FEC's Bradley Smith calls it quits

Federal Election Commission member known for a prescient warning about blogging crackdown will return to teaching law.

Bradley Smith, the outspoken member of the Federal Election Commission who sounded an alarm about a crackdown on bloggers, is leaving his job.

Bradley Smith
Bradley Smith
Smith said on Wednesday that he has submitted his resignation to President Bush, effective midnight August 21, and will return to his previous job teaching law at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio.

In a March interview with CNET News.com, Smith warned that the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act--better known as the McCain-Feingold law--could lead to an unprecedented crackdown on political speech online. Even hyperlinks to candidate Web sites and forwarding e-mail statements could be covered by government regulations, Smith warned.

After his warning, an army of bloggers mobilized to oppose intrusive regulations and prominent members of Congress warned the commission not to be overly aggressive. As a result, the FEC proposal was substantially less onerous than one proposed internally just weeks before. A public hearing is scheduled for June 28.

Smith is known for being critical of government regulation of political speech, especially laws that infringe upon grassroots activities.

In his letter to Bush, Smith warned that the trend toward greater control of politicking--online and offline--may eventually have grave consequences. "Political activity is more heavily regulated than at any time in our nation's history," he wrote.

"For example, in accordance with the law, during my tenure the FEC has assessed penalties against parents for contributing too much to the campaigns of children; against children for contributing to the campaigns of parents; and against husbands for contributing to campaigns of their wives," he wrote. "We have required citizens to respond to complaints for the display of homemade signs supporting a candidate. These are just a few examples: The commission's regulations take up nearly 400 pages of fine print."

About the author

Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for CNET. You can e-mail him or follow him on Twitter as declanm. Declan previously was a reporter for Time and the Washington bureau chief for Wired and wrote the Taking Liberties section and Other People's Money column for CBS News' Web site.


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