I actually ran across this story about the DISCLOSE Act on Hot Air. Last week, a congressional hearing exposed an effort to give another agency—the Federal Election Commission—unprecedented power to regulate political speech online. At a House Administration Committee hearing last Tuesday, Patton Boggs attorney William McGinley explained that the sloppy statutory language in the “DISCLOSE Act” would extend the FEC’s control over broadcast communications to all “covered communications,” including the blogosphere.
I decided to dig a little deeper and discovered it was very difficult to find information on this topic. The few stories I did find revealed some very scary stuff.
Reason.com has a very good article on this subject. The following is an excerpt from the article. The bill, however, would radically redefine how the FEC regulates political commentary. A section of the DISCLOSE Act would exempt traditional media outlets from coordination regulations, but the exemption does not include bloggers, only “a communication appearing in a news story, commentary, or editorial distributed through the facilities of any broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine or other periodical publication…”
So they were turned away by the courts from using the FCC as an instrument to regulate the internet. Now they are using the FEC. The Democrats believe they have found a way around the court ruling that prohibits them from regulating the internet.
Sean Parnell posted an article on Red State where he highlighted deep concerns about this bill. He wrote, Among the many deficiencies uncovered so far (crafted behind closed doors, favors the speech of organized labor while silencing the business community, designed by Democratic Congressional political leadership to enhance their election advantages, and ignoring that current disclosure requirements are more than sufficient) , another has recently come to light – the bill would impose significant restrictions on the right of citizens to speak freely on the internet about candidates.
So as you can see this is a bill could have the teeth to limit free political speech online. This is deeply disturbing. The fact is this administration fully understands how effective conservative bloggers have been in informing the public. Bloggers have become the new media because there was and is a need for it. With the MSM failing to do their job, a new type of media has emerged to fill the information vacuum left by the MSM.
Political speech is one of the most sacred rights of a free people. The Founders understood that without the free exercise of speech, the public could be led astray by an out of control government. This is why it became part of the Bill of Rights. People need to be able to express their political opinions without fear of reprisal. These were rights that were never supposed to limited or abolished.
So how important was free speech to the Founding Fathers? Here are a few quotes.
Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech. Benjamin Franklin, 1722
Reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against error. Thomas Jefferson, 1781
For if Men are to be precluded from offering their Sentiments on a matter, which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences, that can invite the consideration of Mankind, reason is of no use to us; the freedom of Speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent we may be led like sheep to the slaughter. George Washington, 1783
Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; US Constitution.
Liberty forever, free speech for all!