June 04, 2005

What FEC?

I wrote a polite letter to the FEC a couple weeks ago during their comment period. I stressed my opinion on the issue of campaign finance restrictions and web logs. I tried to keep the argument simple, though in my writing style that still ended up being twelve short paragraphs. My stance was that blogs are conversations, people are free to listen and free to leave, so it's no more valid to restrict blogs than the average citizen's right to have a political discussion. After all, blogs just provide a different format, getting over the physical difficulties of the physical world.

I hope someone reads the e-mail, though it will no doubt be one among many thousands or tens or hundreds of thousands. I'm sure the letters from big name people like Kos will get a good deal of attention. Hopefully the responses, which through e-mail will probably be lopsidedly against restricting blogs, will persuade the FEC to leave private citizens having public discussions well enough alone.

If the FEC does decide to intervene in a broad sense, I doubt it would apply to me and my blog. I don't use ads for my website or my blog (Blogger is free; you get what you pay for) and I doubt any campaign will hire me to do anything. My traffic rating is decidedly on the lower end of blogs. I really don't see why my blog would be targeted for much restriction, and if it were, it wouldn't be worth much to enforce it against me.

However, my reaction to any potential regulation of blogs by the FEC - informed by my admittedly over-active sense of rebellion - is civil disobedience. In most cases it's a pretty straight up and down free speech right, even if the Supreme Court doesn't quite see it. There's nothing wrong with expressing opinions, which is in fact arguably the most strongly protected right in the USA. How could expressing an opinion, perfectly legitimate and indisputedly our right, become less than a right when it's expressed my computer over the Internet, or when it's expressed to 100,000 net-surfers instead of ten people at a dinner party? It's free speech.

I don't know what form any particular regulation may take, and my guess is that the FEC will largely avoid regulating blogs (except perhaps when they receive funds from campaigns, like Kos), but if something devious does come out of this deliberative process, my inclination is for the affected bloggers to ignore it. If the FEC enforcement mechanisms start sending letters, then get representation - I'm sure the Institute of Justice would be interested, and you might get the ACLU on board as well. Obviously nobody should take such a move lightly, and you should all realize I'm not a lawyer and hence not giving legal advice, but from a political and ethical point of view, this thing needs to be fought.

Of course, it very likely won't materialize at all, but if it does then we need some big-name bloggers to stand fast for their rights to speech.


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