‘2nd American revolution’ looming over free speech

WND – by Bob Unruh

The publisher of “The O’Leary Report,” Brad O’Leary, warned America five years ago that the end goal for some key players in the Obama administration was the evisceration of the First Amendment, so that conservative speech could be shut down.

In “Shut Up, America! The End of Free Speech,” he noted talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh talks about a core constituency in Congress that does not believe the “free market of ideas” is good for America.  

In other words, they believe “you and I aren’t smart enough to figure things out for ourselves, and … we need their help in order to form the correct points of view – their points of view,” he said.

So on Wednesday, when the chairman of the Federal Election Commission said in an interview with the Washington Examiner that there are “government officials” who “are angling to curtail the media’s exemption from federal election laws governing political organizations,” O’Leary wasn’t surprised.

But he’s not willing to retreat, and he doesn’t think Americans are either.

“I don’t think the nation would stand for one voice in the political spectrum being silenced while the other voices are allowed to say what they want,” he told WND.

Commentator Pamela Geller of Atlas Shrugs, who repeatedly has waged battles over the First Amendment’s free-speech rights, was a little more direct.

“The First Amendment protects freedom of speech with political speech being the most protected speech. This is the most basic tenet of a free society. The First Amendment protects all speech, not just the ideas that the ruling party likes but all speech. If controls were to be imposed, who would control what’s good and what’s forbidden? The government? That is a declaration of war and peaceful men would be forced to resort to violence,” she said.

“There is no more crucial issue facing America than the war on free speech. Should the Obama administration move forward with legislation to repress speech (which is exactly what he sought to do in attacking a YouTube video in the wake of the Benghazi attacks), he will have a second American revolution on his hands,” she said.

Joseph Farah, founder and CEO of WND, WND Books and WND Films, said that as “a 35-year veteran of the press in both forms, traditional media and new, I find even the discussion of imposing federal regulations on speech, especially constitutionally protected political speech, to be scary and anti-American.”

“When the founders crafted the First Amendment, they were confirming God-given rights to be pamphleteers,” he said. “Only the form and efficiency of dissemination of information has changed since then. But there are always forces in society that seek control, power and the ability to operate in secrecy and without public accountability. Those are the forces at work behind this anti-liberty, anti-free speech and anti-press agenda today.”

In the interview with the Washington Examiner, Federal Election Commission Chairman Lee E. Goodman said the right “has begun to break the left’s media monopoly, particularly through new media outlets like the Internet, and I sense that some on the left are starting to rethink the breadth of the media exemption and Internet communications.”

He cited such successes as the Drudge Report and Sean Hannity’s radio program.

“The picking and choosing has started to occur,” Goodman said. “There are some in this building that think we can actually regulate” media.

“Truth be told, I want conservative media to have the same exemption as all other media,” he said.

The meddling in political speech by Washington bureaucrats isn’t a new idea. The  so-called Fairness Doctrine, removed in 1987, curbed talk radio. The McCain-Feingold Act of 2002 limits political speech during elections.

The Obama administration recently retreated from new restrictions that critics said would codify the discrimination against conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service.

House Republicans continue to investigate the IRS scandal, moving to find Lois Lerner, the former head of the tax-exempt division, in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify.

Goodman’s FEC office said he was not available for an interview Wednesday.

Geller speculated about those pushing for restrictions on conservative speech.

“When Media Matters issued a declaration that I should not be allowed on national television, Chris Matthews canceled my appearance on his show that very evening and I have never been invited to opine on any left-wing news show since,” she wrote.

“But this has largely been voluntary by the left-wing media. The idea that the Obama administration works closely with subversive, totalitarian organizations like Media Matters should chill the blood of every American. John Podesta, one of President Obama’s top advisers, is the founder and president of the Center for American Progress (CAP). And Media Matters is an offshoot of CAP.

“Is this who is advising the [FEC]?

“Or perhaps it’s Cass Sunstein, an avowed enemy of free speech, who believes that we must reformulate First Amendment law. Sunstein, the former head of the Obama administration’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, wrote about the ‘dark side’ of First Amendment protections. Sunstein insists free speech threatens ‘public civility’ and ‘democratic self-government.’”

O’Leary said such a move to restrict speech would be a “$10 million gift” to conservative organizations who would find fundraising easy for such a fight.

A report from the Tea Party News Network, part of a movement that has been attacked by the Obama administration, said putting news reports in the same category as political action committees would be outlandish.

“The GOP chairman of the FEC is warning that liberals – including the Democrats at the FEC – are looking to silence conservative political speech by tightening the exemption of media entities from FEC regulation. In essence, the government would get to decide who the ‘real’ media is, and who should be entitled to freedom of the press. It’s about as un-American as it gets, and no surprise from an administration that already tried to stick FCC censors in the newsrooms,” said TPNN legal expert Dan Backer.

He was referring to an administration plan discussed earlier this year to install government agents in newsrooms to monitor their activity.

“Goodman is right to be concerned; the Obama administration has become incredibly fast-and-loose with what laws they will or will not enforce and the federal government already has a history of using their power as a cudgel to silence opposing viewpoints. The IRS scandal plagues the Obama administration as evidence shows a years-long campaign was orchestrated by the Obama administration to harass and hinder tea party and other conservative organizations,” TPNN said.

“With the Obama administration selectively enforcing Obamacare provisions, voter laws, immigration laws and laws that define marriage, it’s certainly no stretch to believe that any FEC crackdown on media would not apply to liberal media outlets in the same degree that such regulations would apply to conservative ones.”

It was not the first comments by Goodman on the subject. He suggested such oversight of speech already is present.

A Republican appointed by Obama in 2013, Goodman is a veteran lawyer who was general counsel to the Republican Party of Virginia and is recognized as a national expert in close elections, recounts and election administration.

In the Wall Street Journal in February, he wrote, “The same Federal Election Commission that represented to the Supreme Court that it could ban books now claims the authority to censor Sunday-morning news programs.”

He talked about a case involving a Boston station, WCVB, which invited two congressional candidates for a debate in 2012 but did not include a libertarian candidate, who then filed a complaint

Goodman wrote: “The Federal Election Campaign Act, which established the FEC, regulates money in federal campaigns to protect American citizens from corrupt politicians. It also expressly forbids the agency from regulating the press. Congress enacted this ‘press exemption’ to protect the profoundly important First Amendment right of the press to inform the public about campaigns and candidates without government interference.”

He explained that the television station claimed First Amendment protection, and the FEC rejected the idea. While it ultimately concluded the station did not violate the rules, the fact that the free speech of the station was under review should be startling, he said.

“A decision to approve implies the power to disapprove. And in the case of FEC regulatory authority over corporate contributions, the power to investigate, punish and even enjoin is the power to censor news programs like ‘On the Record,’ ‘Meet the Press’ and ‘This Week.’ The upshot of the WCVB decision is that every television newsroom must look over its shoulder whenever it invites two or more candidates to a joint appearance,” he said.

“The FEC appears to be intent upon meddling in TV newsrooms.

“The point is that government officials cannot be trusted to regulate journalists fairly and without bias. For precisely that reason, Congress prohibited the FEC from regulating the news media’s exercise of editorial discretion – and that manifestly includes any attempt to second-guess a TV news program’s criteria for hosting two candidates for elective office to debate,” he said.

Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2014/05/2nd-american-revolution-looming-over-free-speech/#KvPObmF2ueJYQ2FE.99

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