The Federal Election Commission, charged with interpreting precisely which freedoms of speech shall be abridged by the McCain-Feingold Act, has issued its new proposed rule changes governing communication on the Internet.
According to my quick deciphering of the legalese, the document calls for:
* Online advertising to be subject to the same restrictions as off-line buys.
* Suggestions from the plebesphere as to what Internet activities should constitute regulatable "generic campaign activity."
* Disclaimers on political-committee websites, disclaimers on the paid political ads running on everybody else's websites, disclaimers on political spam e-mails.
* Exemptions for some websites from restrictions on "contributions" and "expenditures."
* Future encroachment on Internet activity seen as "coordinated communication" with the campaigns.
It all sounds very fussy and complicated; can't we just repeal it and start over? Also—the language is filled with furrowed-brow concern about free speech on the Internet, so look for the headlines to be along the lines of "FEC Says 'Hands Off' Blogging For Now," even though the rules specifically mandate more regulation of online speech. Such is the cycle of State Creep—headlines from alarmists saying "government will crack down," followed by a kindler, gentler "proposed rulemaking," which is greeted with cheers of "compromise," even though we're all a little less free.
At any rate, read the whole text here; I'm sure Howard Dean's best lawyers are busy pouring cement in sticking crowbars into those loopholes as we speak.