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What's Happening in Congress with the Internet Bill

Bad news on the campaign finance front: The House Administration Committee this morning approved H.R. 1606, which allows unlimited "soft money" — money from corporations, unions and wealthy individuals — to buy campaign advertising on the Internet. This is a potentially devastating loophole in the current soft money ban, as campaigns come to rely more and more on Internet advertising.

The move came on a voice vote. Chairman Ehlers, Ranking Member Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, Rep. John Mica, Rep. Candice Miller, Rep. Robert Brady and Rep. Zoe Lofgren spoke, although they talked in general terms about protecting bloggers, rather than discussing the impact the bill could have on campaign finance law. Ehlers and Mica said they could imagine future corruptionarising if the bill is enacted, but said Congress could deal with those problems when they come up.

Rep. Lofgren commended a compromise proposal from the Center for Democracy and Technology that would protect both the integrity of the soft money ban and free speech rights of bloggers. Still, she said, the time is now to act on H.R. 1606. The CDT proposal has been introduced in the House as H.R. 4900 by Reps. Thomas Allen (D-Maine) and Charles Bass (R-N.H.).

Millender-McDonald did not reveal her position on H.R. 1606, and spoke to both protecting the Internet and the value of stopping soft money corruption. But no one attempted to substitute the good H.R. 4900 for the bad H.R. 1606.

H.R. 1606 will be on the House floor next week. The campaign finance reform community will be gearing up to kill the bill.