- - Wednesday, February 18, 2015

This is about The Blob and how we lose our right of free speech.

Curtailing speech is always justified as a way to stop evildoers, of course. In this case, The Blob is supposedly needed to fight the boogie monsters, namely the Koch brothers and other rich people (except the multitude of rich liberals).

Government never admits that it wants to control you. Instead, it claims it wants to protect you. But if the bureaucrats control what you say, they control what you know. And if they control what you know, they control what you do.

So you get sucked into The Blob.

One example is the Federal Election Commission. It’s proposed that we allow the FEC to regulate political speech on the Internet.

That surprises people who believe it’s only the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) that threatens to control the Internet, concealed behind the innocent-sounding phrase “net neutrality.” But this is about the FEC, and the move is concealed behind the phrase of regulating “electioneering.”

Supposedly, the FEC has jurisdiction only over candidates for federal office. But it has stretched that mandate to control the process of elections, not merely the candidates. So the agency also has rules and regulations to cover candidate committees. And to cover groups that don’t represent a candidate, but that oppose a candidate. From there, it’s a small but significant step to regulate everyone who makes public comments about political issues during campaign season.

The problem is that today everything is considered political. And campaigns are perpetual. So essentially the FEC is being urged to control all speech all the time.

Egged on by multiple left-wing groups, some FEC commissioners are considering such regulations. Supposedly, it’s to remove the threat that evil, rich people will pour unlimited money into political advertising, after last year’s Supreme Court McCutcheon ruling that FEC money limits are unconstitutional.

Supposedly, the “wicked” Kochs are therefore a threat that must be countered. And the “remedy” is to restrict everybody’s free speech in order to restrict the Kochs and all others whose wealth has made them sinister.

All government attempts to regulate political speech clash fundamentally with our First Amendment freedoms, whether that activity is labeled as electioneering, dark money, or with some other term. Such regulations pretend to be narrowly drawn, but in fact will inevitably expand into government censorship. They also allow selective enforcement against out-of-favor messages.

Because government has intruded into everything, virtually every topic can be deemed “political” and therefore part of electioneering and therefore regulated by the FEC, from health care and the weather (i.e. climate change) to education, water use, family structures, the foods we eat and the medicines we take.

Because government keeps expanding, the definition of political speech grows like The Blob to a monstrous size that threatens our freedoms. But this time it’s not just a movie; it’s a real threat.

A second key reason why “limited” campaign regulation continues to grow is that almost every day is Election Day someplace. It could be a presidential primary, or a House or Senate primary, or a run-off election. Or a state or local race involving issues that are also national. Early voting elongates the government’s restricted time for “electioneering.” California allows people to vote 30 days before Election Day in November; that turns a 30-day restriction into a 60-day restriction.

Efforts to regulate “electioneering” within 30 days, 60 days or any other time window become in practice a 365-day a year restriction because it’s always within that time frame someplace. Modern communication is not bound by geography. The Internet has removed any borders for election messages.

An item posted on the Internet or e-mailed becomes available anywhere and in perpetuity. It cannot be isolated to reach only a single locale. Nor does that message evaporate when the calendar hits some 30-day pre-election time frame.

The idea that the FEC must protect us by regulating Internet speech (or TV or any other mode of communication) is dangerous. Just like The Blob, it may at first seem tiny and harmless. But everyone who saw the movie (the 1958 classic or the 1988 remake) knows how quickly The Blob became a terror. So beware, because Hollywood plans a third remake in 2016. But the FEC could beat them to it.

Ernest Istook is a former Republican congressman from Oklahoma. Get his free email newsletter by signing up at eepurl.com/JPojD.

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