DISCLOSE Act threatens internet bloggers

cross-posted at: Center for Competitive Politics blog

The DISCLOSE Act (Democratic Incumbents Seeking to Contain Losses by Outlawing Speech in Elections) by Senator Chuck Schumer and Congressman Chris Van Hollen just keeps getting worse and worse with each reading.

Among the many deficiencies uncovered so far (crafted behind closed doors, favors the speech of organized labor while silencing the business community, designed by Democratic Congressional political leadership to enhance their election advantages, and ignoring that current disclosure requirements are more than sufficient) , another has recently come to light – the bill would impose significant restrictions on the right of citizens to speak freely on the internet about candidates.

William McGinley, a prominent campaign finance lawyer who testified at yesterday’s hearing on the DISCLOSE Act, noted during his oral testimony that “the broad reach of the new definitions of independent expenditure… and covered coordinated communications… now appear to regulate internet communication, including the liberal and conservative blogosphere.”

McGinley went on to note that the DISCLOSE Act’s media exemption provisions does not include web sites or internet communications in the same manner as current law, which does protect political speech on the internet from government regulation and restriction. He concludes that “this legislation does not exclude bloggers or internet communications, and places them at risk. If this bill passes, the internet’s status as a free-speech zone is in danger.”

You can check out McGinley’s testimony at the Committee on House Administration’s web site. His comments on regulation of political speech on the internet begin at around 34:30.

Analyzing this so-called campaign finance “reform” bill, I keep feeling like that boy in the room with a shovel, looking for the pony…

Sean Parnell
Center for Competitive Politics