Democrats Apply Election Laws To Bloggers

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Political bloggers beware. Democrats on Wednesday halted a bill designed to amend election laws to exempt bloggers from massive federal election regulations. The vote went pretty much down partisan lines with only 46 Democrat out of over 200 voting in favor of the bill.

The bill, H.R. 1606 needed two thirds of a majority to pass and the final vote was 225 to 182 with 26 not voting. It was called the Online Freedom of Speech Act.

Most of this started back in 2002 when congress passed the campaign finance reform laws. At the time, the Internet was not identified in that legislation for regulation. In a recent case, however, a federal judge said the Federal Election Commission’s (FEC) broad exemption of the Internet was impermissible, “absent clear direction from Congress.” H.R. 1606 would have excluded bloggers and other types of communications over the Internet from the auspices of the FEC.

One of the biggest supporters of the bill was House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL). He started a blog last week called “Speaker’s Journal” and issued a statement on Wednesday evening from his blog:

“Today’s action marks a sad day for one of our nation’s most sacred rights: freedom of speech. The federal government seeks to control and regulate the Internet, but the last thing this Congress should be doing is trying to stifle public debate online. This bill would have kept the hands of the federal government off of Internet speech and protected the online debate that’s underway. Our world has evolved and grown more technologically savvy. Lawmakers need to adjust to these changes. Unfortunately, opponents of online speech have decided to punish our changing technological world. It’s especially unfortunate that Democratic Leader Pelosi voted no to free speech. This bill will come back under regular order, and I encourage all those who support free speech on the Internet to make their voices heard.”

Most Democrats fought against this bill. CNet quoted Rep. Marty Meehan (D-MA), “We don’t allow child pornography on the Internet. We don’t exempt it from consumer safety laws…We don’t because we think those laws are important. Campaign finance regulations should be extended as well.”

Interestingly enough, former vice-president and U.S. senator Al Gore of Tennessee recently gave a speech about a month ago addressing this very same issue. He maintained throughout the article that the Internet was the last bastion of absolute free speech:

“The greatest source of hope for reestablishing a vigorous and accessible marketplace for ideas is the InternetWe must ensure that the Internet remains open and accessible to all citizens without any limitation on the ability of individuals to choose the content they wish.”

It would seem members of his party don’t necessarily feel the same way.

John Stith is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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