Friday, March 04, 2005

John McCain Hates Free Speech, part 26

We haven't covered this yet, and considering our readership level we may not have to worry, but here's a frightening notion from the Federal Election Commission's chairman, Bradley Smith:

. . . the Federal Election Commission [ ] is beginning the perilous process of extending a controversial 2002 campaign finance law [commonly called the McCain-Feingold Act -- TKM] to the Internet.

In 2002, the FEC exempted the Internet by a 4-2 vote, but U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly last fall overturned that decision. "The commission's exclusion of Internet communications from the coordinated communications regulation severely undermines" the campaign finance law's purposes, Kollar-Kotelly wrote.

Smith and the other two Republican commissioners wanted to appeal the Internet-related sections. But because they couldn't get the three Democrats to go along with them, what Smith describes as a "bizarre" regulatory process now is under way.

Get that? The FEC exempted the Internet from the campaign finance laws, had that decision flipped by a judge who cares as little for Free Speech as McCain, Feingold and five members of the Supreme Court (even though the FEC decision only needed to meet a reasonable basis test to be affirmed) and the DEMOCRATS on the Commission (which is required to have 3 Democrats and 3 Republicans) did not want to appeal. More from Smith [question from the interviewer in the same article]:

Q. Then this is a partisan issue?
A. Yes, it is at this time. But I always point out that partisan splits tend to reflect ideology rather than party. I don't think the Democratic commissioners are sitting around saying that the Internet is working to the advantage of the Republicans.

One of the reasons it's a good time to (fix this) now is you don't know who's benefiting. Both the Democrats and Republicans used the Internet very effectively in the last campaign.

A nice way of saying the Democrats LIKE to regulate speech.

Naturally, the right-wing blogosphere is up in arms as you can see here, here and here. But the left side of the blogosphere understands the danger too -- after all, Daily Kos gets twice the hit rate of Instapundit and does coordinate with campaigns, whereas no equally notable right-wing bloggers do the same. More information on this here.

The Monk is pretty close to a Free Speech absolutist, as I noted here, and traditionally pure political speech was free from any governmental shackling, as I discussed here. Smith's warning, however, shows two key things: (1) the horrendous cowardice of George W. Bush in signing the McCain-Feingold Act; (2) the corrosive effect of allowing any regulation of political speech -- the First Amendment shield that protected citizens from government intrusion into how and when they wished to exercise their right to free political speech is now punctured and slowly disintegrating.

Smith's warning is just that: a calculated attempt to stir up trouble because he feels that the judge's decision has gone too far as a matter of public policy. Kudos to him for that. Naturally, he's provoked a strenuous response, which is exemplified by Captain Ed's open letter to his congressmen (see the link earlier in this piece) and the strident denunciations by McCain's campaign finance allies, as shown in the link in the title of this post (although the Democracy Project counters its own title by denouncing Smith's comments).

Stay tuned because this could get very interesting.

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