FEC vs. the Internet

You may have noticed the firestorm generated by Declan McCullagh's interview with Brad Smith where Smith conveys (with alarm) the court-ordered extension of campaign finance regulation to the Internet.

Good links on this topic (which also have good links themselves):

I've also seen a number of comments pretty much in the "Help, my ox is being gored" vein, but the above seem relatively substantive. But it all goes back to McCain-Feingold and campaign finance "reform". And beyond Sentators McCain and Feingold themselves there are so many people to blame:

  1. The craven congresscritters who voted for McCain-Feingold;
  2. The mainstream media; they were, of course, exempt from the law's regulation but largely ignored the First Amendment impact of the regulations on everyone else;
  3. President Bush, who signed it (no profile in courage there);
  4. The five Supreme Court Justices that voted to uphold the law's major provisions (O'Connor, Stevens, Souter, Breyer, and Ginsburg);
  5. Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who ruled that the FEC had to apply campaign finance regulations to the Internet.

… and probably some others I've missed.

The only good news about this is that the inevitably intrusive and burdensome regulations will be biting a very verbose and influential class of citizens. There's a slim hope that the resulting backlash will cause this dreadful law to be repealed.

Last Modified 2005-03-04 5:08 PM EDT

Media Matters Targets Hiawatha Bray

The folks at Media Matters, seemingly having run out of important things to do, have put Boston Globe columnist Hiawatha Bray in their sights. Bray's crime is apparently his libertarian/conservative leanings, and his occasional commission of free speech in blog comment sections. Also, Hiawatha's black; among the Media Matters crowd, black conservatives are special targets for lefty bile.

Amusingly, Media Matters links to Dan Kennedy's Media Log article on the matter. This hardly bolsters their case. Kennedy's terms the Media Matters article "hyperventilating". He debunks the Media Matters claim that Bray was "reporting on the 2004 presidential campaign" by pointing out that Bray was merely reporting on technological issues relating to the campaign. And Kennedy points out that Media Matters quotes the New York Times' ethics policy as if it applied to Bray; but the Globe has an ethics policy independent from the NYT. (But what does it say? Both Kennedy and Media Matters fail to dig that out.)

Unfortunately, Kennedy's column also reveals that Bray has been effectively muzzled from expressing political opinions in a public forum. Kennedy reports that a Globe flunky e-mailed him that Bray was "instructed to discontinue any such postings, and to our knowledge he complied." (The Globe has a lousy record of harassing its own columnists that don't follow the liberal script. See here for the Jeff Jacoby story.)

Also unfortunately, Kennedy whiffs on one of the side issues:

… Bray wrote posts to several weblogs during the past presidential campaign criticizing John Kerry, praising George W. Bush, and passing along the claims of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which cast a number of aspersions on Kerry's record as a war hero. Virtually all of those aspersions were proven false, a fact that Bray seems not to have grasped.

But (as the Media Matters article points out) one of the SBVT claims Bray "passed along" was that Kerry's Christmas-in-Cambodia story was an utter fabrication. And it was. Neither Kennedy nor Media Matters seem to have noticed this. Neither do they mention that Kerry has yet to sign his SF 180 as he promised he would.

But that is a side issue; the main point remains: Hiawatha Bray should be able to express political opinions in public forums just like you or I can.

Hopefully this will blow over soon, with minimal damage to Bray's career. It's sad that the muzzling has apparently been effective, though. I wonder if the Minneapolis Star-Tribune can deal with its employee James Lileks expressing political opinions on his blog, why the Globe can't figure out how to do likewise.

Last Modified 2005-03-05 11:39 PM EDT