The Internet, the FEC, and the Patriot Act

Filed by Angry Girl

February 16th, 2005:

According to the subscription-only RollCall, but kindly brought to our attention by MyDD.com:

The Federal Election Commission next month will begin looking at tightening restrictions on political activities in cyberspace, a controversial move that makes some FEC officials uneasy....

Specifically, the FEC is planning to examine the question of how Internet activities, when coordinated with candidates’ campaigns, fit into the definition of “public communications.”


All this because of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, also known as the McCain-Feingold Bill, and BCRA for short.

It turns out that U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly is the woman responsible for this latest development. Going against the FEC, she ruled that Internet communications would not be exempt from the scope of the term of “public communications” that may be coordinated with a candidate.

And the FEC does not seem happy. Michael Toner, the Republican vice-chairman of the FEC, and David Mason, another Republican, both openly expressed worries about the ruling’s effect on political freedom.

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly did at least state, however:

The Court, it should be noted, appeared critical of a “blanket” exemption for internet communications, and did not rule out some more limited exemption for this class of communication.

Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, on the other hand, feels that the ruling was fair. After all, as he said,

“there’s absolutely no rationale that says, ‘I can’t spend a million in coordination with the candidate on TV advertising, but it’s OK to make the same expenditures on Internet advertising.’”

Hard to argue.

But why do I smell a rat here? It sounds as contrived as having to create tax laws to put Al Capone in jail.

Let’s take a closer look at Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly.

It turns out she’s the one who gave Microsoft that admittedly sweetheart settlement back in 2002.

But, wait, there’s more: Her bio says that in 2002

Chief Justice Rehnquist appointed Judge Kotelly to serve as Presiding Judge of the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court , which is a 7-year appointment.

She must be quite the gal! What the hell is the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court?

According to the Wikipedia,

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is a secret U.S. court composed of 11 federal judges, established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (1978), and expanded by the USA PATRIOT Act in 2001. Its jurisdiction is to oversee requests for surveillance warrants by federal police agencies (primarily the F.B.I.) against suspected foreign intelligence agents inside the U.S.

Apparently, as stated by the ACLU, this court has no government oversight... http://www.aclu.org/NationalSecurity/NationalSecurity.cfm?ID=12219&c=110

Hasn’t Bush been clamoring to renew and extend the Patriot Act just recently?

If you’d heard that the rules for Internet blogging and campaigning were under attack by the Patriot Act, that would make your government sound repressive and totalitarian.

However, if you hear that the Internet rules for political blogging and campaigning are getting changed to comply with the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act and even the Republicans are against it, well, that sounds much better.

While Kollar-Kotelly does have a reputation for fairness, she might also be finding herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Time will tell.

Farfetched? Maybe. But it’s among the things that make you say hmmm….


posted Wednesday, 16 February 2005

Informant: Shanti Renfrew


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