Doin' the McCain-Feingold Creep

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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.

Other legal minds chewing the implications: Eugene Volokh, Richard Hasen, and Villainous Company.

NEXT: Revolution in an Unpronounceable Land

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  1. Yes, I’m sure the DNC’s best lawyers will do exactly what you describe. Was there some reason you omitted mention of the RNC’s best lawyers, however?

    One of the few blessings (and I mean FEW) of a reconstituted Supreme Court will be (I hope) the end of this monstrous legislation. Of course if we had a President who understood the first thing about his Constituional duty, none of us would be going through this crap.

  2. Henry — Because Howard Dean is known especially for his online fundraising acumen.

  3. Technically, the online fundraising acumen came from Joe Trippi.

    I’m still confused why Dean would want to close loopholes in CFR legislation since it’s these loopholes that the Democrats can exploit to to close the gap with Republicans.

  4. I guess I don’t write so gud. By cementing loopholes, I mean make them permanent.

  5. “Because Howard Dean is known especially for his online fundraising acumen.”

    As opposed to who? You should see the deluge I get from the NRA (yes, I’m a member). It dwarfs anything I get from the ACLU, for example (yes, I’m a member).

    The simple fact is that both of these gangs of criminals will pour cash and resources into keeping a their two-party monopoly in place through any means available (although, admittedly, the foundation for such was laid over 200 years ago). I see no reason to single out Howard Dean (nor any reason to spare him, either).

  6. “I’m still confused why Dean would want to close loopholes in CFR legislation since it’s these loopholes that the Democrats can exploit to to close the gap with Republicans.”

    You know you’re on a libertarian board when someone is baffled by the possible existence of motivations beyond extending one’s own power.

    With all due respect, comments by libertarians on how to interpret campaign finance regulations carry roughly the same weight as advice from Shakers on the best sexual positions.

  7. I feel better now – I am once again safely on the opposite side of an issue from joe.

    joe, why should people who are fanatically devoted to freedom of speech be read out of the conversation on government regulation of on-line speech?

  8. RC, Probably for the same reason anti-government types and anyone with expertise in a relevant area are weeded out of juries.

  9. I can’t talk right now, RC. I’m discussing the best way to cook steak tips with a radical vegan.

  10. Conversation so far:

    “So I find that a little red wine tenderizes the meat better than oil and vinegar alone.”

    “Nazi! You’re a Nazi! There’s not one whit of difference between you an Adolf Eichman!”

    “So, uh, should I grill on medium or high?”

    “Why don’t you just put them in a big oven, NAZI!”

    I’ll let you know how it comes out.

  11. Cute, joe. Silly and ridiculous, but cute.

  12. Matt, what’s up with Howard Dean’s lawyers’ crowbars?

  13. Hey, joe:

    Are you posting from a taxpayer-owned machine there? You might have to get back to destroying folks’ Fifth Amendment rights if the regs are adopted, and we wouldn’t want that. 🙂

    Kevin

  14. I am trying to write figuratively without sowing confusion. It’s clearly not working.

  15. Now, when you say “sow confusion…?”

  16. Yeah, but what about the Republicans’ crowbars?

    Matt, we really do like you, I swear it.

  17. From the sounds of it, their aim with these restrictions is to — you guessed it! — stomp on anyone who may give a 3rd party candidate the thumbs-up. Oh when they kill you, they really kill you…

    Joe: “You know you’re on a libertarian board when someone is baffled by the possible existence of motivations beyond extending one’s own power.”

    Oh sure there are other motivations….in Smurfville. We have to deal with the human race here. Even if someone is outwardly altrustic, they have to seek to wield an abundance of power over their fellow man to put their ideas into practice on a large enough scale to satisfy their ego, and naturally the type of person likely to succeed in that isn’t the type to care who they step on to get there. Voluntary trial’n’error isn’t sexy enough…

  18. joe,

    I can’t remember where I saw it, maybe Penn & Teller’s Bullshit, but vegetarians tend to be angrier, have a lower sex drive, and have insomnia in statistically significant numbers when compared to meat eaters. Also, scientists in Africa demonstrated that meat eaters and milk drinkers have higher IQ’s as meat (and the minerals and vitamins within) is an ESSENTIAL in growth.

    Maybe this is why your vegan friend is invoking Godwin.

  19. “I can’t remember where I saw it, maybe Penn & Teller’s Bullshit, but vegetarians tend to be angrier, have a lower sex drive, and have insomnia in statistically significant numbers when compared to meat eaters.”

    I think it was the Season 2 episode called “Foutain Of Youth” where they spoke to a 30-something whose all salad diet has caused the early on-set of osteoporosis and ruined his sex drive–but he thinks its worth it to live

  20. …over 100.

  21. Shorter Joe: “There’s just no point in discussing how best to take away people’s freedoms with people who really like their freedoms.”

    One might wonder why he posts here, but no biggie. I’ll cheerfully take his exclusion of my ilk from the discussion as a compliment.

  22. joe: i find telling them that you like to imagine the sizzle of the grill being the sound of the cow’s soul escaping to be a good tactic.

  23. It’s a better outcome than could reasonably have been anticipated in advance. Probably the best outcome we could hope for short of, you know, THE FREAKIN’ CONSTITUTION.

    McCain-Feingold, evil as it is, is on the books, and the courts are determined to ignore the 1st Amendment and see it enforced. In case anyone’s forgetting, the FEC _did_ actually try to ignore personal internet speech, and were ordered by a judge to make some rules about it. Given that they had no choice about whether to make any rules at all, these seem to be a much-less-evil set than one would expect.

    Let’s just keep in mind that the real villains of this tale are the Congress that passed the law, the President who signed it, and the Supreme Court Justices who voted against striking it down. The FEC guys are just doing their detestable job…and by all appearances they’re doing the most detestable of all parts of that job quite reluctantly.

  24. Wine definitely works with meat. Use red wine instead of water for beef stew & it’s seriously yummy, ya sure ya betcha.

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