The Lonely Centrist

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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Hold on Tight to Your Mouse - Here Comes More Regulation of Internet Politics

The House today voted in favor of H.R. 1606, exempting internet communications from some campaign finance regulations, but because of a procedural quirk, the vote will have the opposite effect - internet regulation will increase.

The House vote was 225 to 182 in favor of exempting internet communications from the definition of "public communications" under the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. However, because the bill was brought to the floor as a "suspension" bill, a two-thirds majority was needed for the bill to pass.

I won't try to recap the bill here. See here for a bit. It is enough to note that even if it had passed, the internet would not be entirely free of regulation, but that the failure of the bill to pass means that the Federal Election Commission, pursuant to Court order, will now issue further regulations. (For background, see here.) For now, I'll just point to two things of interest.

First, there is virtually no doubt that the so-called "reform" community intentionally sought to mislead Congress and the press about the content of the bill. See here, here, and here, and note that these characterizations of reformers' behavior have gone unrebuted (because, in fact, they are accurate).

Second, I wonder what the reform community's spin will be. A majority of Congress wants to at least partially deregulate the internet. For years, reformers cried "foul" when a minority of the Senate filibustered McCain-Feingold. Yet I suspect they have no qualms now about pocketing a win on the strength of a minority vote, and indeed, I predict they will trumpet this as a great success and as continued evidence of congressional support.

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