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Bill to exempt online speech from campaign regs passes House committee

The House Administration committee approved a today that would exempt blogs, email and other Internet speech from campaign finance regulations.
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Written by ZDNet UK on

The House Administration committee approved a today that would exempt blogs, email and other Internet speech from campaign finance regulations, Congressional Quarterly reports. Passage of HR 1606 comes a week before the Federal Election Commission (FEC) will release its own decision on the issue.

According to CQ, "The bill faces stiff resistance when it goes to the House floor, probably next week. Supporters of more strict campaign finance rules are backing an alternate proposal intended to protect free speech on the Internet without gutting current political fundraising and spending laws. Last year, a federal court ruled that the FEC cannot completely exempt the Internet from the 2002 campaign finance overhaul law.

News.com reported:

"We don't expect bloggers to check with a federal agency before they go online," said House Administration Committee Chairman Vernon Ehlers (pictured), a Michigan Republican, referring to the Federal Election Commission. "They shouldn't have to read FEC advisory opinions (or have) to worry about running afoul of federal election laws."

At issue is McCain-Feingold, which under a 2002 court decision would place the Internet under strict controls unless the FEC acts.

"Bloggers should be treated no different from talk radio," said Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, a California Democrat. "Talk radio hosts have protections under the First Amendment. While I may disagree with their positions on the issues of the day, I will nonetheless fight for their right to speak their mind."

Millender-McDonald said she never intended for her vote in favor of the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act, better known as the McCain-Feingold law, to "squeeze out the voices of people expressing themselves on blogs on the Internet." Because the FEC's Democratic commissioners would not appeal a court order, that 2002 law is forcing the agency to act.

 

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