NYT Attacks Free Speech on Internet

The New York Times attacks the Online Freedom of Information Act (H.R. 1606) in an editorial today titled "The Internet Campaign Loophole." The op-ed encourages those "courageous lawmakers" who backed the McCain-Feingold campaign reform law in 2002 to step forward and "stand together against making the Internet a cornucopia of political corruption."

Here it is:

For all the avowals to put the brakes on ethical lapses, the House is showing its true colors with an attempt to turn the Internet into a free-flowing big-money trough for uncontrolled political spending. The measure would exempt political ads on the Internet from a reform law barring corporate and union donors from buying up grateful candidates with six- and seven-figure contributions.

Politicians who chafe under the law’s "soft money" ban would be free to run unlimited ads online, empowered by private donors who would not even be required to file campaign records. A similar loophole attempted by the Federal Election Commission has already been struck down in court for inviting "rampant circumvention" of the anticorruption law.

The House bill pretends to be trying to protect the free speech rights of bloggers on the Internet. That is a legitimate concern, but relicensing soft-money bagmen is hardly the solution.

A far preferable alternative measure would fully protect the growing legions of bloggers, but not at the cost of turning the Internet into a tool for the abusive enrichment of candidates. A critical question is whether the Republican leadership will deny the public a fair debate over this issue by bottling up the alternative bill this week.

It is imperative that the courageous lawmakers who supported the McCain-Feingold reform law four years ago stand together against making the Internet a cornucopia of political corruption. Wavering Democrats, in particular, need a strong leadership call to stand fast, despite campaign-year cravings for more money. Voters need to pay particular attention to which lawmakers endorse this unfettered sale of political influence.