Patterico's Pontifications


Patterico Supports Exempting the Internet from McCain/Feingold

Filed under: Civil Liberties,General — Patterico @ 10:15 pm

I am inclined to support the new proposed amendment to McCain/Feingold, exempting the Internet from any regulation whatsoever under campaign finance reform laws.

The language is very straightforward:

Paragraph (22) of section 301 of the Federal Election Act of 1971 (2 U.S.C. 431(22)) is amended by adding at the end of the following new sentence: “Such term shall not include communications over the Internet.”

You can’t get much simpler than that.

This is far better than begging the FEC for a media exemption (which I have previously opposed), for two reasons.

First, and most important, it is not squishy. Bloggers can heartily endorse candidates, urge readers to contribute to candidates, and engage in other robust political speech. They need not feel chilled in the slightest by the fear that they are crossing some nebulous line separating “legitimate” bloggers from those whom government deems undeserving of the protection of the media exemption.

Second, the amendment will have the force of law, just as McCain/Feingold does. I would much prefer a Supreme Court ruling or constitutional amendment that makes clear that McCain/Feingold is unconstitutional. But I prefer a statutory change to an effort to effect change through the regulatory process, primarily because changes that occur through the political process have a more permanent feel to them.

When I opposed the online petition that begged the FEC for a media exemption, many criticized my bullheaded stance. With all genuine respect to the many fine people who signed the petition, it was, in my view, a genuinely wrongheaded idea — caving to authority at a time when compromise should not have been an option.

But I have some sympathy with the general principle advocated by those critics: that the perfect is the enemy of the good. For the reasons I have stated, I think that principle applies to the current proposed amendment.

11 Responses to “Patterico Supports Exempting the Internet from McCain/Feingold”

  1. Et tu, Patterice.

    Xrlq (c51d0d)

  2. Not that I oppose the law, mind you. I’m leaning toward supporting it.

    Xrlq (c51d0d)

  3. one too many “of”s

    Kevin Murphy (6a7945)

  4. I don’t understand why the internet should get special treatment.

    actus (0f2616)

  5. I agree. All speech should receive the exemption from McCain/Feingold.

    Patterico (756436)

  6. Rico,

    Last time I read the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, it said that Congress can make NO laws abridging the freedom of speech.

    McCain-Feingold IS A LAW. Amending the law to make it more palatable is simply compounding the problem. What is the problem? That Congress has passed a law abridging the freedom of speech – as a way to ensure that incumbents stay in office.

    Congress cannot be allowed to get away with that – even if it “exempts” those with the loudest voices.

    Sure, Congress is mollifying YOU – and so, of course, you support it when YOU get to have all the free speech YOU want; while OTHERS are limited. Speech for me but not for thee?

    Of course you are for that. Who wouldn’t be?

    Our rights don’t flow forth from the Congress on the one hand defining our rights by limiting them and on the other hand “exempting” certain people or types of speech.

    If we give Congress the power to define the limits of our speech then we have GIVEN UP those rights and deserve the tyranny we will certainly get.

    slim999 (564c96)

  7. The Left Wing Conspiracy
    Even I had no idea how bad it was!

    The View From The Nest (5d7fe1)

  8. I agree with the Internet exemption for now, until people figure out how to grossly abuse it. Imagine allowing unlimited anonymous TV & newsprint ads. Then imagine someone doing that with Internet, on websites people really want to view.

    It sounds like it would be legal to anonymously pay for a 6″x3″ video commercial smearing some joebob congressman, running on the top of,,, wherever. If you demand those organizations disclose who is paying, they can say “this is Internet, we don’t have to”. Even if it is millions.

    The numbers don’t make sense for anyone to pay much money for that now, but soon it will. Like when cable news channels are streaming over Internet and can play different ads than their normal broadcasts. Or when Tivo downloads crap over Internet, and replaces ads with a bunch of videos of Hillary Clinton for Pres.

    Ladainian (91b3b2)

  9. It is a bad law and should be repealed just like Prohibition.

    Rod Stanton (2b2c6d)

  10. The whole issue is that “exempting” means they could also restrict. They don’t have that power. Period. Allowing Congress or the FEC to say they exempt someone simply implies they could, in other circumstances, deny that use.

    In Federalist #84, Alexander Hamilton argued against even having a bill of rights for this very reason. I’d say he was prescient.

    Bunker (92debd)

  11. Here’s EXACTLY what I’m talking about. Over at /. today, I find this gem:

    “Today in the House of Representatives, Congressman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) introduced a companion piece of legislation to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s bill (S.678) to exclude the Internet from the definition of ‘public communication’ in the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002.” If the bill passes, this would free the internet from FEC regulation.”

    Let’s get something straight people. If the bill passes, this would NOT free the internet from FEC regulation. The Bill of Rights guarantees our ability to speak freely on the internet. Nothing Congress can do has the power to either strenghten or weaken this right.

    It is an absolute.

    And yet, just because this is being debated in the Senate, otherwise intelligent people begin to believe the Senate has the power to make internet speech “unrestricted.”

    Here’s a thought: What if the bill does NOT pass. Does this mean the FEC has the power to regulate internet speech?

    Of course not. Because our right of free speech does not FLOW FROM the what our esteemed Senators do. It’s guaranteed to us in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

    slim999 (564c96)

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