CFIF to FEC: Soften Proposed Internet Campaign Finance Regulations

"With these rules, the government will begin to broadly regulate Internet content for the first time."

June 3, 2005
Contact: Reid Cox or Marshall Manson

CFIF to FEC: Soften Proposed Internet Regulations

Government Interference Puts Last Bastion of Unfettered Speech at Risk, Group Says

Alexandria, VA — The Center for Individual Freedom today urged the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to soften its proposed regulations of political speech on the Internet in order to minimize the new rules’ impact.

In comments submitted to the FEC in response to its notice of proposed rulemaking, the Center argued “By merely entering this area, no matter how lightly it treads, the Commission sweeps within its regulatory reach millions of Americans who use the Internet to discuss and disseminate their thoughts about issues of the utmost public importance.”

“With these rules, the government will begin to broadly regulate Internet content for the first time,” said Reid Cox, the Center’s General Counsel. “Even though the FEC has been ordered to take this unfortunate step, it should tread carefully. And the proposed rules go way too far.”

The Center’s comments address a number of critical problems with the FEC’s proposed regulations. Among them, the Center argues that the Commission does not sufficiently extend the “media exemption,” which provides that media publishers won’t be subject to the speech, content and disclosure regulations in the current campaign finance laws and regulations, to Internet publishers like bloggers. In addition, the Center urges the Commission to more carefully consider the possible impact of the regulations.

“Even though the FEC may not intend it, these rules will have a chilling effect on Internet speech,” Cox said. “The rules are complicated and hard to understand, so Americans will now find their freedom to speak online tied up in regulatory red tape. No one should have to call their lawyer before they express their political views.”

“The constitutional promises of free speech and association are most readily and universally available to Americans via the Internet, where they can set up their virtual soapboxes on any corner of the information superhighway to discuss the most pressing public issues with their fellow citizens. Surely, this virtual public forum should not be chilled by regulation,” the Center said in its comments.

The Center for Individual Freedom is a non-profit, non-partisan Constitutional advocacy organization dedicated to protecting individual rights and freedoms. The Center was a leading opponent of the McCain-Feingold law in both Congress and the courts.

[Posted June 3, 2005
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