August 5, 2002 8:55 AM PDT

Campaign finance law bypasses Net

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August 2, 2002
WASHINGTON--Political ads on the Internet will not be covered under the new campaign finance law, according to a draft of proposed federal regulations.

The Federal Election Commission on Friday released draft rules that specify how the controversial McCain-Feingold Act will work in practice. For the most part, the measure covers broadcast, cable and satellite advertisements, but not Internet ads, Web broadcasts or print ads, the FEC said.

Congress made "it clear that this regulation should be limited to television and radio," the FEC tentatively concluded in its 67 pages of proposed regulations.

But the FEC did not entirely exempt Webcasts and other type of online advertising from the law. According to the draft, television and radio broadcasts that are simultaneously Webcast or archived for listening over the Internet would be strictly regulated.

Under the law, signed by President Bush in March, corporations and labor unions generally may not engage in advocacy for a "clearly identified candidate for federal election" within 60 days of a general election, while individuals and other types of organizations may do so only if they disclose their spending to the FEC. Other sections of the law restrict so-called soft money donations.

Comment requested
The FEC is asking for public comment on its draft of regulations related to the McCain-Feingold Act.

Comments can be sent to the FEC at Electioneering@fec.gov and should include the full name, e-mail address and street address of the person submitting the comment.

Here are other sites related to the law:
• Stanford's collection of legal documents.

• Sen. John McCain's statement.

• Cato Institute's analysis.

Both sections of the law have drawn fire as constitutionally suspect and over-reaching. Some members of Congress, including Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., and groups such as the Libertarian Party and the ACLU, have filed suit to overturn the law.

In legal briefs, the plaintiffs point to the different treatment of broadcast, print and Internet communications as a reason the law is invalid. "By arbitrarily limiting disbursements for broadcast, cable, and satellite communications but allowing disbursements for other forms of communications, (the prohibitions) violate the First Amendment," the plaintiffs assert.

In March, the Senate approved the McCain-Feingold bill by a vote of 60-40, following a 240-189 vote in the House in February.

The FEC's decision is only a preliminary one and could be altered after a public comment period and a hearing scheduled for Aug. 28 and 29.

 

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