In doing so, he joins Representatives Ron Paul, Tom Tancredo, Mike Pence, Jeff Flake and John Shadegg in their efforts to protect free speech on the internet. The bill was introduced by Rep. Jeb Hensarling, Chairman of the Republican Study Committee, to protect bloggers from FEC regulations and keep them safe from reporting to the FEC. Since a majority of bloggers are not paid for their netroots activism on behalf of a candidate, this bill will protect bloggers from keeping track of expenditures, equipment and having to report their activity to the FEC, whenever they write about a candidate.
As Rep. Rehbert explains:
In 2002, Congress passed Campaign Finance Reform which some opponents feared would curb free speech. While the bill didn’t specifically mention regulation of the Internet, the law of unintended consequences resulted in a 2004 Federal Court ruling which ordered the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to begin regulating speech on the Internet. The Internet, they argued, like newspapers or magazines, could provide “in-kind” support to a candidate by hyperlinking to their website or suggesting that people donate to them. As a result, bloggers faced a threat of FEC investigations which would have resulted in a public disclosure requirement and expensive litigation, providing hindrance to the work you all do.
Thankfully, in 2006, at the urgent request of Congress, the FEC passed a rule (pdf) exempting blogs and their authors from this destructive intrusion of federal authority. We argued the Internet is unique because the consumer, not the producer, decides what’s worth reading. Unlike traditional media, speech on the internet is not constrained by scarcity of space and production. Internet content is only as effective as the choices of the audience to view it.
Exempting Internet speech from FEC regulation was right thing to do, but the fight isn’t over. As easily as this rule was created in 2006, it can be removed by a new Administration. That’s why the Blogger Protection Act is necessary. It’s critical my House colleagues and I move quickly in making this protection permanent.
This is a bill that deserves the support of Republicans and Democrats alike, so contact your representatives and ask them to join in supporting the Blogger Protection Act of 2008. Contact information for Ohio's delegation is available here.