Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Online Freedom Of Speech Act Fails To Pass House!

The Online Freedom Of Speech Act failed on a roll call vote tonight. Yeas were 225. Nays were 182. The bill requires 2/3 voting yea to pass. With 435 members of the House, that would seem to indicate 290 yea votes would be needed for passage. Why should you care? Observe the details of H.R. 1606:


This Act may be cited as the `Online Freedom of Speech Act'.


Paragraph (22) of section 301 of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (2 U.S.C. 431(22)) is amended by adding at the end the following new sentence: `Such term shall not include communications over the Internet.'.

In other words, the Federal Election Commission would not be allowed to regulate political speech on the internet. This regulation might be determined by a formula related to in-kind contributions. Promoting a candidate or proposition is normally paid for by this or that campaign, which we most frequently encounter as television commercials, radio ads, and disturbingly, pre-recorded phone calls to your home when you're enjoying dinner. The campaigns get their money from donations from people like you and me. You might also decide, on your own, with or without making a cash donation, to promote a candidate or cause on your blog. Since a blog entry isn't cash, how can they regulate you? That's where in-kind contributions come in.

The FEC might decide, based on your readership, your position in the Ecosystem or on Technorati, or some sort of arcane formula only found in government bureaucracy, and barely comprehended even there, that this or that post made by you is worth X number of dollars. Since there are limits to how much money can be donated to a campaign by any individual, this would create a limit to how much you could write. Who knows? A biggie like Instapundit or Powerline might find that ten posts put them to the limit, and they can't write any more about that issue or candidate. Or five posts puts them to the limit. Or one post. What if someone at the FEC (political appointees, all) decides Glenn is simply too big, and even one post is worth more than the donation limit. Could the FEC prevent him from commenting on all campaigns?

H.R. 1606 would have guaranteed Glenn's freedom of speech. It would have guaranteed that same freedom of speech for Powerline. It would have guaranteed that same freedom of speech for you. And it would have guaranteed that same freedom of speech for a nothing little blog like this. The fact that no one reads this blog doesn't mean I want the government telling me what and how much I can write. I can't believe I'm saying this, but it offends me as a citizen of this country.

Some tidbits of the vote for you now. For the yeas: 179 Republicans, 46 Democrats. For the Nays: 38 Republicans, 143 Democrats, 1 Independent. Not Voting: 13 each of Republicans and Democrats, not enough to tip the balance to passage, even if all 26 voted yea. I was rather disturbed to find my own Representative, Richard Pombo, was not among the Yeas. And I must admit it wasn't much consolation to see that he wasn't against; he just didn't vote on this one. How do you know how your Representative voted? Start here, with the Final Vote Results for Roll Call 559.

You might not be sure who your representative is. To find your Rep, look here, and they'll let you enter your nine digit zip code. Hit go, and you're all set. You know the first five digits, but not the last four? Go here, enter your address, and the post office will do the heavy lifting. Just click submit, and you're all set. Once you've found your zip and entered it, the name of your representative will pop up. Click it, and you'll go to that page. Somewhere at the top you should find a "Contact Me" or "Contact Info" link. That will give you local and Washington D.C. addresses, phone numbers, and an email address.

If you have a blog, even if you only read blogs, this issue should be very important to you. If your representative voted no, contact him and demand to know why your free speech rights aren't a priority or worthy of protection. Keep in mind courtesy and reason gets better results than screaming insults. Even if your representative voted for this bill, let him know you appreciate his vote for the protection of your rights. If you establish a relationship now, it may be more likely you'll be listened to, or at least heard, on future issues. Look at it this way, the next time you write, you'll be starting out on his good side. I'm writing Mr. Pombo, and I'll let you know what I hear from him. If you hear from your representative, feel free to pass it along.

Actual Update: Well I got a quick auto-response from Mr. Pombo, and a promise of an actual (but for all I know, still canned) response soon.
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