Skip to comments.Free speech is threatened - (Bruce Kesler on McCain-Feingold, implications for internet sites)
Posted on 03/13/2005 8:32:07 PM PST by CHARLITE
Settled jurisprudence was fairly settled against prior restraints on free speech, except for "shouting fire in a crowded theater" immediate causes of grave harm. Then, along came the McCain-Feingold electoral reforms.
McCain-Feingold's supposedly greater interest of restricting the role of big money in campaigns allowed legal and donor restrictions on campaigning. The media is exempt from restrictions.
Critics of McCain-Feingold called it an incumbent protection act to reduce the resources of challengers. Realists said McCain-Feingold would result in contributions flowing some way anyway. Opponents of McCain-Feingold warned it restricted free speech, and this could increase. If free speech is surrendered to other political goals, as most liberal media supporters of McCain-Feingold have, a free media is undermined. The court challenge to McCain-Feingold failed.
Political contributors, large and small, as partisans will, avoided McCain-Feingold restrictions through 527 organizations.
There was little outcry by liberal media to the initial exploitation of loopholes in McCain-Feingold by George Soros and billionaire affiliates funding 527s with $100 million to attack President Bush last winter and spring. Then, the Swiftees in the summer and fall proved more effective, raising almost $30 million from more than 150,000 contributors that parleyed into well over $150 million of coverage that had greater electoral impact. Conservative bloggers chimed in to dissect John Kerry's self-imaging.
Before the Swiftees, the president called for restrictions on 527s. Post-Swiftees, liberals chimed in. Uncontrolled 527s meant that official or leading media party lines do not rule the campaign.
There is now growing bipartisan congressional support for restricting 527s to smaller contributors, and other limits in line with McCain-Feingold. Thus, does the defensive self-interest of incumbents enlarge the restrictions on free speech that was feared with McCain-Feingold.
The court decision allowing McCain-Feingold also ordered the Federal Election Commission, charged with rule-making and enforcement, to consider rules on blogs. The FEC did not appeal this court order.
When McCain-Feingold was passed, Internet blogs were not addressed. Yet, in the 2004 campaign, as the latest Pew Internet survey points out, "the Internet became an essential part of American politics. Fully 75 million Americans 37 percent of the adult population and 61 percent of on-line Americans - used the Internet to get political news and information, discuss candidates and debate issues in e-mails, or participate directly in the political process by volunteering or giving contributions to candidates."
According to the Pew survey, one-third of political news consumers believe they don't get all the news and information desired from mainstream media. The director of the Pew study says, "Blogs are still the realm where very, very active and pretty elite, both technologically oriented people and politically oriented people go." More women, minorities, seniors and low-income Americans gravitated toward the mainstream media.
Interestingly, the Pew study found that the pro-Kerry and anti-Bush forces in the campaign made wider use of 527s and the Internet than the pro-Bush or anti-Kerry forces. But the liberal outcry at being outperformed has led some, along with some mainstream political and media defenders, to call for more restrictions on blogs. Among their objectives, not openly admitted, is to restrict the messages reaching Americans to those approved by the political parties and the mainstream media.
There is great uproar, mostly on the Internet, against this diminution of free speech and participation in the campaign. What has the mainstream media itself said about possible FEC restrictions on blogs? The New York Times, generally credited with leading mainstream media focus, reported the story with pretty straight quotation of the contending sides, but has not ventured one of its editorial opinions about the challenge to free blogging. The Times continues to advocate more 527 limitations.
Sen. Russ Feingold writes "the FEC should generally exempt independent, unpaid political activity by bloggers." One can drive a tank through those weak assurances. And they open a slippery slope to further restrictions upon free speech.
Under McCain-Feingold, complaints are brought by the public, to which the accused must respond. The complaints of partisans against potent bloggers, almost all being one or a few individuals, can only burden them to end blogging or to restrain their ability to freely blog. It is difficult, at best, to define and to delineate "paid." Is it being paid to accept political ads or to also work for the wide range of organizations considered political entities under McCain-Feingold and similar laws? Are the mainstream media's reporters and commentators to also be so measured, piercing the current media exemption?
Both Lord Acton and George Bernard Shaw hit the nail on the head. Acton opined that power corrupts. Shaw, delighting as always in turning aphorisms on their head, added that "power does not corrupt men; fools, however, if they get into a position of power, corrupt power." Senators McCain and Feingold, and their law's supporters in positions of authority, need to be reminded of both the importance of free speech and of Acton and Shaw's insights.
Bruce Kesler resides in Encinitas, Calif.
This is old news and Washington should be swinging from a tree for letting this become law. It is one of the most blatant attacks on the First Amendment that has ever happened -- and even approved by our president. That REALLY bothers me....
you are just on a role posting all the good article tonight!
Term limits, term limits, term limits.
That is the only cure for politicians gone wild with power.
McCain-Feingold is an absolutely unconstitutional intrusion on freedom. It is UNACCEPTABLE.
If both U.S. major parties are unable to muster the will to change this law, then they are doomed...just as the Iran government is doomed.
The government has no legitimate right to influence political advocacy. It doesn't matter whether we're talking about the amount of money of spent by campaigns, or the kind of statements made, or when they are made in the election cycle. It's NONE OF THE G*DDAMNED GOVERNMENT'S BUSINESS.
Public blogging is not necessary for free speech and political advocacy to succeed. Email, telephones, and local social organizations are the key underpinnings.
If the current parties seek to suppress political speech unconstitutionally through "laws" (joke) such as McCain, the successor parties will not make the same mistake.
Did I just read a Blog?
McCain (and Feingold) should be run out of Washington for sponsoring this cr@p legislation. Bush shouldn't get a pass, either; Reagan, he isn't.
Thanks. It's the good articles that I managed to find! Some days yield a greater bounty than others! Today was a bonanza.......but now I'm all done! Gotta rest up and get ready to fight liberalism again tomorrow and......the nest day and the next day........and.......forever, until it is defeated, discredited and safely in the dust bin of history, exactly as my guy, Ronaldus Magnus did with communism!
Silence, America!: for Silence, America!.
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but replacing existing campaign finance with a system allowing American citizens to donate as much as they wish and compelling those donations to be posted on the web by the end of the business day
RADICAL CONCEPT ALERT!!!
(Denny Crane: "Sometimes you can only look for answers from God and failing that... and Fox News".)
Someone needs to start a dedicated fund for the sole purpose of stopping the extension of McCain-Fiengold onto the Internet. I'm sure many would contribute and a significant force could thus be created.