Congress about to limit political speech of bloggers?

posted at 3:35 pm on May 19, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

The same sloppy legislative writing that created so many unintended consequences in ObamaCare also plagues the DISCLOSE Act, the effort in Congress to tighten spending rules in the wake of the Citizens United decision — and that’s the generous take on the situation.  Reason’s Bradley Smith and Jeff Patch warn that the perhaps-unintended consequences of legislative language will allow the FEC to regulate political speech online.  The fact that media entities like the New York Times have specific exemptions built into the bill makes the intent, or lack thereof, rather murky:

Last week, a congressional hearing exposed an effort to give another agency—the Federal Election Commission—unprecedented power to regulate political speech online. At a House Administration Committee hearing last Tuesday, Patton Boggs attorney William McGinley explained that the sloppy statutory language in the “DISCLOSE Act” would extend the FEC’s control over broadcast communications to all “covered communications,” including the blogosphere.

The DISCLOSE Act’s purpose, according to Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair Chris Van Hollen and other “reformers,” is simply to require disclosure of corporate and union political speech after the Supreme Court’s January decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission held that the government could not ban political expenditures by companies, nonprofit groups, and labor unions.

The bill, however, would radically redefine how the FEC regulates political commentary. A section of the DISCLOSE Act would exempt traditional media outlets from coordination regulations, but the exemption does not include bloggers, only “a communication appearing in a news story, commentary, or editorial distributed through the facilities of any broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine or other periodical publication…”

In Citizens United, the Supreme Court explicitly rejected disparate treatment of media corporations and other corporations (including nonprofit groups) in campaign finance law. “Differential treatment of media corporations and other corporations cannot be squared with the First Amendment,” Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority.

No legitimate justification exists for excluding media corporations from regulations on political speech applicable to other corporations, unless the goal is to gain the support of editorial boards funded by the New York Times Co.

The response to this criticism has been both predictable and instructive.  Instead of actually discussing how Reason got the argument wrong in its initial reporting on the subject, a Public Citizen lobbyist (which supports the legislation) called it a death-panel argument.  Another group attempted to defend Congress by assuring us that the FEC would “most likely … stand by the 2006 Internet rules” and not investigate political bloggers.

Most likely? Color me comforted.  If the Democrats in Congress wanted to ensure that the FEC would not investigate political speech by bloggers, they would have written their exemptions to include bloggers instead of just traditional media outlets.  The purposeful lack of exemption for bloggers looks ominous indeed — and could be used to harass smaller, unfunded bloggers out of the realm of political debate.

Even if bloggers were included in the exemption, why should the law discriminate between two similar corporations producing similar intellectual property simply on the basis of product when it comes to free speech?   As Reason points out, the Supreme Court stated that such discrimination violates the First Amendment, and probably the 14th as well. What about NBC, owned (at the moment) by GE, which produces a myriad of products and services unrelated to speech.  Should their media subsidiaries get that exemption, and if so, why?  Surely NBC has a much more obvious incentive to bolster GE and avoid reporting on its problems, and the politics that impact them, than a blog has in backing a candidate or a bill in Congress.

This isn’t about “good government” or clean elections.  It’s an attempt by Congress to step around the First Amendment and regulate political speech that threatens incumbents, just as McCain-Feingold attempted.


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Comment pages: 1 2 3

This regime wants a fight.

Inanemergencydial on May 19, 2010 at 3:38 PM

If they pass this crap, can bloggers move their server’s off shore to bypass this law?

Knucklehead on May 19, 2010 at 3:38 PM

Do they want war?

MB4 on May 19, 2010 at 3:40 PM

This WILL NOT STAND.

portlandon on May 19, 2010 at 3:40 PM

You can’t spell out that one group of corporations gets exemptions while another group does not.

That’s (again) UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

Skywise on May 19, 2010 at 3:41 PM

SCOTUS will eventually strike such a law down, but the audacity is amazing.

amerpundit on May 19, 2010 at 3:41 PM

At least the enemy is making themselves apparent.

Inanemergencydial on May 19, 2010 at 3:41 PM

Ed will be assigned his own personal bureaucrat.

AnninCA, go to USA Jobs for the posting, you’d be a natural.

NoDonkey on May 19, 2010 at 3:41 PM

This isn’t about “good government” or clean elections. It’s an attempt by Congress to step around the First Amendment and regulate political speech that threatens incumbents, just as McCain-Feingold attempted.

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
- Thomas Jefferson

MB4 on May 19, 2010 at 3:42 PM

I dare them… no, I double-dare them.

RedbonePro on May 19, 2010 at 3:43 PM

Congress about to limit political speech of bloggers?

When they pry my keyboard from my cold dead hands.

Physics Geek on May 19, 2010 at 3:43 PM

Say, any of you fellas know where I can find a real site with real discussion of the real issues?

Christien on May 19, 2010 at 3:44 PM

Well this bho did give the SC members the crud at the sotu address about their political speech ruling and said the dc bunch would take care of it. Seems he will do whatever it takes to be like chevez! This bho is going backdoor to get what he wants, if we don’t like it.
L

letget on May 19, 2010 at 3:45 PM

What about Muslim bloggers…?

… Will they be exempt?

/

Seven Percent Solution on May 19, 2010 at 3:45 PM

Mb4: it sure sounds like it.

cmsinaz on May 19, 2010 at 3:45 PM

Are you feeling lucky, punk?

(AKA Congress.)

profitsbeard on May 19, 2010 at 3:46 PM

Free speech for me, not for thee.

Steve Z on May 19, 2010 at 3:46 PM

Obama to tap Markos Moulitsas and Chas. Johnson as co-blogger czars.

Inanemergencydial on May 19, 2010 at 3:46 PM

Say, any of you fellas know where I can find a real site with real discussion of the real issues?

Christien on May 19, 2010 at 3:44 PM

There is no one-stop-shopping site that I am aware of.

MB4 on May 19, 2010 at 3:47 PM

Everything they pass can and will be used against them.

If we can seize the White House, we can crush them with the power they have given the executive branch.

… if we have the will to do so.

jeff_from_mpls on May 19, 2010 at 3:47 PM

Say, any of you fellas know where I can find a real site with real discussion of the real issues?

Christien on May 19, 2010 at 3:44 PM

4-chan? Digg? Slashdot? Cnet? America Online? Usenet?

Inanemergencydial on May 19, 2010 at 3:49 PM

Obama to tap Markos Moulitsas and Chas. Johnson as co-blogger czars.

Inanemergencydial on May 19, 2010 at 3:46 PM

Charles will be praising his master for this new law I am sure.

tetriskid on May 19, 2010 at 3:49 PM

Well,you can pry my dead cold hands off my keyboard,
er,Ed’s and AP’s keyboards,that is!!
================================================

Charlton Heston; From My Cold Dead Hands. Long Version

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ju4Gla2odw&feature=PlayList&p=F41580B975409D05&playnext_from=PL&playnext=1&index=26

canopfor on May 19, 2010 at 3:50 PM

Unbelievable! Everyday I turn on the radio, television or the computer, and there’s something else that this government is taking over. What’s next?

I don’t even want to know the answer to that question.

Susanboo on May 19, 2010 at 3:50 PM

To arms!

Shy Guy on May 19, 2010 at 3:51 PM

Its sorta the Cloward-Piven strategy for legislation, isn’t it? Overwhelm the voters.

They have the financial *reform*, healthcare *reform*, bogus *audit the fed*, cap and tax, amnesty, net neutrality, corporate takeovers, and now this? I’m exhausted just listing it.

Firefly_76 on May 19, 2010 at 3:51 PM

And yet another reason why Elena Kagan is a dangerous nominee for SCOTUS.

disa on May 19, 2010 at 3:51 PM

SCOTUS will eventually strike such a law down, but the audacity is amazing.

amerpundit on May 19, 2010 at 3:41 PM

They might, but that’s hardly a given. Relying on the Supremes for anything is a recipe for disaster.

Asher on May 19, 2010 at 3:51 PM

Think of the press [including the internet] as a great keyboard on which [only] the government can play.
- Joseph Goebbels

MB4 on May 19, 2010 at 3:51 PM

Say, any of you fellas know where I can find a real site with real discussion of the real issues?

Christien on May 19, 2010 at 3:44 PM

Powerline is pretty good, so is the New Criterion, Classical Values, etc.

Lots of great sites. Hope you find something more suited to you.

jeff_from_mpls on May 19, 2010 at 3:52 PM

China syndrome!!!

seven on May 19, 2010 at 3:53 PM

Well, this really sucks. The tyrants can’t do… hang on… gotta answer the phone… who? The IRS?

Daggett on May 19, 2010 at 3:53 PM

And yet another reason why Elena Kagan is a dangerous nominee for SCOTUS.

disa on May 19, 2010 at 3:51 P

disa: Dam* straight!:)

canopfor on May 19, 2010 at 3:53 PM

Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber.
- Plato

MB4 on May 19, 2010 at 3:54 PM

They have to do this. Otherwise the Internet will destroy their ideology.

Holger on May 19, 2010 at 3:54 PM

Inanemergencydial on May 19, 2010 at 3:49 PM

Thanks! I was really just mocking Ann’s mewling from the Ramirez Ditch/Cliff thread.

Christien on May 19, 2010 at 3:54 PM

Thanks to the stimulus package, we’ve established that broadband networks — the Internet — are critical, national infrastructure. We think that gives us an opening to look at what runs over that critical infrastructure.

-Waxman, (D), California

rogerb on May 19, 2010 at 3:55 PM

O.T. can any Ranchers in the border states offer free camping and hunting or for a small fee if need be – I hear the sky is real nice at night — and with fuel prices going up – it would be a good hunting and vacation experience …

wheels on May 19, 2010 at 3:55 PM

Every commenter on Hot Air will eventually be required to disclose two opinions, so comments in the future will look like:

Obama is the worst thing to happen to America
Obama is the best thing to happen to America

Knucklehead on May 19, 2011 at 3:38 PM

Doublethink will be law, violators will be sent to joycamp.

Greek Fire on May 19, 2010 at 3:55 PM

Say, any of you fellas know where I can find a real site with real discussion of the real issues?
Christien on May 19, 2010 at 3:44 PM

Yes type “goatse” into google and follow the link.
I also hear Concerntroll.com goes into deep discussion of this as well as Pretentious.com and Effeminatepseudointellectual.com

LincolntheHun on May 19, 2010 at 3:55 PM

“Most likely? Color me comforted.”

Nah…a group of fascists, which inclues a little Weiner from New York, now going after Beck advertisers? Surely you’re just being paranoid.

/sarc off

MNHawk on May 19, 2010 at 3:56 PM

a communication appearing in a news story, commentary, or editorial distributed through the facilities of any broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine or other periodical publication

I suppose that the online version of these articles are exempt. In that case, print a copy of your blog articles in hard copy and offer it for sale to subscribers.

John Deaux on May 19, 2010 at 3:56 PM

Have Sig, willing to travel!

Driefromseattle on May 19, 2010 at 3:56 PM

Thanks! I was really just mocking Ann’s mewling from the Ramirez Ditch/Cliff thread.

Christien on May 19, 2010 at 3:54 PM

I recognized that, although some here didn’t. 8D

Inanemergencydial on May 19, 2010 at 3:57 PM

I triple-dog dare them…

Khun Joe on May 19, 2010 at 3:57 PM

If this becomes law, police will stop people just because they look like beta males. AZ all over again, maaaan!

Christien on May 19, 2010 at 3:57 PM

They might, but that’s hardly a given. Relying on the Supremes for anything is a recipe for disaster.

Asher on May 19, 2010 at 3:51 PM

Oh, I’m not relying on SCOTUS to do anything. I’m fighting the legislation’s passage. It’s disastrous.

I’m just saying the odds are, even if we lose, the provision would be eliminated. Kennedy & Crew seem to believe in the First.

amerpundit on May 19, 2010 at 3:57 PM

Obama’s ‘emergency’ powers over Internet: Cybersecurity Bill S. 773
=========================================

http://blogs.computerworld.com/14627/obamas_emergency_powers_over_internet_cybersecurity_bill_s_773

canopfor on May 19, 2010 at 3:57 PM

They have to do this. Otherwise the Internet will destroy their ideology.

Holger on May 19, 2010 at 3:54 PM

Just like Iran.

The state has to smash the means of transmitting information.

tetriskid on May 19, 2010 at 3:58 PM

Say, any of you fellas know where I can find a real site with real discussion of the real issues?

Christien on May 19, 2010 at 3:44 PM

I understand that this site

http://www.laurabush.com

gives out exactly the amount of information, that’s useful to someone like yourself. We need to be careful to not overdose on too much information.

MNHawk on May 19, 2010 at 4:00 PM

They are playing with fire

TheBigOldDog on May 19, 2010 at 4:00 PM

Yawn….another day, another outrage from the Destroyer and his Progressive ilk.

Remember who signed McCain Feingold into law without a peep?

PappyD61 on May 19, 2010 at 4:00 PM

Welllllll dkos, Huffpo, what do you say now?

right2bright on May 19, 2010 at 4:01 PM

This regime wants a different fight.

Inanemergencydial on May 19, 2010 at 3:38 PM

Notorious GOP on May 19, 2010 at 4:01 PM

People, you are looking at this all wrong. Think of the jobs. Three words letters — J-O-B-S.

bloggless on May 19, 2010 at 4:01 PM

What about Muslim bloggers…?

… Will they be exempt?

/

Seven Percent Solution on May 19, 2010 at 3:45 PM

But of course! HuffPo, too.

Chewy the Lab on May 19, 2010 at 4:01 PM

Obamunism on Parade.

Cybergeezer on May 19, 2010 at 4:01 PM

Well,the hearing link, takes me to all this!

Additional Discussion of H.R. 5175, The DISCLOSE ACT, Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections”
===================================================

http://cha.house.gov/UserFiles/67_advisory.pdf

canopfor on May 19, 2010 at 4:03 PM

Looks like it’s time to tune up the short wave radio.

Cybergeezer on May 19, 2010 at 4:03 PM

Unbelievable! Everyday I turn on the radio, television or the computer, and there’s something else that this government is taking over. What’s next?

I don’t even want to know the answer to that question.

Susanboo on May 19, 2010 at 3:50 PM

According to a guy on Glenn Beck yesterday, they are trying to take over the churches.

silvernana on May 19, 2010 at 4:03 PM

Pelosi: I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little blog, too!

Christien on May 19, 2010 at 4:03 PM

Political blogging is such a distraction…

I’m beginning to understand what being behind the Iron Curtain must have felt like.

itsacookbook on May 19, 2010 at 4:04 PM

What about Muslim bloggers…?

… Will they be exempt?

/

Seven Percent Solution on May 19, 2010 at 3:45 PM

Seven Percent Solution: Your gonna get stoned!:)

canopfor on May 19, 2010 at 4:05 PM

According to a guy on Glenn Beck yesterday, they are trying to take over the churches.

silvernana on May 19, 2010 at 4:03 PM

Why is the EPA getting involved with religion? That is creepy as hell.

tetriskid on May 19, 2010 at 4:05 PM

Liberals. They desperately try to project on others, what they are themselves. Bit by bit, piece, by piece….they are destroying freedoms, and liberties.

capejasmine on May 19, 2010 at 4:05 PM

So if any of us here decided to blog, we would be forfeiting our First Amendment rights.

ronsfi on May 19, 2010 at 4:06 PM

Pelosi: I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little blog, too!

Christien on May 19, 2010 at 4:03 PM

Christien: LOL,love to see a parody of that!!:)

canopfor on May 19, 2010 at 4:06 PM

Liberals get a taste of POWER,with the combo of
KOOL_AID,and the SKY IS THE LIMIT!!!

canopfor on May 19, 2010 at 4:07 PM

Hey Lefties….now are you going to wake up? Every Republican should take a step back from the line and let all of the Democrats take credit for this one.

yoda on May 19, 2010 at 4:07 PM

Just like Iran.

The state has to smash the means of transmitting information.

tetriskid on May 19, 2010 at 3:58 PM

They are uncompetitive on Talk Radio and loosing Cable News. Internet is the future, and I suspect we are winning there. If they want to remain competitive, they gotta regulate the ‘Net.

Holger on May 19, 2010 at 4:07 PM

Unintentional my ass.

drjohn on May 19, 2010 at 4:08 PM

Mr. Morrissey you must have really, really, really made someone (ANNOYING CA)angry.

fourdeucer on May 19, 2010 at 4:08 PM

ronsfi on May 19, 2010 at 4:06 PM

Nonsense, you are free to express you loving gratitude to Great Leader for seeing all, doing all and providing all.

If however you disagree, you are free to STFU.

Ain’t freedom great?

NoDonkey on May 19, 2010 at 4:08 PM

LincolntheHun on May 19, 2010 at 3:55 PM

LOL! Well done.

Nichevo on May 19, 2010 at 4:11 PM

LincolntheHun on May 19, 2010 at 3:55 PM

No, have him look for Kids in the Sandbox. Great discussions there.

Sekhmet on May 19, 2010 at 4:12 PM

Okay,I’ve got it!!
======================================

The Third Way:A Narrowly Tailored BroadBand FrameWork
——————————————————

http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-297944A1.pdf

canopfor on May 19, 2010 at 4:13 PM

Why is the EPA getting involved with religion? That is creepy as hell.

tetriskid on May 19, 2010 at 4:05 PM

I was trying to remember if it was the EPA through which they were involving the churches – thanks for verifying. I don’t get the connection, nor the connection of democrats with churches. That’s sort of like vampires and crosses usually.

silvernana on May 19, 2010 at 4:13 PM

This is really getting near the envelope!!

canopfor on May 19, 2010 at 4:14 PM

Is there anyone standing up for us in Washington? I see these type of headlines but I never hear anything from a Rep. congressman wanting to challenge it. I say get rid of the lot of them.Obama is running roughshod over us and nobody says a stinkin’ word.

ohiobabe on May 19, 2010 at 4:15 PM

I fear there is nothing these statist bastards would shrink from. If we cannot stop them at the ballot box peacefully, how far are we willing to go to stop them?

Sekhmet on May 19, 2010 at 4:15 PM

First Amendment? Never heard of it

Sekhmet on May 19, 2010 at 4:17 PM

There can be on restriction or exemptions to a univeral right. You might as well regulate the air one breaths than the words they speak. Wait, wait, they’re trying to do that too.

docdave on May 19, 2010 at 4:17 PM

Arizona Demands the Citizenship Status of Students!

Oh wait!

Seniors are being asked to provide their birthdates, Social Security numbers and citizen status to the Secret Service so background checks could be performed. Such a check is required for anyone who gets within an arm’s length of the president, students were told at their senior breakfast Friday.

You just could not even make this up.

MB4 on May 19, 2010 at 4:18 PM

Cold civil war.

Mason on May 19, 2010 at 4:18 PM

This is really getting near the envelope!!

canopfor on May 19, 2010 at 4:14 PM

canopfor – Yeah, and they can “stuff” it!!!

yoda on May 19, 2010 at 4:18 PM

Working to improve the freedom and openness of the internet,

well,thats a hoot!

canopfor on May 19, 2010 at 4:18 PM

I’ll host your servers in my basement Ed. For obvious reasons, I can’t tell you where it is though.

Trust me.

BacaDog on May 19, 2010 at 4:19 PM

I like, fund my own snark, thank you!

midlander on May 19, 2010 at 4:19 PM

Unbelievable…

Obama administration removes St. Louis professor from oil spill effort over website writings

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/wire/sns-ap-us-oil-spill-professor,0,3504925.story

ninjapirate on May 19, 2010 at 4:19 PM

Good luck trying to enforce it, idiots.

Vashta.Nerada on May 19, 2010 at 4:21 PM

This is really getting near the envelope!!

canopfor on May 19, 2010 at 4:14 PM
============
canopfor – Yeah, and they can “stuff” it!!!

yoda on May 19, 2010 at 4:18 PM

yoda: Sideways, where the sun doesn’t shine!!:)

canopfor on May 19, 2010 at 4:22 PM

how far are we willing to go to stop them?

Sekhmet on May 19, 2010 at 4:15 PM

How beautiful is death, when earn’d by virtue!
Who would not be that youth? What pity is it
That we can die but once to serve our country.

Holger on May 19, 2010 at 4:23 PM

yoda: Sideways, where the sun doesn’t shine!!:)

canopfor on May 19, 2010 at 4:22 PM

Yeah, what canopfor says!!!!

yoda on May 19, 2010 at 4:23 PM

Good luck trying to enforce it, idiots.

Vashta.Nerada on May 19, 2010 at 4:21 PM

Yeaaaaahh because Obama has no ties to Google.

tetriskid on May 19, 2010 at 4:25 PM

So, this is an MFM bailout bill?

Christien on May 19, 2010 at 4:27 PM

This bho is going backdoor to get what he wants, if we don’t like it.
L

letget

Yeah! Just ask Larry Sinclair!

honsy on May 19, 2010 at 4:28 PM

Unbelievable…

Obama administration removes St. Louis professor from oil spill effort over website writings

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/wire/sns-ap-us-oil-spill-professor,0,3504925.story

ninjapirate on May 19, 2010 at 4:19 PM
//
Heard that on Rush today shortly after he said it.They can’t have someone who might tell the truth about the findings on the committee!

ohiobabe on May 19, 2010 at 4:29 PM

I triple-dog dare them…

Khun Joe on May 19, 2010 at 3:57 PM

That is throwing it down right there.

Big Orange on May 19, 2010 at 4:29 PM

The same sloppy legislative writing that created so many unintended consequences in ObamaCare also plagues the DISCLOSE Act…

Head. Bang. Computer.

Unintended consequences my foot (and tonsils).

Buy Danish on May 19, 2010 at 4:30 PM

Comment pages: 1 2 3