Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bloggers, Tweeters and Facebookers: Political Advertising? House Speaker Charges Ethics Panel To Ponder Question

Austin - Some like it hot and Texas House Speaker Joe Straus (R-Dist.121 – San Antonio) seems to be able to take the temperature - and the humidity – even on his worst days.

After charging the House Ethics panel with finding out if blogging or making entries on Facebook and Tweet is a form of political advertising, he's liable to discover new dimensions to the age-old question, “Hot, ain't it?”

Going into the upcoming legislative season, it's the Speaker's job to charge the solons with making findings.

If the ethics panel, which is meeting behind closed doors today at the Capitol, finds that writing about politics on a blog, in Facebook or Tweeter entries, is a form of political advertising and lawmakers act, potentially a writer would face having to attach a value to his words and make a formal report to the Texas Ethics Commission.

In the perpetual conflict over free speech issues, it's nothing new to see a lawmaker trying to find a way to attach new licensing requirements to what the Courts have long held a form of privileged expression.

Here is what the dump Straus movement is lit up red hot and squawking about this morning.

House Committee on General Investigating and Ethics
1. Review state law in light of the effects of Texas Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion No. 484 relating to acceptance of benefits provided to officeholders. Recommend any necessary legislative changes.

2. Review the definition of "political advertising" and determine whether the definition should be expanded to include content contained in blogs and other types of Internet communications.

3. Monitor the agencies and programs under the committee's jurisdiction.

Don't hold your breath, but if any such measure should pass, it would face a long and chilly reception in the federal courts before you can add one more place politics as a conversational subject is verboten – right behind churches, ice cream socials and Texas beer joints.

The resulting intervener and amicus curiae briefs would make colorful reading, to say the least.

Many flags would unfurl, no doubt.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
- The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America

God bless Texas!

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