I have long railed against the back-door First Amendment violations of the McCain-Feingold Act, which purports to reform campaign financing but in reality acts to criminalize political speech. Now Federal Election Commissioner Bradley Smith explains exactly how MFA could mean the end of political blogging, as we get intimidated by the massive legal requirements that MFA might impose on CQ and other sites:
Bradley Smith says that the freewheeling days of political blogging and online punditry are over.
In just a few months, he warns, bloggers and news organizations could risk the wrath of the federal government if they improperly link to a campaign’s Web site. Even forwarding a political candidate’s press release to a mailing list, depending on the details, could be punished by fines.
Smith should know. He’s one of the six commissioners at the Federal Election Commission, which is beginning the perilous process of extending a controversial 2002 campaign finance law to the Internet.
Most of this interview will have CQ readers shaking their head. The FEC, thanks to a John McCain lawsuit, will have to calculate the value of a link on a political website in order to determine whether the owner has overdonated to a campaign — in other words, committed a felony. Bigger blogs will come under closer scrutiny, which means that any expression of support on CQ with a referential hyperlink may well get valued at more than the $2,000 maximum hard-cash contribution.
In order for me to operate under those conditions, I will need to hire a lawyer and an accountant to guide me through the election laws and calculate my in-kind donations on almost an hourly basis. How many bloggers will put up with that kind of hassle just to speak their minds about candidates and issues? John McCain and Russ Feingold have effectively created an American bureaucracy dedicated to stamping out independent political speech, and the courts have abdicated all reason in declaring it constitutional.
Please contact your representative or Senator in Congress to get this terrible infringement on free political speech reversed. When the American government threatens to prosecute people for simply speaking their minds, we have truly lost our way. Shame on McCain and Feingold for this treachery, shame on George Bush for signing the bill, and shame on the Supreme Court for not stopping it when it had the chance. (via Michelle Malkin, who has lots of links.)
UPDATE: McCain and Feingold have managed to foster real bipartisanship — they’ve gotten liberal and conservative bloggers alike to detest them. Jerome Armstrong at MyDD, Atrios, and DailyKos all agree — this legislation has become a serious threat to political speech, and John McCain and Russ Feingold have become two of the most dangerous politicians to American liberty since Huey Long. Jerome makes the point that the problem at the moment are the three Democratic FEC commissioners who appear intent on enforcing the law as McCain and Feingold insist, but both parties had a hand in creating this fiasco. Both should work to eliminate it and tell John McCain and Russ Feingold to shut the hell up — and see how they like it.