Saturday, April 08, 2006

Regulating the political internet

E. J. Dionne has a great story about the FEC regulations for the Internet. The regulations are exactly right, leaving a lot of room for the Internet to develop as a political opportunity, while extending existing rules on campaign spending to Internet ads. In doing so, it made two bills currently in Congress unnecessary. One would have extended regulation more heavily into the Internet, the other would have granted broad exemptions from regulation to the Internet.

I had a chance to talk about these rules with Dennis Moore's staff, and after discussing it, his office issued this statement:

I have supported and continue to support campaign finance reform because I believe that public cynicism is eating away at voter participation, causing citizens to tune out discussions of very serious issues, and turning a whole generation of young people away from our political system as a means of social change.

Any attempt to regulate the Internet must protect civil liberties and advocates' rights to express themselves and organize via the Internet. While I believe it is imperative that we protect the right of free speech on the Internet, I am also concerned that by completely exempting the Internet from regulation as a communications medium we would dramatically undercut the effects of recently enacted campaign finance laws; opening up "soft money" loopholes to allow large corporate donations of up to $1 million to pay for Internet advertising and campaigning.

Many of these concerns were addressed, however, by the Federal Elections Commission's new regulations, which totally exempt individuals who engage in political activity on the Internet from the restrictions of federal campaign finance laws, while also reaffirming that these laws apply to campaign ads that are purchased on the Internet.
The hope is that, at this point, both bills in Congress will be shelved. Down the line, either may become necessary, but there's no point passing laws to close loopholes that no one has yet found.

It sounds like that's where the Congressman stands, and I'm encouraged by that.