November 2, 2005 7:55 PM PST

Democrats defeat election-law aid for bloggers

Democrats on Wednesday managed to defeat a bill aimed at amending U.S. election laws to immunize bloggers from hundreds of pages of federal regulations.

In an acrimonious debate that broke largely along party lines, more than three-quarters of congressional Democrats voted to oppose the reform bill, which had enjoyed wide support from online activists and Web commentators worried about having to comply with a tangled skein of rules.

The vote tally in the House of Representatives, 225 to 182, was not enough to send the Online Freedom of Speech Act to the Senate. Under the rules that House leaders adopted to accelerate the process, a two-thirds supermajority was required.

"I'm horribly disappointed that this important measure failed to pass," said Rep. Mark Kennedy, R-Minn. "This bill was designed to protect the free-speech rights of Americans whose only alleged crime is wanting to use the Internet to express their opinions."

The Federal Election Commission is under court order to finalize rules extending a controversial 2002 campaign finance law to the Internet. Unless Congress acts, the final regulations are expected to be announced by the end of the year. (They could cover everything from regulating hyperlinks to politicians' Web sites to forcing disclosure of affiliations with campaigns.)

Opponents of the reform plan mounted a last-minute effort to derail the bill before the vote on Wednesday evening. Liberal advocacy groups circulated letters warning the measure was too broad and would invite "corrupt" activities online, and The New York Times wrote in an editorial this week that "the Internet would become a free-fire zone without any limits on spending."

Rep. Marty Meehan, a Massachusetts Democrat who opposed the bill, said during the floor debate: "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, he said.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat, said that if the bill were approved, the public would have "no idea whether Internet campaign ads are being financed by secret soft money." Soft money is a general term referring to funds not regulated by election laws.

The House reform proposal, only one page long, simply says that the portion of federal election law that deals with publications aimed at the general public "shall not include communications over the Internet." It may eventually receive another vote under a slower, normal procedure that requires only a majority.

Not every Democrat opposed the campaign finance reform proposal. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat whose district includes part of Silicon Valley, said her colleagues should not believe the editorials in The New York Times and Washington Post. "What the bill does is a lot more modest than what the rhetoric would have us believe," Lofgren said. "All of the hoo-rah-rah...is incorrect."

15 comments

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Sounds like....
.. the right decision was made.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Sounds more like
Most Democrats are beholden to mass media and do not want to allow the rest of us to express our opinions.
Posted by donpro (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Its not so much about ...
..mass media allowing anybody to express themselves, its more about a form of mass media that nobody has any control over.
Posted by lewissalem (167 comments )
Link Flag
Nah - the Dems are worried
that people that sell opinions for money (ie paid bloggers) will be used to both provide the illusion of grass-roots support and give special interests even more power over who gets elected.
<p>Sounds like a reasonable worry to me.
Posted by imric1 (26 comments )
Link Flag
Obviously a compromosie was in order
If the law was passed, it sounds like people could create fake blogs that were actually paid-for political ads. While that might be profitable to some, it would undermine the free spirit of the web. Obviously, the Party in power refused to compromise, hoping to railroad through something that would dilute the progressive voice on the internet. They failed. That's good.
Posted by omu (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
What?
Yes, it's all the republicans fault. The dems never do anything wrong.

How this would benefit one side more than the other is beyond me. Democrats have just realized that, like talk radio, there are more conservative blogs (and conservative blog readers) than liberal ones, plus the dems very strong ties to the MSM who feel that only they are the rightful dispensers of news.
Posted by ebrandel (102 comments )
Link Flag
Mass media fakes as well
"If the law was passed, it sounds like people could create fake blogs that were actually paid-for political ads"

As opposed to what, a mass media outlet 'faking' a story for political purposes? (*cough*, Dan Rather)

Or the mass media creating an hour-long 'hillary for president' tv advertisement in the form of a political drama?

And anyways, who cares if someone creates a 'fake blog'? Isnt the point of political blogs to present an opinion?

The real problem here is that the dems know they have a lock on the major media outlets, and they dont want that power and influence to be jeapardized by grass roots bloggers.
Posted by (402 comments )
Link Flag
Libs scared of Bloggers
Once again the Libs step up to the plate and show their true color. I'd suggest surfing over to Powerline blog and reading their take on this issue. <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.powerlineblog.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.powerlineblog.com/</a>
Once there you might have to scroll down some to locate the article.
Posted by yacker (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Right on Joe!
Them right wing Republicans have given us the best government that money can buy! Who cares if we are the laughing stock of the world and our President is seen as the number one threat to world peace. Just let those foreigners give us any stuff we will just invade them too. What does it matter if a few thousand poor kids get killed just as long as we show them who is boss.

Besides, the people will support almost anything. All you need to do is saturate the media with noise and no one will be able to tell truth from fiction. That is what W. R. Hearst was all about, say it over and over and eventually people will believe it no matter how big the lie. Just ask Max Cleland. Heck, if those paid right wing bloggers had to tell the truth who knows what would happen. I mean how could a Republican ever get elected without people like Karl Rove.
Posted by Mister C (423 comments )
Link Flag
Nope. Just scared of fakes
bought and paid for by special-interest groups. Paid-for political commentary is regulated; that's what 'in theory' is supposed to keep us from having 'the best government money can buy'. The system doesn't always work, but if the brakes on a car are weak, you don't address the problem by removing them entirely.
Posted by imric1 (26 comments )
Link Flag
Blogs are not special
In the last election, there was a case where what originally
appeared to be "bloggers" were paid thousands of dollars
directly from the campaign fund of a winning Senate candidate
after the election was over. One of the "bloggers" was also hired
to work on the staff of the newly-elected official. In effect, what
happened was that the campaign set up phony blogs to put out
attacks on the opponent. This activity should have been
identified as funded by the campaign, just like any other
campaign advertising, be it in newspapers or on TV or radio.
Blogs do not deserve a special exemption from these laws.

We have a right to free speech online. We also have a right to
know when that speech is being bought by a political candidate.
I can go out using my own resources, set up a blog, and
pontificate to my heart's contend. There are no restrictions on
that and there never will be. I cannot, however, pose as an
independent blogger and be paid by a political campaign or one
of the political parties for my services unless I disclose this fact
plainly. That is what this issue is about.

Television advertising is less and less effective at reaching
voters. The rise of the internet means that candidates are
finding new ways to spread information. That is great, but
campaign disclosure laws need to keep up with the times so that
we can be truly informed.
Posted by Thrudheim (306 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The Democrats argument against this?
What did the Democrats say was wrong with this bill? Besides, the 2/3 supermajority is sorta odd anyone think? Either way, it sounds like a bum deal used to muddy the waters,

I'd be more worried about a few dozen hundred other problems.... try to get either party to cut the budget-oh wait they just said over the next 5 years they will pull funding from $30 billion worth of college aid and such,
Posted by youth+100488 (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Supermajority
The reason for the two-thirds requirements was that the House
leadership wanted to use a special procedure called "Suspension of
the Rules," in which the normal rules of debate and amendment are
not operative. Normally, this procedure is used for non-
controversial stuff since the two-thirds vote is required. Since they
didn't have the two-thirds vote, they will probably have to go back
and use the regular House procedures and get a majority vote.
Posted by Thrudheim (306 comments )
Link Flag
Limiting college aid.....
.... to tuition, books, and a small living allowance would be a very,
very good move, and very much overdue. But that's another story....
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Link Flag
 

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