[for background, click here]
[if you're in a hurry and want to act first, then find out what all the fuss is about, go to this website and answer the questions, then come back]
Last week, Mike Krempasky of RedState.org and I attended a conference hosted by the Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet regarding the current FEC rulemaking process on political activity on the Internet.
[Audio/video of the conference is available via this link, and if these issues matter to you, then spend a few hours listening to it while you work today.]
On Friday, I told you about the Center for Democracy & Technology's Eleven Principles which were discussed that day, and you should still look at that.
Today, I've got something I want you to do to help protect our freedoms online.
In short, we fear that the people most involved in doing the regulating -- including many of the FEC commissioners themselves -- may have no idea what the universe is that they're trying to put under their baliwick. [And remember, unless Sen. Reid's bill passes, there will be regulation.]
Please understand: there are basically two schools of thought in this area -- there are those who represent either right-wing interests or party establishment interests who believe that campaign finance regulation generally is bad, and that therefore there shouldn't be regulation of the internet; and then there are liberal reform groups and people like Sen. Feingold who believe that campaign finance law can work, and that carefully-crafted regulations can cover the Internet without doing damage to our speech rights.
I started off in the second camp, but I'm increasingly moving to the first, because I fear that clumsily-drafted regulations will destroy what we've all created. For example:
- is a group blog that discusses federal candidates now a political committee that needs to register with the FEC?
- if a blogger accepts advertising, does that mean that everything she says about candidates who don't advertise now becomes an in-kind contribution that needs to be filed and disclosed?
- can a blogger incorporate herself for liability purposes and still freely discuss candidates? will she be forced to do so in an "evenhanded" fashion?
- can bloggers/readers who work at corporations discuss politics online from work?
- will we still be able to post anonymously or pseudonymously, or might websites be held liable for (a) posts by campaign staffers that don't disclose their identities or (b) posts by non-US citizens that try to raise money for US candidates?
- and, for all of these examples, will only the bloggers and posters who can afford to hire attorneys feel free to keep doing what they're doing, becuase of the threat of subpoena and federal investigation?
One of the most important things you can do is let the regulators know how you use the internet for politics, so that they understand what they're getting involved in and how careful they need to be in not stifling these robust communities. Here's how:
- The easier way: visit the CDT website and fill out this form. They'll use your answers to help them formulate their response, which will be a comprehensive take based on their eleven principles; or
- The harder way: email your comments directly the the FEC. Be polite, and tell them who you are, where you live (you must provide a postal address for your comment to be read), and how you use the internet for politics, using the CDT questions as a guide. Stress to them the vibrancy of these sites, how valuable they are to you, and the activities that you want to ensure remain free of onerous regulations. And post here what you've sent them, to give others an example and inspiration.
Please help, and if you have questions, please ask.