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11/1/05

Online Freedom of Speech Act

Okay, I have mixed feeling about this one. First I love it because it provides free speech protection on the Internet. With some of the drivel I write I need all the protection I can get. On the other hand the bill is only being pushed to circumvent the election reforms that limit the amount of soft money that can be spent on advertising by organizations on behalf of candidates.

I have always been for the election reform bill because of the abuses by "so-called" nonprofit orgs that create ads on behalf of candidates running for office. The limits that are in place as to the amount of money that can be contributed by an individual or entity to a campaign are reasonable limits and tries to insure that special interest groups and corporations looking for favors can't capture the political process for themselves. Therefore any law that circumvents those limits is worrisome at best.

The law that was passed set limits on the amount and when those ads by the special interest groups can run, on television, radio, and in print, but it did not specifically state and on the Internet. Because of this oversight, a bill is currently being pushed through congress called the Online Freedom of Speech Act. Pretty nice name. Makes you want to feel all patriotic doesn't it?

In Politics beware for names deceive you. They call infringing on your right to privacy The Patriot Act. I haven't made up my mind on this one yet and I am going to study this one hard. I'll post later about it. Tune in. You read it. Make up your own mind. Do not let your politicians push you around on this. Read it! Make up your own mind!

Online Freedom of Speech Act


Paragraph (22) of section 301 of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (2 U.S.C. 431(22)) is amended by adding at the end of the following new sentence: "Such term shall not include communications over the Internet."

Congressman Jeb Hensarling's letter to other House Members


Dear Colleague:
When Congress passed campaign finance reform in 2002, the legislation did not identify the Internet as a target of regulation, and rightly so. The explosion of new technology has done much to democratize our politics, encourage grassroots political involvement, and act as a tremendous catalyst for civic engagement across our country. With the emergence of blogs, the Internet truly puts the power in the hands of the people.

Unfortunately, a federal judge has ruled that the FEC's previous broad exemption of the Internet was impermissible absent clear direction from Congress. Within the next sixty days, the FEC is expected to finalize rules and regulations that could squash not only free speech and citizen activism, but could well impede innovation and technology – unless Congress acts now.

Today, I introduced the Online Freedom of Speech Act to offer that direction, amending federal election law to specifically exclude communications over the Internet from the definition of "public communication" for purposes of regulation. It will allow the growth and expansion of new voices in our political process without interference. An identical bill (S.678) has been introduced in the Senate by the distinguished Minority Leader signifying that this effort is not a partisan one.

We ought to embrace these newcomers to our political process instead of applying complex and chilling regulatory burdens. Please cosponsor this important legislation and help me protect bloggers and online activists from the heavy hand of federal regulation. For more information, please call Gerry O’Shea on my staff at 5-3484.

Congressman Jeb Hensarling
5th District, Texas

Is it protecting of free speech or is it simply a dodge around campaign finance laws?


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