8
    Freedom of speech and of the press.
    Printing presses shall be free to every person who undertakes to examine the proceedings of the General Assembly or any branch of government, and no law shall ever be made to restrain the right thereof. Every person may freely and fully speak, write and print on any subject, being responsible for the abuse of that liberty.
    Text as Ratified on: August 3, 1891, and revised September 28, 1891.
    History: Not yet amended.

    Until the "corporate press" exemption is addressed, the ombudsman at the newspaper office acts as the gatekeeper of free political speech. If the newspaper prints your political comments about an issue or candidate, your advocacy may reach a circulation of hundreds of thousands and you enjoy the same exemption from campaign finance spending limits and reporting requirements as the New York Times.

    Ink by the Barrel trumps ink by the bottle

    If the newspaper rejects your article and you decide to deliver your message door to door via handbills, you need to visit the Federal Election Commission and familiarize yourself with terms like: political action committee, independent Vs in-Kind donations, issue Vs express advocacy, spending limits, reporting intervals and coordination with a candidate’s campaign. If that isn't daunting enough to discourage you from participating, remember failure to comply with Campaign Finance Laws is a felony.

    A newspaper may endorse a candidate and reprint his platform daily, but an individual or grassroots organization doing so may be limited in how much can be spent. To compete with the circulation of a newspaper individuals or organizations must make ‘Independent Expenditures’.

    As subscribers to a newspaper we expect columnists to interview a candidate prior to publishing an editorial. But if a citizen or grassroots organization interviews a candidate before publishing and distributing handbills promoting that candidate, they have committed "coordination" and the total amount they can spend in a campaign is limited.

    At 2 cents per handbill, individuals or grassroots organizations reach campaign spending limits after reaching a small fraction of the circulation of many newspapers. And so I ask, since no matter how fast I walk handbills cannot compete with newspapers or broadcasters, why are grassroots efforts regulated while corporate media are not?

    Every man is equally entitled to protection by law; but when the laws undertake to add... artificial distinctions, to grant titles, gratuities, and exclusive privileges, to make the rich richer and the potent more powerful, the humble members of society--the farmers, mechanics, and laborers--who have neither the time nor the means of securing like favors to themselves, have a right to complain of the injustice of their government. (President Andrew Jackson, veto of national bank bill, July 10, 1832).

    Campaign finance laws restrict grassroots influence and that protects the political interest of approximately 4% of our U.S. population, who finance federal election campaigns. [the 4% figure is from a government study]

    FECA’s Mission is Confused, Misinformed and Unnecessary

    The 1974 amendments also established an independent agency, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to enforce the law, facilitate disclosure and administer the public funding program. Congress made further amendments to the FECA in 1976 following a constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court case Buckley v. Valero; major amendments were also made in 1979 to streamline the disclosure process and expand the role of political parties.

    The next set of major amendments came in the form of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA). Among other things, the BCRA banned national parties from raising or spending nonfederal funds (often called “soft money”), restricted so-called issue ads, increased the contribution limits and indexed certain limits for inflation.

    Can someone explain to me how the two statements in red above, from the FEC website, jibe? How does the latter serve to expand the role of political parties?

    The Press Exemption:
    2 USC 431 (9) (B) The term "expenditure" does not include -
    (i) any news story, commentary, or editorial distributed
    through the facilities of any broadcasting station, newspaper,
    magazine, or other periodical publication, unless such facilities
    are owned or controlled by any political party, political
    committee, or candidate;

    During the 40s and early 50s Louisville, Kentucky, where I grew up, was typical of many communities across the nation. Louisville had a Democratic and a Republican newspaper and that was how the parties made war with each other over issues and attempted to woo voters. How is it that using newspapers to promote political views of like minded readership fallen out of vogue and become a practice that needs oversight of a Federal Censor?

    What do all these rule about how much money can be spent communicating political ideas about issues and candidates protect the public from .. exercise of 1st Amendment freedoms, the ability to make an informed choice, the election of new leadership with fresh 'people first' ideas?

    The Newspaper Exemption is bogus and must be repealed. If a politician must pay newspapers and broadcasters to carry his ads how can positive or negative editorials by those same media outlets not have value? Newspapers and Radio and Television Broadcasters are corporations and dependent on advertising revenue from the same special interests that campaign reforms are supposedly written to protect the public from.

    Does anyone remember the "New Coke" advertisement campaign? Despite spending millions it failed, because people did not like "New Coke". National politics should be free to all competing ideas and groups according to their means. A well written handbill can trump a million dollar campaign and that is why grassroots are gagged and the corporate press is exempt!

    Prior to the Federal Campaign Act American citizens did not need to ask anyone permission to participate in politics and that was what the 1st Amendment intended.

    Since the passage of the Federal Campaign Reform Act the percentage of incumbent federal politicians has reached the all time high of 95-98%. That is a higher percentage than politburo members were reelected in cold war Russia. Federal Campaign laws written by our federal employees are incumbent protection acts. Federal campaign laws have not leveled the playing field and made it easier for challengers or independent parties (although 1/3rd of Americans are no registered as Independents).
    Now the Cancer of Censorship is Spreading to the Web
    and we must
    Fight Tyranny with Keystrokes

    The Federal Election Commission will consider rulemaking to apply the Bipartisan Campaign Act to politics on the web sometime in March 2005. An FEC employee told me there will be a press release on March 17th or 24th. According to articles on Zdnet and Worldnet Daily, proposed regulations may require blog posters to register with the FEC, report expenditures at regular intervals, assign a value to hyperlinks and set contribution limits.

    Do you want to familiarize yourself with terms like: political action committee (PAC), independent vs in-Kind donations, issue vs express advocacy, spending limits, reporting intervals and coordination with a candidate’s campaign, before engaging in political discussion on the web? And remember failure to comply with campaign finance laws is a felony!

    This is America’s last chance to keep a vestige of freedom of speech, press and assembly once guaranteed by the 1st Amendment. Public input will be accepted via email, fax and snail mail so watch for your opportunity. In the interim, write your Congressmen,, and Senators, , and demand legislation to exempt the internet!

  3. Ben DoubleCrossed:

    I read on RedState that the FEC is scheduled to begin reviewing how to apply BCRA to the internet this Thursday - March 24, 2005

    I believe the FEC is required to accept public input .. get those missiles .. uhh missives ready!