Monday, April 04, 2005

Dear FEC

Anything you can do,
I can do better.
I can do anything
Better than you.*

San Francisco

Well with all the worry about the FEC regulating and controlling free speech a smaller effort has arisen in the heart of Blue America. San Francisco has decided to attempt to regulate political blogging.
Just when you thought the Federal Election Commission had it out for the blogosphere, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors took it up a notch and announced yesterday that it will soon vote on a city ordinance that would require local bloggers to register with the city Ethics Commission and report all blog-related costs that exceed $1,000 in the aggregate.

Blogs that mention candidates for local office that receive more than 500 hits will be forced to pay a registration fee and will be subject to website traffic audits, according to Chad Jacobs, a San Francisco City Attorney.
I have noticed that recently the government at all levels have gone out of the way to start regaining control of the internet. From Taxes to this little play the threat to the internet seems to be growing.

Now some are saying that this is not as bad as some are saying.
Section 1.161.5(b)(1) states that only someone who spends at least $1,000 during a calendar year on "Electioneering Communications" would need to report such expenditures to the San Francisco Ethics Commission.

Thus, it's not the case that "all blog-related costs" would have to be reported, but only those costs that paid for actual "Electioneering Communications". Obviously, this would be a tough line to draw, but if your blog has 50 posts about your pet cat Snuffles and one post urging readers to vote for Mr. Smith, some sort of pro rata assessment of site costs would seem to be appropriate. And while it might be reasonable to infer that enforcement of the ordinance might require all bloggers to register with the Ethics Commission, it does not mention such a requirement at all.
While he may seem optimistic I have to wonder why even a small amount of regulation on speech is not that bothersome to him.

They also have set the bar rather low for whom they can regulate.
Section 1.161.5(c)(3) defines "Electioneering Communication" as "any communication, including but not limited to any broadcast, cable, satellite, radio, internet, or telephone communication" that refers to a San Francisco candidate and is distributed to at least than 500 potential voters within 90 days before the relevant election. A blog shown to have, or to be likely to have, at least 500 unique visitors, would clearly fall within the ambit of this provision.
500 in 90 days. Doing basic math that comes out to be 5.5 unique visitors a day. That would be pretty much everyone over the level of Insigificant Microbe in the ecosystem.

"Free" and "regulated" cannot exist at the same time with the word "speech". Either it is free or it is regulated.
[personal democracy forum]

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