New California Regulation on Political Bloggers Will Chill Free Speech (Lawrence J. McQuillan)
Sunday September 22nd, 2013
Yesterday the California Fair Political Practices Commission approved a dangerous regulation that will subject political bloggers to disclosure rules.
The regulation forces campaign committees to report on their campaign finance statements the names of people they pay to post "favorable or unfavorable" political messages about "a candidate or ballot measure" on a website, blog, social media platform, or online video. They must also report how much they paid the person and the name of the website where the content first appears.
The regulation will be a compliance and paperwork nightmare in the age of the Internet when ideas embedded in blogs, tweets, and videos are ubiquitous. The Commission will be able to pick and choose "compliance violations" to fine based on the Commission's political leanings. Violations by friendlies will be overlooked; violations by enemies will be punished.
But most important the regulation will have a chilling effect on people who want to support causes they believe in yet they want to remain anonymous or keep their personal finances private.
The American War of Independence and the pamphleteers who provided intellectual ammunition in support of the revolution were often financed by anonymous donors because the pamphleteers and donors were considered "rebel traitors" by the Crown and risked imprisonment, confiscation of their property, and death if loyalists to King George III found out.
The American people should never relinquish their right to oppose power and support ideas peacefully and anonymously if they choose.
It is no business of government who is paid to say what about any politician, political party, or policy debate. The public is capable of judging ideas on their merits and reporters are free to investigate ideas and their sources as extensively as they wish.
The decision of the California Fair Political Practices Commission is yet another example of government regulation of American political life that is entirely unwarranted, chilling, and threatens the civil, economic, and political liberties of the American people.