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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