H.R. 1606: Online Freedom of Speech and Its Bedfellows

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Mar 09, 2006 8:31 AM

Jeb Hensarling's H.R. 1606, the Online Freedom of Speech Act is headed to the House floor and may be scheduled for a vote next week, according to word I just got from the Republican Study Committee.

This bill, which is also included as part of the "Pence-Wynn" campaign finance bill (H.R. 1316), would exclude Internet communications from the meaning of "public communication" under certain federal election laws. In short, this bill is aimed primarily at protecting bloggers from being regulated as campaigners who are subject to a litany of prohibitions and restrictions under current law.

It was voted out of committee today, and Tim live-blogged the mark-up, where he got a ton of great quotes:

Ehlers -- "We don't want bloggers to have to check a federal agency before they go online."

"To me blogging is no different than people sending emails to each other...I think it is appropriate that we free the internet for the bloggers."

Krempasky and Kos have bravely crossed the red-blue divide once again to join forces on this issue, sending a letter to every House member:

We write to you again today, from the right and the left, to urge you to support free speech online by passing H.R. 1606 next week. While there are interesting proposals being offered to provide a comprehensive “fix” for Internet regulation, Congress needs to pass the Online Freedom of Speech Act now and consider long-term answers later.

H.R. 1606 would preserve the status quo which governed the 2004 election cycle and beyond, one in which a vibrant blogosphere empowered millions of citizens to influence national politics, leveling the effect of wealth on the electoral process, and without any of the corruption which its opponents now fear. Its passage would send a strong message to the Federal Election Commission to tread lightly when it comes to the Internet, telling it that Congress does not wish to stifle online citizen participation in the political process.

Brad Smith, as former FEC Chairman knows more about the ins and outs of this area of law than most anyone. He's taking down the "reform" crowd's criticisms of H.R. 1606 one by one. Smith gives background on the bill and its enemies, here.

Right Side of the Rainbow offers a rallying cry to "Save Your Political Bloggers!"

Y'all feel free to wear out the Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121

Myself and my friend free speech thank you.