Why do Congressional Democrats fear free speech?

posted at 6:30 pm on July 8, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

Efforts in both chambers of Congress have Republicans wondering why Democrats seem to fear free speech.  Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA) has proposed limitations on how Representatives can post information to the Internet in a time when we should be demanding more transparency, not less.  According to a source in the Senate, Dianne Feinstein has begun her own campaign to force Senators to seek permission before communicating over the Internet.

Soren Dayton at The Next Right has the story from the House:

In typical fashion, House Democrats are trying to pass rules that stifle debate and require regulation. Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA) sent a letter to the Chairman of the Committee on House Administration Robert Brady (D-PA). The letter is a response to a debate about whether the House should allow members to use YouTube, first raised by Rep. Kevin McCarthy back in April. …

Well, Capuano’s proposal is a disaster. It creates a list of sites, maintained by the Committee on House Administration that members are allowed to post material. Except, those sites have a caveat:

To the maximum extent possible, official content should not be posted on a website or page where it may appear with commercial or political information or any other information not in compliance with the House’s content guidelines.

In the Senate, the problem gets even worse.  Feinstein (D-CA) would have the Rules Committee act as a censor board, forcing members to get approval for the act of communicating on external websites.  Further, it would appear that the Feinstein proposal would attempt to exercise editorial control over these sites, at least indirectly.

As my source put it, these are the key issues:

  • Under their scheme, the Senate Rules Committee would become the Internet speech police for everyone in the Senate.
    • It will be up to the committee to “sanction” which websites and forms of communication they deem appropriate.
    • The Rules Committee thus gets to pick winners and losers among various websites in terms of which are appropriate for use.
  • The Rules Committee would get to regulate communication through any site not ending in “senate.gov,” which would include sites like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.
  • Further, this could jeopardize guest posts at sites like RedState and Townhall.
  • The Rules Committee would require senators to moderate “any public commentary” which would likely mean regulating comments on guest posts and YouTube videos, among other things.

It also raises a number of questions:

  • Would this rule extend beyond comments to posts on the site?
    • Would it affect Slatecard & BlogAds?
    • How about something like The Ed Morrissey Show, which has a live chatroom? Would that have to be moderated?
  • The Rules Committee would get to act as the “Content KGB” since it can require the removal of content in violation of Senate Rules. And who determines what’s in violation? The Rules Committee.
    • There are no similar controls on any other form of communication with the public, such as publishing op-eds in newspapers or appearing on radio or television.

The sudden interest in silencing Congress goes right along with the brand-new 9% approval rating the Democratic leadership has earned Congress.  Imagine how much worse it will get when they gag their members and force an end to communication through policy sites, blogs, and Internet media.

Want to ask Feinstein what she’s thinking?  Be sure to e-mail her through her website or call the Senate Rules Committee at 202-224-6352 to express your support for free speech and transparency.  Ask them what they have to hide that the 9% of Americans who still support them shouldn’t find out.

Update: And let’s not forget Feinstein’s other policy goal — re-establishment of the Fairness DoctrineHmmmm.  Can we detect a pattern here?

Update II: Soren had the identity of the House Administration Committee chair.  It’s Robert Brady, not Kevin Brady, a Republican from Texas.  I’ve updated the reference in the quoted material.


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I’m tellin’ ya…when facism comes to America, it’ll be wearin’ Birkenstock sandals and driving a Prius.

Wyznowski on July 9, 2008 at 10:04 PM

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