Eugene Volokh reports on a “media exemption” to regulation of speech in the name of campaign finance reform, in Washington State. Apparently the “media exemption” applies to talk radio hosts — but it may not apply to you and me:
[T]he Washington Supreme Court just confirmed that radio talk show hosts’ advocacy of a ballot measure is not regulated as a campaign “contribution” under Washington state law, because the advocacy is exempted by the “media exemption,” which excludes
A news item, feature, commentary, or editorial in a regularly scheduled news medium that is of primary interest to the general public, that is in a news medium controlled by a person whose business is that news medium, and that is not controlled by a candidate or a political committee ….
But what if a part-time but very popular blogger (think of the PowerLine people, for instance) advocates for a ballot measure? Uh-oh — the media exemption only covers media “controlled by a person whose business is that news medium.” . . . [I]f it’s a part-time sideline for the blogger (assume it’s a solo blog, just for the sake of simplicity), it doesn’t sound quite accurate to say that the blogger’s “business is that news medium.” . . . .
The blog posts supporting the ballot measure may thus have to be reported as contributions. What’s more, state law would limit them to $5,000 worth of help (whatever that means for a blog) “within 21 days prior to [the] election.”
So too bad for you, concerned citizen: Unless your “business is [a] news medium,” you’re regulated. The established, professional media are of course exempt; but, no, not you.
In my view, political speech is speech at the core of the First Amendment. Neither the FEC nor any other government agency has any right to regulate it in any way. When my right to engage in such speech is threatened, my impulse is not to seek out a law carving out some exception for my speech. My impulse is to tell those responsible that they can go to hell.
At the risk of being tagged as someone who goes around saying “I told you so” . . . I told you so. The situation in Washington State well illustrates the total insanity of trying to protect our First Amendment rights by cravenly seeking media exemptions.
The First Amendment isn’t just for the media. It’s for everyone. If someone ever tries to get you to support a “media exemption” to any regulation of speech, tell them they’ll have to pry your keyboard from your cold, dead hands.