Political bloggers force House Democrats to alter language in campaign finance bill

Mike Riggs Contributor
Font Size:

House Democrats have agreed to alter the language in a bill that would reduce the sting of a recent Supreme Court campaign finance ruling in response to allegations from political bloggers that the legislation would restrict free speech.

According to Sean Parnell, president of anti-campaign finance reform Center for Competitive Politics, Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s office contacted him after a hearing last week and told him that it would make subtle changes to language in the DISCLOSE act, which, if left unchanged, would bring political blogs under the regulatory supervision of the FEC.

Rep. Van Hollen and Sen. Charles Schumer proposed the “Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections” Act in April in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizen’s United v. Federal Election Commission, which lifted limits for corporate spending spending on federal campaigns.

William J. McGinley, a campaign finance blogger and attorney at Patton Boggs, LLP, first raised questions about specific language in the act in a blog post last week. In a section specifying what sort of campaign-related publications the FEC can regulate, the word “communication” is used instead of “public communication.”

While the difference of just one word might seem not much, McGinley wrote that such a minor lapse could change the entire nature of the legislation.

The act, “as currently drafted [does] not contain the term ‘public communication,'” he wrote. “Rather, each provision uses the term ‘communication’–a term undefined by the Federal Election Campaign Act and Federal Election Commission Regulations. Therefore, internet communications, including blog posts, are not excluded from” the requirements under the DISCLOSE Act.

A Van Hollen spokesperson confirmed to The Daily Caller on Tuesday that Rep. Van Hollen had contacted Sean Parnell at the CCP and agreed to alter all references to “communication” to “public communication.”

“I have talked with Chris Van Hollen’s office,” Parnell told The Daily Caller, “and this was an unintentional error on their part. And they attend to address it. The FEC has ruled that the term ‘public communication’ does not cover the interenet or bloggers, but ‘communication’ is a different term, which does cover bloggers.”