Tuesday, March 14, 2006

HR 1606

I urge all good members of Congress to support HR 1606. Adam explains what's wrong with the alternative.

As we've stated before, we support HR 1606. It has been through hearings and fully considered in Committee, as well as in an earlier floor debate, and it is ready to pass. Its passage would be a strong signal to the FEC, which otherwise will be voting this Thursday on its regulations for the Internet -- which no one has seen yet.

Our problem with the CDT bill isn't so much what it does as what it accepts -- it accepts as its fundamental premise that citizen activity on the Internet ought to be regulated, and it's just a question of tinkering with the limits to afford optimal protection.

We're not so sure yet. Here's one problem: part of the CDT proposal regulates the use of state party websites, which can be financed with soft money, to promote federal candidates. Well, take a look at the Arizona Republican Party website. It's got a picture in the center attacking Jim Pederson, the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate. Under the CDT proposal, the FEC's going to have to come up with a formula to determine how much that picture's worth as a percentage of the whole website, because that portion of the website (and other pages devoted to the U.S. Senate race) will have to be paid using only federal "hard" dollars. How much is a link to John McCain's campaign site worth? The FEC would have to figure that out.

It's a path that's best left avoided. Once you start determining that links and jpegs have an in-kind value, then it's only a matter of time before such regulation starts creeping into this space as well. How much is it "worth" for a federal candidate to post a diary here while a state party advertises on the site?

We are not saying that the CDT Proposal is a bad one. Adding the media exception to the Online Freedom of Speech Act would be a great idea, and can be done right now. However, the proposal as a whole needs to be fully considered and studied in Committee to understand its implications before it can be voted on.