Sunday, March 06, 2005

I'm From the Government, And I'm Here to Watch You

But you shouldn't be concerned. Because....well, just because.

Bradley Smith says that the freewheeling days of political blogging and online punditry are over.

In just a few months, he warns, bloggers and news organizations could risk the wrath of the federal government if they improperly link to a campaign's Web site. Even forwarding a political candidate's press release to a mailing list, depending on the details, could be punished by fines.

Smith should know. He's one of the six commissioners at the Federal Election Commission, which is beginning the perilous process of extending a controversial 2002 campaign finance law to the Internet.

In 2002, the FEC exempted the Internet by a 4-2 vote, but U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly last fall overturned that decision. "The commission's exclusion of Internet communications from the coordinated communications regulation severely undermines" the campaign finance law's purposes, Kollar-Kotelly wrote.

Smith and the other two Republican commissioners wanted to appeal the Internet-related sections. But because they couldn't get the three Democrats to go along with them, what Smith describes as a "bizarre" regulatory process now is under way

ATSRTWT: Bradley Smith's Cnet interview

The nice part? I am moved to song.

We needn't worry,
this I know, for the guvmint tells me so.
We are weak, and it is strong,
and soon to it we'll all belong.

Yes, guvmint loves me, yes, guvmint loves me
Yes, guvmint loves me, the guvmint tells me so.

You think I'm kidding? Here's the money quote:

"People should not be alarmed," said Ellen L. Weintraub, a Democratic commissioner.

"Given the impact of the Internet," Ms. Weintraub said, "I think we have to take a look at whether there are aspects of that that ought to be subject to the regulations. But again, I don't want this issue to get overblown. Because I really don't think, at the end of the day, this commission is going to do anything that affects what somebody sitting at home, on their home computer, does."

ATSRTWT: NYTimes story

Nod to the Cap'n...Glad to hear the FM has reported back for duty.