The federal steamroller has flattened all the tangible financial land possible, so last Monday it began its rumbling journey straight up your DSL.
In 2002, the Federal Election Commission voted 4-2 to exempt the Internet from the “Campaign Finance Reform Act” – better known as the “McCain-Feingold law.”
In 2004, a federal judge overturned that exemption, ruling that the FEC had to craft regulations which at least covered political advertising on the Internet. That ruling put into motion a shot at a source of revenue the government has been wringing their hands over since Al Gore invented it – the Internet.
In keeping with the court order, the FEC decided that the campaign finance law will apply to paid political ads placed on another person’s website. For the time being, it won’t apply to most other political activity on the Internet, such as bloggers and others who voice support/opposition to candidates.
Why not fully regulate the internet? All in good time. You know the government would love to, but they realize they’re on eggshells, as it would be politically unpopular, to say the least. Also, nobody has figured out an effective way to do so – not even close. When it comes to the topic of Internet regulation, the government still has a “Paris Hilton trying to do the New York Times crossword puzzle” look on its face. Unlike Paris, however, they’ll soon have it figured out. Worse yet, even if they don’t have it figured out, they’ll think they have it figured out.
Give it time. Some politicians are just now learning how to log on to their Commodore 64’s. Once they get over that hurdle, it’s “go time.”
The reason CFR lawmakers will inevitably come full-bore for the Internet is the reason CFR purportedly exists: to “take the money out of politics.” Somehow, “taking the money out of politics” will inevitably require taking money out of your pocket.
In a Washington Post article titled “Money’s going to talk in 2008,” Michael Toner, chairman of the FEC, is quoted from an interview on the price tag for running for president in 2008: “There is a growing sense that there is going to be a $100 million entry fee at the end of 2007 to be considered a serious candidate.”
McCain-Feingold sure did get the money out of politics, didn’t it? Since John McCain is considered by many to be among the candidates to beat for the GOP nomination, he may be both surprised, yet pleased to discover, that the law he co-sponsored contains more loopholes than the wall between a high-school girls’ locker room and the woodshop.
With all these candidates in need of $100 million to run for president, Congress and everything else, eliminating the money from politics is more important than ever, so the McCain-Feingold people will have to come after heretofore hands-off areas, probably via an Internet tax of some sort within the next decade. Taking the money out of politics is expensive, and the Internet is the only untapped keg in the public frat house.
A quick look at even the seemingly noblest of intentions of McCain-Feingold and the failings are obvious. Did the “stand by your ad” provision, which requires federal candidates say “I approve this message,” bring about a huge decline in negative ads? The thought behind that was, if a candidate had to say “I approve” visibly and audibly, the candidate would be less likely to permit negative or false material in the ad. Sure, and installing video surveillance cameras in your living room will intimidate your dog enough to make him stop licking himself.
What will mark the beginning of federal regulation of the entire Internet? The implementation of an IRS program, probably to be called “poli-snoop” or something similar, which will detect any time a political candidate is mentioned on your website, and subsequently satisfy McCain-Feingold via convenient and automatic payroll deduction, can’t be far off.
After that, an Internet under federal domain would sport the usual signs of bureaucratic control – the cyberspace equivalent of $600 hammers where half the websites are named after Robert Byrd. But that’s years away … maybe.
So, bloggers, cyber opiners, and operators of websites, don’t breathe too heavy a sigh of relief just because you’ve been temporarily sidestepped. The government is still searching for a way up your DSL and into your wallets and purses. For the time being, the government is circling the Internet, like blind hungry pit bulls searching for an open window to the meat market. Once they find it, watch out.