March 11, 2005

MORE LATER ON MY SPEECH (I’M BLOGGING FROM THE CAB) but in answer to a question afterward, I’m not necessarily against any regulation of campaign finances. But I think that current election law is quite bad, and that the FEC is a poor choice of regulatory instrument. More details later.

UPDATE: Wizbang is going to post a transcript and video later, so I won’t try to recreate the whole thing from memory. So a few high points:

Scott Thomas, chairman of the FEC, spoke before me. He opened with some rather uncharitable remarks regarding fellow commissioner Brad Smith’s comments on FEC regulation of blogs, but followed up with a discussion of FEC intent that, although it was supposed to be reassuring, actually left me thinking that the FEC was thinking more seriously about regulating blogs than I had previously believed. I wasn’t reassured at all, and the complexity of the reasoning he outlined just illustrated how much discretion — and how little real guidance — the FEC has on these kinds of questions.

That led me to open by saying that Thomas’s remarks were the most cogent argument I’ve heard for the abolition of the FEC. And they were. If you think that there can be objective, predictable, and unintrusive regulation of political speech, well — read the transcript of his remarks and see if you still think so.

Among other things, though, I noted a regulatory problem. Another agency, the FTC, has had its head handed to it when it has tried to impose intrusive regulations on industries that are dispersed across every Congressional district (like funeral homes, or used car dealers). I noted that bloggers have the same characteristic, with politically plugged-in bloggers everywhere.

My suggestion, following from this (and not in the speech) is that bloggers ought to contact their Representative and Senator and suggest legislation that will protect them from FEC regulation, just in case Thomas’s assurances turn out to be inadequate. I think it’s worth a thought. If you call them, and tell them that you’re a blogger/constituent who’s interested in this topic, I suspect you’ll get a hearing.

To be fair to Thomas — as I did note — he’s in charge of administering a dreadful statute, one that the FEC didn’t write, and whose administration is sure to be difficult.

ANOTHER UPDATE: By the way, you can read some thoughts of mine on campaign finance regulation in the Newsday column from 1999 that’s reproduced here.

Meanwhile, for an alternate view, here’s Mike Krempasky’s take on the event.

MORE: Rex Hammock has some pungent thoughts.

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