The same sloppy legislative writing that created so many unintended consequences in ObamaCare also plagues the DISCLOSE Act, the effort in Congress to tighten spending rules in the wake of the Citizens United decision — and that’s the generous take on the situation.
Reason’s Bradley Smith and Jeff Patch warn that the perhaps-unintended consequences of legislative language will allow the FEC to regulate political speech online. The fact that media entities like the New York Times have specific exemptions built into the bill makes the intent, or lack thereof, rather murky:
Last week, a congressional hearing exposed an effort to give another agency—the Federal Election Commission—unprecedented power to regulate political speech online. At a House Administration Committee hearing last Tuesday, Patton Boggs attorney William McGinley explained that the sloppy statutory language in the “DISCLOSE Act” would extend the FEC’s control over broadcast communications to all “covered communications,” including the blogosphere.
The DISCLOSE Act’s purpose, according to Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair Chris Van Hollen and other “reformers,” is simply to require disclosure of corporate and union political speech after the Supreme Court’s January decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission held that the government could not ban political expenditures by companies, nonprofit groups, and labor unions.
The bill, however, would radically redefine how the FEC regulates political commentary. A section of the DISCLOSE Act would exempt traditional media outlets from coordination regulations, but the exemption does not include bloggers, only “a communication appearing in a news story, commentary, or editorial distributed through the facilities of any broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine or other periodical publication…”
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