Author Archives: Brad Warbiany

I thank the FEC for FREEING us!

FEC Frees All Web Political Communication Except Paid Ads

Eric chastised me about the title to this post, where I improperly used language and claimed the government had rights. As such, I need to point out this gaffe before even addressing the meat of this article. The FEC did not give us Freedom. They only lifted their (immediate) threat of immorally infringing upon our freedom.

Yesterday’s unanimous Federal Election Commission (FEC) ruling on Internet political communication places paid online advertising in the category of “public communication,” subject to campaign finance laws. Bloggers, Web pundits, and all other Internet communicators, however, get carte blanche.

Prominent bloggers are hailing the FEC decision, which affords them the same exemption from campaign finance restrictions that is afforded offline media like TV, radio and newspapers. Indeed, even when individuals who run Web sites accept payment from a federal candidate, political party committee or other political committee, no disclaimer is required. Also, according to the FEC document, public communication doesn’t include republished campaign material that is placed on an individual’s Web site, blog or e-mail, so it’s not considered “coordinated communication.”

So, they’ve accepted as legitimate the idea that they decide who gets to speak and who doesn’t, and how. While I am somehow now a member of a privileged class (“the media”), I still do not accept the government’s power to decide who can and cannot speak. If they can decide today that bloggers are part of the media, they can just as easily decide the opposite in the future.

I refuse to acknowledge their power to infringe upon my right to speak. That is my position, regardless of which way the FEC decides. And should they have decided otherwise, I would have been forced to disobey.

The game is not over. I do not believe it is right to leave these decisions in the hands of unelected bureaucrats at the FEC. H.R. 1606 is still active. After the FEC ruling, it could still be voted upon, or it might simply go away. It is time to make sure it does not go away. I am sending this letter (by fax) to my Congressman, Tom Price. I suggest all of you do the same, as we need to send a message that this is illegitimate in the first place.

Dear Rep. Price,

As you may be aware, the FEC recently ruled that blogs and other online communication, with the exception of paid political advertisements, will not be regulated as a part of the Bipartisan Campain Reform Act (BCRA). At the same time, Rep. Hensarling had introduced the Online Freedom of Speech Act (HR 1606) to ensure that online communication would be wholly exempted from the BCRA.

Understandably, there was a lot of political pressure to pass HR 1606 before the FEC released its ruling on Monday. As a result of that ruling, it is likely that much of this pressure will subside. Regardless, it is my belief that HR 1606 should still be voted upon in the House and passed. The FEC has determined that it is the arbiter of what should and should not be regulated as political speech under the BCRA. While they may have decided today to bow to politics and not regulate online communication, there is no guarantee that they won’t change their minds next month or next year, when they are no longer in the spotlight of public opinion.

The way to ensure that the FEC does not change its ruling is for the Congress to make sure that they don’t have the authority. It is not the place of unelected federal bureaucrats to determine whether or not individuals have the right to freedom of speech. I ask that you do what you can to ensure that HR 1606 does see a vote in the near future, and that you vote in favor of the measure.

Thank you for your support.

Yes Virginia, I Really AM a Radical

[Note: I originally wrote this entry back in June 2005, when the original Supreme Court nomination debates were occurring. I was advocating for Janice Rogers Brown, who was considered a “radical extremist” by the left-wingers. I was reminded of this post reading Chris’ bio today, and thought I might cross-post it here. Enjoy.]

When I posted a few days ago about the new byline, Lucy Stern asked me whether I really wanted to call myself a “radical”. I had to think about it for a millisecond or so, look around at what our government has become, and determined that “radical” is a perfect term to describe me.

I was watching Fox News a few hours ago (Brit Hume’s show, I think), and they were talking about extremist appeals court nominee Janice Rogers Brown. I’ve picked up a few quotes on other blogs about Brown:

The Choice America Network:

Of all the extremist positions judicial nominee Janice Rogers Brown has taken, her stated agenda to undo all progress on social justice since the New Deal may be the most striking. These are her own words:

“The New Deal, however, inoculated the federal Constitution with a kind of underground collectivist mentality. The Constitution itself was transmuted into a significantly different document…1937…marks the triumph of our own socialist revolution.”

The Manitou Project:

Janice Rogers Brown’s extremist legal views are completely at odds with working families’ interests and values. Even ultra-conservative columnist George Will calls her “out of the mainstream.” She compares enactment of New Deal legislation such as the minimum wage and the 40-hour workweek with a “socialist revolution.” She compares “big government” with “slavery” and an “opiate.” She says the First Amendment protects racial harassment in the form of slurs in the workplace. She says leased employees shouldn’t expect to participate in employers’ pension plans because they are part of a “new labor paradigm” that is “simply a matter of personal choice and private agreement” in which courts should not interfere.

Wow. We need to keep her off the federal bench.

Janice Rogers Brown believes that the Constitution is the guiding law in our land. Specfically, she reads the Constitution literally, and believes that whatever is not in there shouldn’t be done by our federal government. And she’s an extremist. An extremist isn’t by definition wrong, or bad. It simply means that she is out of the mainstream.

There’s a good reason for this. The mainstream has been moving more and more left for the last 92 years (I use 1913, when the Sixteenth Amendment was passed for that calculation). Someone who views the New Deal as a socialist program and openly states so is not in the mainstream. Someone who believes that private property rights may include the right of discrimination is not in the mainstream (even though it is obvious she doesn’t approve of discrimination). Someone who has the view that coerced redistribution of income is a mild form of slavery is not in the mainstream. It is her view that this country is ruled by laws, as enshrined in the Constitution, and if the “mainstream” wants to change that law, it requires Constitutional amendments, not judicial activism.

So am I a “radical”? Am I an “extremist”? Yes. It is obvious that compared to the mainstream thought in this country, I am nowhere near the average Joe. The average Joe believes that the rule of the majority is just. The average Joe believes that government exists to promote his agenda, not protect individual rights. The average Joe views taxation and regulation as tools for social engineering. The Republican and Democratic parties are full of average Joes looking not to further American ideals with their votes, but to get “their guys” holding the reins of power.

So yes, I am a radical. I’m not afraid of that label, because the government I envision is radically different than the one we have. And yes, I am an extremist. Because I believe that we should be much closer to the extremes of personal liberty and personal responsibility than we currently are. I make no claims that the rest of the country thinks the same way I do. But the principles I believe in don’t require them to. They can live they way they want, and I’ll live the way I want. They don’t offer me the same courtesy. My beliefs put me well outside of the mainstream. But with such folks as Janice Rogers Brown out here with me, I can at least claim good company.

Online Freedom of Speech Act — Delayed?

I posted about how important of a vote this was on Wednesday, in anticipation of it happening yesterday. Looks like the vote didn’t happen, and the House isn’t in session today. According to the schedule, this should be the first order of business on Monday.

Now, there are two possible explanations. It looks as though they were following the schedule, and that they may have simply run out of time. On the other hand, they could be stalling for a chance to let the lobbyists come in, so they can do some backroom negotiating between HR 4900 and HR 1606. It’s unclear which is occurring, but the added time gives our Congress the option of doing the latter, even if that was not the cause of the delay.

What’s the difference between the two? HR 1606 says the internet will be free from regulation under BCRA. HR 4900 says that the government has the legitimate purpose of regulating the internet, but tries to set the limits of regulation such that it won’t affect most individuals. As I do not recognize their right to limit freedom of speech in this area, I choose HR 1606. As I know that regulations have a tendency to widen over time, I also choose HR 1606, because I know that narrow regulations today will be wide regulations in the future. It’s time to make sure our Congresspeople know where we stand.

A Tale of Two Bills

Using the near-impossibility that any bill entitled “ethics reform” will be rebuked, House members have proposed campaign finance restrictions be rolled into ethics reform:

House Republicans launched an election-year drive Wednesday to rein in political groups that operate with looser restraints than candidates and their parties, an attempt to blunt the activities of liberals such as billionaire George Soros.

Wealthy supporters, who make donations of $1 million or more to such groups, could contribute no more than $30,000 under the legislation, according to Republican officials. The organizations would be subject to more frequent disclosure requirements.

House Republicans indicated late last year that they wanted to limit the activities of loosely regulated political organizations, trying unsuccessfully to attach legislation to a must-pass bill setting overall policy for the military. They retreated under bipartisan fire.

At the time, the chairman of the House GOP campaign committee said the effort was designed to close “a loophole that is allowing big donor money into the process.”

How did freedom of speech become a “loophole”? Is that similar to how when they give us a tax cut, they count that as an “expenditure”? It used to be that individual rights were something inherent, and which were not to be infringed by the government. Now they’ve taken the stance that they’re the arbiters of all that exists, and they’ll parcel out to us those rights which they think we’re worthy of being granted.

The Bipartisan Incumbent Protection Act of 2003 is designed for one thing, and one thing only: to keep the message in the hands of people that don’t want to rock the boat. But as with anything, when there is that much power at stake, people will find a way to be heard, and 527 organizations fit the bill. Yet from a government standpoint, it was at least an improvement. While they couldn’t silence everyone, they were able to make sure all except the very powerful remained quiet. The powerful have an incentive to keep the status quo, lest they lose their power.

But some voices are bucking the trend. George Soros* has an established fortune (i.e. little fear of losing it, being fired, etc), and an agenda. To our government, Soros is simply too unpredictable and uncontrollable to be allowed to continue operating. They are desperately trying to continue their ability to control the message, and will take down the “whales” of political donations if necessary.

When you see that, you wonder whether our Congressman really want any part of the Online Freedom of Speech Act, set to come up for a vote tomorrow:

Redstate: We’ve been working for a long time on HR 1606 – The Online Freedom of Speech Act. It will come up for a vote on the floor of the House TOMORROW but as you read this – the campaign regulation community is hard at work – working the halls of Congress, lying about not only our bill – but “their” bill as well. And as far as their intentions go – well, I think it’s fair to say that when it comes to THEM bragging about protecting free speech – they are not to be trusted.

Of all the work you’ve done on this issue – no day is more important that today. Start with this list. Call the Republicans that wobbled last time 1606 was on the floor. And don’t stop there.

Congress doesn’t want bloggers speaking freely. They accept us grudgingly, although I’ll bet some of the lesser known folks on the hard-right, hard-left, or libertarian ends of the spectrum giving them assistance (as I think the blogosphere tends to be populated by ends of the spectrum, rather than the middle). But the vast majority see us as a threat. They saw the Patterico Pledge, and they understand the power of the press, even if it is simply online self-publishing.

It’s a sad day when freedom of speech has become a battleground. But it’s a battle we cannot afford to lose. Liberty must constantly be guarded, as there are always forces ready to snatch it away. Let’s make sure that if it goes, it goes with a bang, not a whimper.

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Killing the Goose

Wizbang: Another economic triumph for New Hampshire

In Massachusetts, the government is all in a dither about the health-care crisis supposedly gripping the state. And two of the leading Democrats, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House (both houses over 84% Democratic) have apparently worked out a deal: any employer with ten or more employees will have to offer them some form of coverage, or pay $295/year per employee that would go towards public health care.

Setting aside the notion that the moneys would, indeed, be used for such a purpose (I don’t think the Massachusetts legislature has EVER respected an “earmarking” of funds, instead just tossing it into the general fund and spending it on whatever tickles their fancies), I think this could have a tremendous boost to the economy.

Well, the economies of neighboring states, especially us here in New Hampshire.

Massachussetts politicians would be wise to learn a valuable lesson: You can shear a sheep again and again, but skin him only once. Massachussetts, like most populous states with larger cities, have a nearly-captive audience. There are a lot of reasons that people want to live in Boston; having visited the city, I enjoy it. With such a captive audience, it is a lot easier to extract taxation from your state.

I liken it to poker. If you’re an expert poker player, and you’re trying to get into a weekly game with your buddies, you don’t want to send them home broke every week, or suddenly your buddies will have “prior commitments” spring up. The game won’t last too long, because below-average poker players like to win at least often enough to think they’ve got a chance. The optimal strategy is to win, but not to punish people you expect to play in the future. (Of course, in a tournament, or if you’re playing in a casino, where you won’t play those people again, all bets are off. Play all-out.)

The same rule applies to tax policy. You push, and you push, and you push, and the system creaks and groans, but holds up against the pressure. Then you push a little farther, and people give up. Massachusetts is one of the few states in the country to lose population year over year. Even states like California, which lose large numbers of residents each year (a statistic I’m glad to be a part of), have enough immigration to offset the loss. Massachussetts isn’t called Taxachussetts without reason. And now they’re piling one more big tax on top of it all.

Cities like Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, are like geese who lay golden eggs. You treat them right, and they’ll pay off for a long time. But when you try to take it all at once, don’t be surprised when the golden goose stops producing.

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