In response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in last year’s McCutcheon v. FEC, the FEC is now furiously trying to stifle speech in other ways. Most notably, they are considering ways to regulate blogs by imposing burdensome regulations equivalent to spending caps in political speech.
To understand their scurrying, you first have to understand the McCutcheon ruling. Bobby R. Burchfield wrote:
The ruling in McCutcheon is very simple. Federal law contains both “base limits,” which were not at issue in McCutcheon, and “aggregate limits,” which were. A base limit is the amount an individual contributor may give to a single candidate per election or to a political committee, such as a political party, every year. An “aggregate limit” is the total amount an individual may legally give each two-year election cycle to all candidates, and a separate total the individual may give each election cycle all political committees.
The McCutcheon majority held that Congress has no legitimate purpose, once a contributor has given the maximum amount to nine candidates, for punishing the contributor for giving the same amount to a tenth candidate.
In other words, the decision was a good development, as the Supreme Court returned to First Amendment basics: the right to spend money is critical to political speech. Of course, the FEC isn’t happy.
According to Newsmax, the Democrats on the FEC commission are encouraging the government to “require even third-party internet-based groups to reveal donors, a move that would reverse a 2006 decision to keep the agency’s hands off the Internet.”
This, of course, is just the latest example of overbearing, out of control politicians and bureaucrats infringing on the constitutional rights of the American people. The federal government never misses an opportunity to flex its muscle, whether by blog regulation, runaway deficits, taxpayer abuse, or heavy-handed executive amnesty. The FEC’s move is even more chilling, because it attacks our dearly held First Amendment rights. George Washington said, “If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”
America as we know it won’t exist without the ability to freely express ourselves. We must be free to criticize those in power and those seeking power. Even as important, we must be free to support those with whom we agree. This is not a partisan position, but instead a universal truth demonstrated most beautifully by the millions of blogs, tweets, and articles on the Internet — the greatest communications equalizer in human history.
The ruling elite doesn’t like that. They long for the days when media was largely controlled by three networks, who largely parroted the same talking points.
Today, each of us has the capacity not just to consume media, but to be the media. Numerous famous bloggers today, just several years ago were hidden away in their own corner of the web, typing furiously to themselves. Yet through hard work, and commitment to their craft, they have created communications juggernauts, upon which millions rely for political information.
Can’t we agree that it’s a good development that we don’t have to rely on people like Brian Williams any more?
There are multiple examples of government abuse around the country. In Wisconsin, rogue District Attorneys have used the unconstitutional John Doe laws of the state to attack citizens engaged in politics, conducting terror style nighttime raids on the homes of those with whom they do not agree politically. In Texas, the “Texas Ethics Commission” (forgive me while I retch at the irony of that name), is unconstitutionally trying to silence critics of the Republican establishment in Austin, holding “secret” hearings and pursuing charges even when their own counsel’s report tells them there are no grounds for such charges. Also, the IRS has enjoyed harassing and silencing conservative, tea party, and other patriotic groups simply because they didn’t like their politics.
Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.” This means we must be diligent in our efforts to fight back against government oppression, regardless of party affiliation. The ruling elite will try to stamp out any who would challenge their monopoly on power.
That’s why we must challenge them all the more.
Mark Mecker is President of Citizens for Self-Governance