Free speech rights took another hit yesterday. The U.S. House of Representatives failed to pass HB 1606, which would have exempted bloggers from certain elements of campaign finance "reform."
That means people like me, regular folks expressing political opinion, could become felons, for the crime of exercising the very right to freedom of speech our Founding Fathers envisioned when they wrote the First Amendment.
What remains unclear is: what is the "in kind value" of a blog post in support of a political candidate? I myself have logged some long hours putting together blog posts that support candidates I like. I have done this completely on my own, without any official coordination from campaigns. Am I "contributing" to a campaign? How much? The dollar value of the bandwidth? The dollar value of the man-hours of labor?
Am I now some sort of felon for not filing an FEC report?
No one knows.
On the discouraging side: the Supreme Court has already waffled once on the Constitutionality of McCain-Feingold. If you read the judicial opinion here, you will be dazzled by a sea of joint opinions, concurrences, and dissents. The case is so muddled, even top legal scholars don't really know what it means. And we have no way of knowing how the new Chief Justice and nominee Altio might rule should the issue be revisited. So we can't count on the courts actually upholding our free-speech rights when they matter (although we can always count on our courts protecting our right to live-sex-acts-for-cash).
On the encouraging side, although HB 1606 failed, it failed under special rules that required a 2/3 supermajority. We had a solid majority on our side, but it still came up shy of the 2/3 requirement. This is a problem with the rules of procedure under which the bill was introduced. It is possible for a brand new bill to be brought up in the House, and then it will only require a simple majority to pass. We have more than enough votes to protect our freedom in the House. It's just a matter of bringing the matter up properly.
On the discouraging side, 4 out of 5 of Oregon's Representatives voted AGAINST our free-speech rights. Our lone Republican, Greg Walden, failed us, even though Republicans as a whole voted 179-38 to protect free speech. Conservatives need to get on Walden's case. He needs to become more informed about our rights. Contact Greg Walden and give him an ear full.
Here in District 4, we have had neo-socialist Peter DeFazio allegedly representing us for almost two decades. DeFazio always claims to be a crusader for our civil liberties and individual rights. And yet he joined with the minority of anti-free-speech Representatives who killed HB 1606.
If you are one of the many liberal activists here in Eugene who are always ready to fight for free speech, you should be outraged at your Representative. Consider this come next November, when you have a chance to vote in Jim Feldkamp.
I hate to turn this into a partisan issue. Both liberal and conservative bloggers have been united in this cause to protect our freedom. Even the most powerful leftist blog, Daily Kos, is upset at the result. But the facts are clear: looking at the roll call vote, Republicans were overwhelming for our rights, while democRats were overwhelmingly against.
This is just further proof that, contrary to their claims, the democRats and their big-media allies care less about individual rights, and choose the establishment over the little guy.
And so I must do a very rare thing: I must thank Democrat Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon's 3rd District for crossing party lines and voting to uphold our free-speech rights.
Now: if your Representatives voted no on HB 1606, contact them and demand an answer as to why they oppose freedom of political speech.
Meanwhile, where was the ACLU? They have been strangely silent... as they often are when real liberties are at stake.