March 23, 2005 5:09 PM PST

Online politicking receives temporary reprieve

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print equivalent. But, the FEC asks, should individual bloggers qualify? What if a blogger receives payment from a political campaign? And "should bloggers' activity be considered commentary or editorializing, or news story activity?"

After Smith's interview appeared, an unusual alliance of conservatives, libertarians and liberals coalesced around the idea of heading off overly intrusive government regulation. An online petition has garnered thousands of electronic signatures, and the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday wrote in an editorial that "this was always going to be the end result of a law that naively believed it could ban money from politics."

Michael Bassik, a self-described Democrat who co-created the online petition, was cautiously enthusiastic about the FEC's draft rules. "It appears as though the FEC did a good job of listening to those in the online community in the past few weeks and seems to have incorporated the comments that individual bloggers and journalists have voiced in the past few weeks," Bassik said late Wednesday.

Some bloggers have created a "free speech pledge" endorsing civil disobedience if the government eventually goes too far, while some Democratic bloggers have fretted that the three Democratic members of the FEC could be blamed for choosing not to appeal a federal court decision from last year that ordered the commission to revisit its regulations.

In 2002, the FEC largely exempted the Internet from campaign finance laws by a 4-2 vote, but U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly last fall overturned that decision. "The commission's exclusion of Internet communications from the coordinated communications regulation severely undermines" the campaign finance law's purposes, Kollar-Kotelly wrote.

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Saddle up and ride to the sound of the Blogs.
This is an unusually encouraging bit of news, but as they saying goes, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. There will continue to be elements of the political establishment, even some from within the politically lobbying world, who are going to want to try to put controls on the internet. They are not going to want to deal with a new and pervasive medium which is beyond their direct control, thus evading their ability to predictably spin and influence.

There will be vast sums of money and time spent fostering blogs and people running blogs among the political parties and lobbying organizations between now and the next presidential election cycle.

If anybody thought the days of the wild-west internet were over, they need look no further than the Blogosphere to find them again.
Posted by NWLB (326 comments )
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