McCain Attacks Free Political Speech -Bloggers in Danger

By: Warner Todd Huston

“Free speech” is not what most people think it is. Though most people have some vague notion that it means just that; a protection of ALL speech, it really isn’t protection for just any speech and it never was. No, in truth, “free speech” is a protection for political discussion free of government oppression and obstruction. It means that the government cannot descend upon and stop a rival Party or people with ideas antithetical to the ruling faction from advocating for their points of view.

There have been all sorts of perfectly legitimate and legal limits put on “Freedom of speech” in the USA. For instance, “Freedom of speech” does not cover pornography and the inability to yell fire in a crowded theater is well known. Over the decades various local statutes that conform to local social custom has prevented all kinds of displays of public speech and the Founding Fathers sponsored many of those statures themselves.

So, it is perfectly in keeping with the Constitution, custom, social and historical standards to place some limits on speech. But not political speech. Political speech is the one area that the Founders intended to leave un-assailed (save that political speech that incites violence, of course).

Political speech has always been protected … until John McCain came to destroy an American right, that is.

And now he is upping his efforts to quash a long and dearly cherished American right by pushing a bill called the “Lobbying Transparency and Accountability Act”. Introduced in Dec of 2005, this bill proposes to give the government even more power to regulate free political discourse.

(See the full text of the Bill here)

Among the worst of the many anti-Constitutional things this bill would do is re-define lobbyist to include “grassroots” organizations. Further this bill would not just cover full-fledged organizations and community groups but would also cover single individuals. The bill says a “grassroots lobbyist” is anyone who desires to influence the public. And that “(A) means any attempt to influence the general public, or segments thereof, to engage in lobbying contacts whether or not those contacts were made on behalf of a client” will be called “lobbying”.

This easily would include bloggers, talk show hosts, writers, or anyone who speaks up about politics. In short, this covers every American that wants to open his mouth for or against the government.

Not only are bloggers and talk show hosts covered as “grassroots lobbyists” under this bill, but these people would be required to submit quarterly tax reports, just in case someone were to give them a donation. These newly minted “lobbyists” would also be forced to submit themselves to be listed in a national database that would be public record, as well.

This bill has so many anti-Constitutional measures that it boggles the mind. Lobbying is a problem in Congress, granted, but the problem is not with the lobbyists, but Congress itself. The reason lobbyists are so pervasive is because the Congressmen and Senators they ply with cash, gifts and free trips can sneak any manner of spending boondoggles into the Federal budget.

If this practice was stopped and budgets were presented with transparent funding so that everyone could see the expenditures that are included and who submitted those expenditures and if spending bills were limited to single subjects instead of being bottomless buckets into which secret spending “earmarks” were thrown, lobbyists would not be as fired up to chase Congressmen around with handfuls of cash. And a large amount of corruption would be eliminated to boot, as fewer Congressmen would be tempted to bend their principles and side step laws to fill their own pockets and those of their friends.

This is why John McCain is, in the end, the least trust worthy Republican in Congress and it would be a shame, indeed, if he were to become our nominee for president in 2008. After all, the man hasn’t the least notion of what basic rights we have been accorded by our Founders, and his idea of limited government is … well, he doesn’t seem to have one as far as anyone can tell.

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