Monday, January 12, 2015

FEC oversight of blogs (with regard to campaign finance) might come up again, after ten years of peace


The Washington Times has an op-ed by Jenny Beth Martin and Matt Kibbe warning that Ann Ravel, the new chairman of the Federal Election Commission, will try to get rules changes from the FCC (less likely from a GOP Congress) allowing the FEC to regulate “free content” on the Internet, including blogs like this one, that could be construed as political advocacy.  The link is here. The title is "The FEC's Internet Gag Rule: Liberals don't want Americans speaking truth to power".  Indeed, sometimes they don't. 
   
Some of this is a reaction to recent Supreme Court rulings protecting paid political advertising as normal free speech. Much political advertising is nominally paid for, but “almost free” because it carries ads and generally does not try to earn significant revenue, except incidentally.  That is true of this one.
  
The FEC decided it could keep a hands-off attitude in 2006, after considerable flak earlier over whether blogs and op-eds were really “political campaign materials”, since a 2002 court ruling had left open that interpretation of McCain-Feingold.  I have explained this on Wordpress here in February 2014, link. Of course, whether "amateur blogs" and the "press" (or the French Fourth Estate) are legally the same also comes up into play, as noted Saturday. 
  

I’ve explained elsewhere a major incident at West Potomac High School in October 2005 involving me as a substitute teacher, in an improbable but coincidental chain of occurrences in response to a Washington Post article on October 11, 2005 here (“Cyber Loophole”) and a now notorious editorial in the Washington Times Oct. 12 “Suffocating the First Amendment” here which implied that a blog like mine could not be maintained without expensive legal gatekeeping.  The rest of the story s here on this blog July 27, 2007 and it sounds like a movie plot for a courtroom thriller (and, yes, I am working on a screenplay based on this.)  What happened behind the scenes is a "mystery" and I don't think we've heard the last of this even today.  
     
Let’s see if this FEC Beast has really surfaced again.  I know from some underground scuttlebutt that stuff happened there after this controversy ten years ago. History repeats itself.  As a "conservative" newspaper, TWT loves to see that. 

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