FEC to leave alone Web political speech

March 28, 2006
Washington Times

The Federal Election Commission voted 6-0 yesterday morning in favor of campaign-finance rules that will leave political speech on the Internet mostly unregulated.

"It didn't take long to reach a decision," said FEC spokesman Ian Stirton. "All six members voted in favor."

The rules approved by the FEC will give Web sites, blogs and e-mails the same exemption that is provided to newspapers that cover political campaigns.

That means bloggers can promote or criticize federal candidates and issues without fear of financial penalty.

Click on the "Read More..." link below for more excerpts and a link to the complete story.

....The House has been considering a bill that would write into law protections for political speech on the Internet. Former FEC Chairman Brad Smith yesterday urged passage of the bill, which has been stalled.

"It's important Congress make their intent clear," he said. "Otherwise, the FEC can change its rules later and reform groups could sue from time to time."

....Both conservative and liberal bloggers oppose online regulations, as do the Democrat and Republican senatorial campaign committees and the leaders of both parties in Congress.

The FEC took a quick vote yesterday after more than a year of debate and two recently postponed meetings.

In 2002, Congress passed campaign-finance reform rules, but provided an exemption for Internet communications. Regulation advocates opposed the online exemption.

In 2004, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the 2002 Internet exemption violated the campaign-finance law's intent, forcing the FEC to issue a ruling.

"The law was never intended to regulate private citizen communication on the Internet," FEC Vice Chairman Robert D. Lenhard told the Associated Press. "I believe that we have achieved that goal today."

Commentary by Larry S. Moore:
I am very glad that I still have the right to free speech on the Internet. I use my right to free speech to defend my right to keep and bear arms.

I strongly believe that there are reasons why our Founding Fathers placed free speech and bear arms as the first two articles in the Bill of Rights. I believe that in no other two issues is the type of government the United States going to have more clearly defined.

Are we going to limit the free speech, beyond the reasonable test of not yelling fire when there is no fire, or will we permit private citizens to engage in the debate? Will we limit the law-abiding from owning firearms or will the government trust the citizens with arms and self-defense?

The answers to freedom or tyranny are found in these issues. I applaud the FEC's decision.

For the complete Washington Times story, click here.

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