Patterico's Pontifications


FEC Threatens to Regulate Blogs Again: Time to Revive the Patterico Free Speech Pledge

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:33 am

Back in 2005, the FEC made a stab at regulating the Internet. There was a wide movement among bloggers to get a “media exemption” written into the law for blogs. A petition circulated demanding such a “media exemption.” I refused to sign it, for several reasons.* The main reason was that, I contended, “asking the FEC for a media exemption is nothing more than asking our masters for permission to speak.” As I said in 2005: “We shouldn’t have to do it. And I’m not going to.”

Instead, I challenged the Internet to join me in making a simple pledge:

If the FEC makes rules that limit my First Amendment right to express my opinion on core political issues, I will not obey those rules.

Basically, my plan was to keep on keeping on:

Quite simply, I intend to go on blogging like I did before. Regardless of whether the FEC promulgates rules for political speech on the Internet, I plan to express my opinions just as I did before. If I need to link to a politician’s campaign web site in order to make my point, I’m going to do so. If I decide to endorse a candidate, I will. If I think my readers should send that candidate money, I will encourage them to do so.

I’ll do this during the next congressional election, and during the next presidential election. I will engage in this core political speech whenever I feel like it. And I will not change my behavior in the slightest, regardless of any FEC regulations.

For example, if the FEC warns me that one more link to a certain politician’s web site will not be permitted, but that link is necessary for me to make my point, I am going to include that link.

I am not going to sign any petitions asking for government’s permission to do this, and I am not going to seek out media credentials to obtain special permission to do this.

If we actually reach the point where my engaging in such core political speech might subject me to arrest — something I believed unthinkable before the BCRA was upheld by our spineless Supreme Court — then I’ll make sure that television cameras are there to watch the authorities slap on the cuffs. Let the authorities prosecute someone for telling the world that someone should or should not be President.

Literally dozens of blogs took me up on what I ended up calling the “Patterico Free Speech Pledge.”

In 2006, the FEC decided to exempt blogs (and essentially the entire Internet) from FEC regulation. But government still claimed the authority to regulate political speech on the Internet. It just decided it wasn’t going to exercise that authority . . . yet.

It’s 2014, and times have changed. The Web site with the online petition seeking a media exemption for bloggers now hosts a petition about e-cigarettes. And yet, government’s tendency to engage in overreaching remains the same. Noah Rothman reports that the FEC is once again trying to regulate blogging:

[O]ver at the Federal Election Commission, the regulation of political speech that takes place on the internet is back on the table.

In October, then FEC Vice Chairwoman Ann M. Ravel promised that she would renew a push to regulate online political speech following a deadlocked commission vote that would have subjected political videos and blog posts to the reporting and disclosure requirements placed on political advertisers who broadcast on television. On Wednesday, she will begin to make good on that promise.

“Some of my colleagues seem to believe that the same political message that would require disclosure if run on television should be categorically exempt from the same requirements when placed in the Internet alone,” Ravel said in an October statement. “As a matter of policy, this simply does not make sense.”

“In the past, the Commission has specifically exempted certain types of Internet communications from campaign finance regulations,” she lamented. “In doing so, the Commission turned a blind eye to the Internet’s growing force in the political arena.”

On Wednesday, the FEC will hold a public hearing on a variety of rules that are subject to amendment so that they can comport with the Supreme Court’s ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC. On that docket will be issues relating to disclosure requirements, earmarking, and a variety of other rules. But the FEC will also hear comments regarding now FEC Chairwoman Ravel’s preference that the commission revisit a 2006 rule that exempts blogs and other online political speech from regulation.

Note that this is taking place at the same time the FCC is trying to get its grubby paws on the Internet by appealing to the dopes in the population through so-called “Net Neutrality.”

FEC regulation of Internet speech literally means that the government could tell you to stop blogging or commenting in support of a presidential candidate. Your comment in support of Ted Cruz is like spending money to support Ted Cruz, goes the argument. Your comment is worth x dollars, you see, and you’re allowed only y dollars this election cycle.

They may not go that far down the road. Maybe they’ll “only” require you to fill out a disclosure form each time you comment. Why, certainly, sir, you may have your free speech. All we ask is that your criticism of Hillary Clinton’s latest lie be disclosed as a contribution to Ted Cruz. Each time you leave a comment, simply fill out Form DS 27 b-6. Don’t forget to fill out all five pages and sign under penalty of perjury on page six! Please remember that a separate 27 b stroke 6 form will be required for each comment critical of Ms. Clinton.

No. We cannot tolerate anything close to this.

It’s time to resurrect the Patterico Free Speech pledge:

If the FEC makes rules that limit my First Amendment right to express my opinion on core political issues, I will not obey those rules.

Please: don’t be a fair-weather friend of free speech. I know only too well how people like to talk big, but turn tail and run when things get tough. Take the pledge only if you really mean it.

Who’s with me?

49 Responses to “FEC Threatens to Regulate Blogs Again: Time to Revive the Patterico Free Speech Pledge”

  1. Ding.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  2. To quote Luke Skywalker in Return of the Jedi: “I’m with you to!”

    Michael Spangler (b5160c)

  3. We shouldn’t have to take a pledge, or risk our freedoms or livelihoods, to speak about politics.

    DRJ (e80d46)

  4. We shouldn’t have to take a pledge, or risk our freedoms or livelihoods, to speak about politics.

    You’re absolutely right.

    But we may have to.

    I don’t think most people realize how insidious this really is.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  5. If the FEC makes rules that limit my First Amendment right to express my opinion on core political issues, I will not obey those rules.

    Levi Monagle (f9a067)

  6. i don’t wanna comment about politics and stuff if I’m gonna get in trouble

    we can talk about stuff like whether brucella kardashian needs butt implants

    happyfeet (a037ad)

  7. i think he should go for it

    he has to sing his truth

    happyfeet (a037ad)

  8. *she* has to sing *her* truth i mean

    happyfeet (a037ad)

  9. I’m with you, but I’m a terrible blogger and no one reads anything I write =)

    Dejectedhead (4bfcf6)

  10. Well, I have not actively blogged since my tenure at Sgt. Styker (aka, the Daily Brief), but I actively express my views on FB. I’m solid with the pledge.

    Lawrence Rupert (3e74e4)

  11. Not only am I with you, but should this come to pass I will restart my blog to get in harm’s way.

    Kevin M (25bbee)

  12. Can we gather at the Washington Monument?

    mg (31009b)

  13. In Israel there’s an effor to say that an entire newspaper is nothing but a political contribution to Benjamin netanyahu – and it should stop publication for the duration of the election, or paid for by Likud.

    (the excuse being, it is not profitable, and/or it is free, and is notoriously pro-Netanyahu. It is owned by Sheldon Adelson)

    It only happens to be the newspaper with the greatest circulation in the country.

    See also:

    But Adelson, who declined to be interviewed for this article, has scoffed at the notion that the paper’s coverage is biased. “Everybody thinks I started the newspaper purely to benefit Bibi,” he said in a 2009 interview. “Nothing could be further from the truth. I started the newspaper to give Israel, Israelis, a fair and balanced view of the news and the views. That’s all. It is not a ‘Bibiton.’” Using similar language in 2013, he said, “What you read in our newspaper is a fair and balanced viewpoint not only about Bibi but about everyone.”

    Meanwhile Netanyahu accuses its competitor, the one most on danger ffrom it, of always running “slander” against him.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  14. Since the ruling would include comments as well as blog posts, I will not give up my first amendment rights and I will continue to comment on political matters.

    Tanny O'Haley (c674c7)

  15. Note that this is taking place at the same time the FCC is trying to get its grubby paws on the Internet by appealing to the dopes in the population through so-called “Net Neutrality.”

    What the net neutrality groups want.

    Every website gets the same Internet bandwidth (speed) without paying more for faster speed.

    What the FCC gives them is 332 pages of regulations that will make things worse. Because, government.

    Tanny O'Haley (c674c7)

  16. F@ck them.

    JD (86a5eb)

  17. I believe the FEC has a balanced 3 and 3 Democrat/Republican split and can’t change regs without a defection. Patrick, you are the lawyer, help me out on that. However I have always feared they would find a way around it and impose the regs on blogs. I also believe the FCC regulatory takeover is to give the power to that agency to yank URLs if they deem they are violating McCain-Feingold. And by the way McCain promised to introduce a bill to amend the law to include blogs. That never happened.

    It is not only blogs they are after, it is any media form that challenges them. This administration took aim at Fox News in 2009. Between August and October they started a drumbeat against Fox using the terms “Fox is not a news organization” (David Axelrod), Fox News is “a wing of the Republican Party” (Anita Dunn) and President Obama in a NBC interview with Savannah Guthrie, referring to Fox News, “And if media is operating, basically, as a talk radio format, then that’s one thing. And if it’s operating as a news outlet, then that’s another.”

    McCain Feingold exempts corporations from electioneering for a period prior to federal elections if they are part of the “institutional media” but denies it if a broadcast station is “owned and controlled by a political party.” That fits well with denying Fox News an exemption under McCain Feingold. However the administration’s efforts to defenestrate Fox came to an end when the Washington Press Corps backed Fox when it was excluded from an interview with a White House functionary. They said none of their members would participate if Fox was excluded.

    Democrats have been hell bent on finding some legal means to overturn Citizens United. Both the FEC and the FCC are now part of it. Ditto for allowing blogs the same freedom as a man on a soapbox.

    Corky Boyd (5a6d03)

  18. Oddly, the only blogger on that who got in trouble for free speech was Michael Williams for selling TAX CHEAT stamps for altering Geithner’s signature on currency

    Kevin M (25bbee)

  19. R.I.P. Jerry Tarkanian, long-time towel-chewing coach of the UNLV basketball team

    Icy (d53060)

  20. Oddly, the only blogger on that who got in trouble for free speech was Michael Williams for selling TAX CHEAT stamps for altering Geithner’s signature on currency

    Kevin M (25bbee) — 2/11/2015 @ 10:03 am

    Is that right. I had not heard about that. He was one of the ones who refused to take the pledge, right?

    Patterico (67c3e0)

  21. And to think the Founding Fathers rebelled and started an eight-year war over a tax. What a people their descendents have become.

    ErisGuy (76f8a7)

  22. i took a similar, albeit more inclusive, oath back in 1982:

    I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

    NOTE: the part about orders only applies to lawful orders. i have a positive duty to refuse unlawful ones.

    the FCC, and fascists in general, can kiss my a55.

    redc1c4 (dab236)

  23. i annoy lieberals when i point out that, if corporations aren’t “persons” under the law, then they can’t be regulated, taxed or sued, since. without that legal fiction, the law can’t be applied to them, and that, if you apply the law to them, rights have to come along with the obligations or the laws are invalid.

    it’s like being in the front row at an old school Gallagher show. 😎

    redc1c4 (dab236)

  24. I don’t currently blog. But I will have to start if the FEC tries to do this.

    Cecil (b8917b)

  25. here’s a question: if the FEC can consider blog speech in support of a candidate to have a value of x dollars, how long would it take them to decide that blog speech against a particular candidate would have the same or a greater value? Please tell me if I am missing the point.

    Joe K in PGH (dbe57f)

  26. meanwhile, Holder & his fascists get rolled back on the 2nd Amendment front…

    now, to knock out the stupidity that is the hallmark of #Failifornia gun laws…

    redc1c4 (cf3b04)

  27. No one makes me shut up

    Angelo (d89d7b)

  28. when fascist failmerican government officials tell me to dial back on the unwelcome political commentary I say yes sir and I suggest you do the same

    these people will strip you of all your assets and herd you into Ravelcamps and feed you michelle obama lunches and there’s no guarantee you’ll ever come out

    they can’t be reasoned with and they are brutal beyond imagining

    happyfeet (a037ad)

  29. JD #18 – I believe that both forms are equally valid …

    FECk ’em !

    FCCk ’em !

    Alastor (2e7f9f)

  30. #39: just tell them to eat your pickle, Feets… 😎

    redc1c4 (34e91b)

  31. #39 = 30…

    stupid fingers

    redc1c4 (34e91b)

  32. I don’t understand the tumult ,
    the gov’t is only trying to help and we are in the best of hands.

    seeRpea (181740)

  33. you’re just more braver than me Mr. red

    these people scare the pickles out of me

    happyfeet (a037ad)

  34. It’s hard to believe they’re really serious about this. Notice how quiet the left is. They can’t possibly want to be regulated and controlled any more than you do. Call me cynical but I think they’re trolling us.

    crazy (cde091)

  35. Meh. I’ll eventually have to get off my duff and get my blog going again for *my* pledge to be worth anything, but otherwise I’m in! ^_~

    Towering Barbarian (21f677)

  36. #36: the left is sure that they will be the ones doing the controlling…

    history shows that the first ones rounded up are the potential rivals on the left: Russia, China, Cambodia…. it’s what the Soviets did when they conquered Eastern Europe as well.

    there’s a reason i call the Leftards: they’re stupid AND uneducated.

    redc1c4 (34e91b)

  37. crazy — what you’ve missed is that the left knows that the rules will not be applied to them. For a while, that will probably even be true. They also know that what they send around will not come around, and in that they are also wrong.

    He11 yes I’m in. I may have to even start a blog! “Missives from a Tea-Tossing Liberal” or some such.

    htom (4ca1fa)

  38. Beldar wrote about Michael Williams. I’m not sure it’s correct to describe it as a free speech issue.

    DRJ (e80d46)

  39. I AM! How in the hell do the feds at the FEC think that they’ll be able to police the speech of thousands of sites for “bad” speech is beyond me. Unless they get help from the NSA that is. And does anyone think that they’ll even police it fairly? If progressives were as popular on the net as Conservative and Libertarians were they’d never even think to do this. But progs only surf porn sites on the web and get their news from the dying newspapers and the fading TV networks.

    Worc1 (047c3a)

  40. #35: i’m not brave mr feets… i just know i have to die sometime, and better for something worthwhile than rotting away in a homeless shelter or under a bridge in the Obamamerica of the future they are trying to create.

    besides, i was seconds away from dieing in a chopper crash on my 30th b-day, holding a bag of urine samples, so pretty much everything since then has been extra anyway.

    Molon Labe.

    redc1c4 (cf3b04)

  41. We do not consent!

    askeptic (efcf22)

  42. I so pledge.

    Additionally, I promise to post words which would run contrary to any abomination which dares limit my right to seek redress for my grievances in the first minute such becomes law. Your blog would be my first choice in which to do so.

    Ed from SFV (3400a5)

  43. I will not obey.

    Freedom Unlimited Can Keep Your Opinion Unregulated

    Stephen Macklin (76bc7b)

  44. redc1c4 –
    Thank you for serving.
    If a turd like me is peed-off, I can’t imagine what vets feel.

    mg (31009b)

  45. I will live on my feet, not die on my knees. I can pretty much guarantee you the last words out of my mouth, while I’m standing there in a pile of spent brass, will not meet with their approval. I may start a blog just to be in offense against them. Smell that civil disobedience, MFers.

    Mr Evilwrench (a191b3)

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