June 28, 2005 4:51 PM PDT

Bloggers plead for freedom from election laws

WASHINGTON--Political bloggers on Tuesday urged federal regulators to keep the Internet as free as possible from campaign finance laws.

At a public hearing convened by the Federal Election Commission, both liberal and conservative political commentators lauded the brand of freewheeling online politicking that has characterized recent elections. The FEC is under a court order to extend campaign finance rules to the Internet, and the Democratic commissioners voted not to appeal.

Mike Krempasky, a conservative activist and contributor to the RedState.org blog, said he hopes the FEC will "ensure that no blogger, no amateur activist and no self-published pundit ever need consult with legal counsel." The FEC's 47-page proposed rules, which are not final, cover everything from candidate endorsements to fund-raising, bulk e-mail and paid advertisements.

Online politicking should not be subject to onerous federal rules, Democratic FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub said. "We're all agreed about that." But, Weintraub added, "What is the best way for us to regulate bloggers?"

By the end of Monday's hearing four different approaches of offering immunity to Web commentators emerged:

Say bloggers are journalists: RedState.org's Krempasky and Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, editor of the liberal DailyKos.com site, argued that bloggers should be viewed as media organizations that have long been exempt from campaign finance laws.

"The commission identifies Slate.com, the Drudge Report and Salon.com as entities presumably deserving of the exemption," Krempasky said. "But if the commission grants credentials to these three, how can (it) deny the same privilege to AndrewSullivan.com, Joshua Marshall's TalkingPointsMemo.com or Kevin Aylward's Wizbang blog?"

Carol Darr of the Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet warned that the so-called media exception would be abused. If the FEC veered in that direction, Darr said, you'd see "the campaign finance laws that we've operated under for 50 years just crumble." Larry Noble of the Center for Responsive Politics added: "I don't think you can just make everybody the press."

Set a dollar limit: Permit online political endorsements and a blog set up solely to aid a federal candidate--as long as the spending on hosting fees, computers and so on stays below a certain figure.

But what should that limit be? John Morris of the Center for Democracy & Technology suggested $500. FEC Chairman Scott Thomas, a Democrat, said $1,000 was "a little low" and "if Congress would help us on that, it would alleviate some of the concerns."

Say the Internet is radio: Radio and TV stations generally are immune from campaign finance laws unless their "facilities" are controlled by a political party or candidate.

One option, suggested by Republican Commissioner Michael Toner, would be to extend the same logic to say the "facilities" of Web servers should immunize political speech online.

That drew a sharp complaint from Morris, the lawyer with the Center for Democracy & Technology. "I assume that a printing press that prints on newsprint is not inherently news media," he said. "It's more who's using the printing press and what their purpose is."

Do nothing: The most incendiary approach, this would involve waiting until some unresolved legal disputes are answered or perhaps even ignoring the court order. "If the commission decides to regulate online political speech, it should only do so if a majority of commissioners conclude so independently, apart from the (court) decision, that the McCain-Feingold law requires the FEC to regulate the Internet," Toner said.

In a conversation with CNET News.com, Republican Commissioner Bradley Smith indicated that a hybrid approach might work. "I think the press exemption may be more helpful than people think," Smith said. "Republicans clearly believe in a broader press exemption than Democrats do."

The public hearing continues on Wednesday.

17 comments

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Doesnt matter
It doesnt really matter what approach they take since we all know whatever they decide on is going to be so chock full of holes all it will do is define a specific legally safe route to continue with business as usual of enforcing the golden rule.. he who has the most gold makes the rules (or in america, gets elected).
Posted by Fray9 (547 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Nice run-on.
:)
Posted by katamari (310 comments )
Link Flag
do not fix a bad law with another bad law sirs.
We know well enough the original campaign finance reform effort was contrived by Soros and Pew Charitable Funds. They created the "crisis" and it was a fraud. Soros must believe we will forget the original intent was fraud and then accept his solution through the FEC. Crack down on the Bloggers simply because they've threatened to expose and correct the record? Sorry. Justice was already twisted in that "reform" was unecessary. We are not obligated to continue this farce any further and ought to be criticizing this whole process for what it is: FRAUD!! Are we to believe Soros et. al are not planning to crack down on his critics by this means? Why not eliminate the first bad law instead?
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No way journalism...
Blogs are the print version of diarrhea of the mouth, used mostly
by know-nothings trying to find some place of pseudoimportance
in the world. There's no point in trying to shut them off, they
probably need the exposure to stabilize their egos. And since for
every supposed gem in the blogs, there is an overwhelming
quantity of junk, no one would seriously pay any attention to the
blogs, or the bloggers. And that includes CEO's and peons.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
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Dump McCain-Feingold
The most just solution to the problem is to repeal the McCain Feingold law which in my opinion is in blatent violation of the first amendment. Any suppression of politcal speech is antithetical to over 200 years of American history and tradition. The fact that one person or group of persons has more money to promote their lies and distortions than another is irrelevant. If you really want campaign finance reform just require truth in the message and allow the public to sue. That will dry up the money real quick.
Posted by (1 comment )
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A true dreamer.....
I doubt that there has been a truthful political message in the last
thrity years. If any truth is included, it is lost in the spin. And suing
someone is rediculous. The courts would be swamped with honest
suits, overwhelmed with frivolous ones, and there wouldn't be a
snowball's chance in hell of proving anything until long after the
lies had become irrelevant, if then.

It's a great idea, but you forgot about the politicians being
involved.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Link Flag
Regulate Bloggers?!!!
I agree McCain-Feingold is an egregious violation of free speech and should be repealed. Also, the Supremes who agreed with it should be impeached.

And then, there is the following from the story:

But, Weintraub added, "What is the best way for us to regulate bloggers?"

Who in the hell gave these idiots any authority to 'regulate bloggers'??? Freedom of speech is the issue, not regulating bloggers.
Posted by (1 comment )
Link Flag
"I don't think you can just make everybody the press." ??
That's the whole point of the first amendment...
Posted by Razzl (1318 comments )
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You ALL miss the danger!
The real problem with this, or any other regulation regarding the Internet, is the violation of FREE SPEECH! Democrats naturally oppose anyone being against another LAW or PROGRAM; especially one by the biggest Democrat of them all, John McCain, a coward who admits to spilling his guts the very first day of his captivity in the war.

As long as the Internet exists for unrestricted gathering and sharing of information, it will work for the betterment of We, the People.

Some may argue that lies are spread on the Internet, and that is true. As a matter of fact, lies are spread any time a Democrat Senator or Congressman opens his or her mouth, but we cant restrict their right to say their piece, even when their statements would have had them dragged out to the front lawn of the White House and executed in the old days. It should be up to the individual as to what they want to see or say.

At present, we have the right to choose how we use the Internet. Make one small law regarding the Communist Inspired Campaign Finance Reform Law, and next we will be regulated in what can be said, how many searches we can perform and maybe, just maybe receive automatic fines from some super computer for non-compliance. At the very least, records will be kept and privacy will go by the way of high-top shoes and nickel beer.

How long can we expect to wait for some black-shirted, jack-booted Traitor to break down our door at midnight and scream the most dreaded two words in any language: PAPERS, PLEASE!

It is worth thinking about, especially in a time when courts have become lawmakers.

Most Respectfully,

C. Wayne Lammers
Mlammers1@midsouth.rr.com
Memphis, TN 38107
Posted by (1 comment )
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Lying Democrats?
I'm neither Demo or Rep. I belong to the Constitution Party. Reason: At the top there is NO difference between the two parties. I certainly hope you realize that the Republicans are just as guiltly of lying as the Demos. They are just more deceitful and sneaky about it. I agree the entire point IS freedom of speech. If it weren't being taken away, we all wouldn't be discussing it as much as we are. Want to know the REAL truth? Go to inforwars.com
Posted by eaglesfly47 (10 comments )
Link Flag
Misquote
Declan,
You missed a key word when you quoted me in your article on yesterday's FEC hearing. The question I asked was, "What's the best way for us NOT to regulate bloggers?" I asked because some commenters have suggested that we adopt a specific exemption for bloggers, while others have asked that we not limit the exemption to any particular format or software use. Let me be completely clear. I envision no circumstance in which the FEC would regulate bloggers.
Ellen Weintraub
Commissioner, FEC
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
where is the reach
How far can they go?
Where is the reach?
what happens if something is hosted in China, or Iran, or England.... do American election laws still apply? Or are ISP's going to have to filter out election related material that is not hosted in the US.

The Net is a free space. That is bad, that is good, and that is what freedom is. As long as the net is not a passive experience, forcing the user to type a url or click on a link to get to a place, then the user has a choice as to listen or experience the message that is given.

I hope they stay rational and say all 'passive publishing' {web pages, blogs,} should be without limits and regulation. Otherwise foreigners will have more freedom to influence then Americans.....

America is now about to celebrate its 229'th birthday. Amazingly it managed to accomplish more in it's short life then other nations in their long history..... Could it not be the correlation of allowing as much as possible and regulating as little as possible that allowed America to accomplish so much?
Posted by mobiman (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Passive publishing seems fair enough.
This seems to be fair enough to everyone in cyberspace frankly. I hate being mislead and misinformed believe me, it behooves us all to keep the space open. That said too, don't distract us about that first bad law. We can recover and forgive. Passive publishing is a simple means to a good end. I like that idea very much.
Posted by (2 comments )
Link Flag
Regulating the Blogs
Well, now! If this isn't the chickens coming home to roost!

The trouble with the FEC meddling with the blogs goes back all the way to the 1970's, before the Internet was even thought of. As many Conservatives could have (and actually did) warn, government meddling in free speech wouldn't end with limits on political donations and capping of campaign spending. Now, anybody can go to jail or be fined for exercising political speech, if the bloodless demented gods of bureaucracy decide it is being exercised by the wrong people at the wrong time!

Of course, when the proper way to eliminate the ill effects of too much money in politics (ie: post every contributor and his contribution on the Internet) none of the McCainiacs even bothered to consider the matter. No! They went, full steam ahead and damn the torpedoes, and used the Constitution for their own political toilet paper.

But then, what else is new? We have taken the interstate commerce clause and used it as a bludgeon on our economy, ignored the Second Amendment, inserted a phrase from a private letter ("separation of church and state", from a letter by Thomas Jefferson)into the First Amendment... In short, we've turned the basic rule book of our nation, the Constitution, and turned it into a bizarre Rorschach test, wherein any sort of errant nonsense can be found just because we say it's there.

Mark my words, if we don't reign in this illiberal calumny, we are going to descend into the depths of anarchy. Far too many Liberty minded folks are liable to take up arms, just as the Founding Fathers and their fellow Patriots did in 1776.

Do we really want to do that all over again?
Posted by (1 comment )
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business
I was just going to let you know that I found this place to make great business cards. You can design your own and it has thousands of templates. You can put whatever you want on them and personalize them as much as you want. They are very handy. If your interested.
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Posted by meland4258 (3 comments )
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Don't abridge freedom of the blog
I don't know what country Carol Darr and Larry Noble are from, but it is clearly not America, and they should probably go back to it. Or else, I should figure out what country I am from, and go back to it myself.

Samuel Adams was a bar-owner who had a printing press in his back room. From that press he printed, among other things, the Sons of Liberty's Journal of Occurences, a major revolutionary paper. Prior to independence, printing presses were licensed by the King, and that license could be revoked by him or his agents at any time. We rebelled against that sort of crap.

So-called defenders of democracy like Darr and Noble would do well to recall this. If every person is not free to become the press, then we do not have a free press. This is a no-brainer.

"Why should freedom of speech and freedom of press be allowed? Why should a government...allow itself to be criticized? Why should any man be allowed to buy a printing press and disseminate pernicious opinions calculated to embarrass the government?" - Lenin
Posted by romulusnr (10 comments )
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