Sour Grapes
Of course we're Fair and Balanced!


Freedom of speech vs. the FEC

The U.S. Federal Election Commission (FEC) has been court-ordered to extend some campaign finance and spending limits to Internet-based political activity. has a story, "Bloggers use mainstream methods to fight government regulation," about some fears this has generated among bloggers and what they are doing about it (via Michael Geist's Internet Law News):

Acknowledging the Internet's growth, a federal judge last year ordered the FEC to extend some of the nation's campaign finance and spending limits to political activity on the Web.

Bloggers fear that will mean new, unique limits on their activities, even though several of the commission's six members have indicated they have no desire to go beyond what the judge has ordered them to do.

The FEC plans this summer to decide how far to go. Bloggers view whatever happens at the commission as just the first step in their quest to remain free of government oversight.

"The FEC isn't the end of it," [Markos] Moulitsas [Zuniga, founder of the Web log] said. "We still have Congress, and beyond Congress we still have the courts."

Personally, I'm ambivalent. On the one hand, moneys play far too important a role in U.S. elections. The overwhelming amounts required to be competitive, for all practical purposes, rule out anyone like me from being able to run (not that I'd want to even if I had the money) without becoming beholden to so-called special interests1. But on the other hand, the idea of restricting the freedom to make political speech, which is a large part of what is done with all this money, is extremely abhorrent to me.

This is one of the reasons why I'm becoming more and more attracted to some kind of parliamentary system (PDF, via Steven Aftergood's Secrecy News). The feature of such a system that tends to reduce the influence of money is that the party (or coalition) in power can call elections anytime during the term of office (e.g. five years in the U.K.) and that those elections are generally held within 30 days of calling for them. Compared to current practice in the U.S., this would effectively limit the time of actual campaigning from about one year to about one month. How much influence can money have in one month? Probably still too much, but certainly less than it has now.

1special interest, n.: a group with money and political influence that has views contrary to one's own.

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