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An Open Letter to the House of Representatives: Don't Let Campaign Regulations Take a "Byte" Out of Online Freedom of Speech
March 13, 2006
On behalf of the more than 350,000 members of the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), I urge you to vote in favor of H.R. 1606, the Online Freedom of Speech Act. Sponsored by Representative Hensarling, this legislation would exclude communications over the Internet from the definition of "public communication" used by certain federal election laws to regulate campaign activity. By passing this bill, Congress would solidify the notion that "bloggers" engaging in Constitutionally protected speech on the Internet should not be burdened with the onerous regulatory prohibitions faced by traditional party-affiliated campaigners.
An unencumbered Internet is critical for taxpaying citizens who seek greater fiscal accountability from the government and want to organize political movements on behalf of federal tax and spending reform. In addition, state-level petition drives for ballot measures like the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights are greatly assisted by the distribution power of blogs. The Internet provides an alternate site to the "town square" as the place of assembly for citizens to interact and make demands of their government.
NTU's own blog, Government Bytes!, was launched to further our non-partisan mission to educate and mobilize taxpayers. To date, Government Bytes! has had over half a million hits and recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. Like many other organizations and individuals active on the blogosphere, our blog has allowed NTU and its research affiliate to reach new audiences and explore new media formats in our efforts to lower taxes and limit spending. This vibrant citizen-centered discourse, of the type our country's Founders hoped to encourage, is in serious jeopardy without the enactment of H.R. 1606.
Strangling Internet blogs with heavy-handed campaign regulations would strike a severe blow to online democratic action, yet federal judges have rejected the FEC's exemption of the Internet from new regulation. Congress needs to send a clear message to the regulatory and judicial worlds that online freedom of speech should be allowed to flourish, and we urge you to do so by voting in favor of H.R. 1606.