Should Blogs Trust the FEC?

 

Ever since last Fall when the a court ruling required the FEC to include the Internet in its definition of public communications and to begin regulating activities on line, blogs have been very nervous and concerned exactly what outcome will prevail.

Web loggers, who pride themselves on freewheeling political activism, might face new federal rules on candidate endorsements, on-line fundraising and political ads, though bloggers who don’t take money from political groups would not be affected.

Are we supposed to believe this or is this another slippery slope of campaign finance reform? If a blogger posts for another blog that is funded by political action money what does it do to their own private blog that may be just as opinionated? Are we really supposed to believe after witnessing the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth that politicians on either side will allow blogs, people in their pajamas, to accomplish the same?

The FEC long has been reluctant to craft rules for the Internet, and it has exempted the on-line world from many regulations that apply to other media such as television and radio.

The FEC, which also is striving to clarify regulations about online volunteer campaign activity, is accepting public comments on the proposals until Friday. Hearings will be held June 28 and 29.

Here is a rather interesting dilemma. What if a politically influential blog who does not receive money is brought into court claiming they have been? The legal fees themselves would shut the free speech down as a blogger could never afford the cost to defend their freedom of speech.

The FEC also is considering whether to require Web loggers, called bloggers, to disclose whether they get money from a campaign committee or a candidate and to reveal whether they are being paid to write about certain candidates or solicit contributions on their behalf.

These rules would not affect citizens who don’t take money from political action committees or parties.

However, what if political ads are placed on a blog? What if no money is received for the ad being placed on a blog? Isn’t there an implicit benefit to the candidate for getting free advertising?

One wonders how the FEC is going to differentiate between even the large and small blog, let alone lump the blogosphere into the realm of old media.

Advocates for rules say they are necessary to prevent groups such as corporations and labor unions from exploiting loopholes.

“I think FEC needs to regulate ordinary people as lightly as possible,” said Carol Darr, director of the Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet at The George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management.

But as Internet technology improves, she said, politicians, corporations and unions will “learn where to go to reach unconverted people. They will use Internet more and more. People like me who are worried about corporate and union abuse are less comfortable with that.”

Opponents of the regulations, including many bloggers, worry that freedom of speech would suffer and that the rules would have a chilling effect on the lively political discussions that occur online. FEC regulation, they say, would unfairly punish individuals, adding that nothing happened in the 2004 elections to warrant intervention.

As posted previously, The FEC Ticking Clock on Internet Freedoms, this is an issue that affects both sides on the blogosphere.

Others talking about this highly controversial topic:

Skeptic Eye says its the same old story and I would have to agree.

National Review Online, The Corner

Draft Russ Blog seems to think that there is no problem.

There is simply no reason – none – to think that the FEC should or intends to regulate blogs or other Internet communications by private citizens.

There is a fine line between private citizen and endorsing candidates on line these days. I wish things were as simple as they once were.

A pretty accurate and well shared opinion from vox populi

And the Denis DeKat’s Symposium will be heading offshore.

Update I: Mike Krempasky at Red State attempts to answer some important questions.

Update II: Love the ideas over at An American Mind

UPDATE III (6/1/05): Scared Monkeys on Connected Blogs: (VIDEO) via The Political Teen.

Posted May 31, 2005 by
Bloggers, Media, Politics | 23 comments


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  • Comments

    23 Responses to “Should Blogs Trust the FEC?”

    1. Lester on May 31st, 2005 7:28 pm

      This is a concern only to the bigshot bloggers like InstaPundit, who endorse any candidate with the bucks to advertise irrespective of political persuasion. I suspect most of them would advertise Hitler were he alive and running for something and, of course, had some cash in his jeans.

    2. Brian F. on May 31st, 2005 7:33 pm

      Constant full disclosure is the antidote. If I know you took $100,000 from candidate x, that is fine. You should still be able to “speak” what you wish. I should be able to give its due value with all that knowedge of potential bias. Even if your Biased, it doesn’t mean your wrong,

    3. Ion C. Laskaris on May 31st, 2005 7:41 pm

      Trust the FEC? Just one more branch of this Fascist Republican sewer-rat government
      and the reactionary Democratic Party leadership caving into it most of the time! Never!

      I have been watching this political scum in both parties for 60 years – the KKK#1
      ( Korporate Kapital Krooks ) backed by the KKK#2 – ( Krazy Kristian Kalibans ) +
      all the Southern White Trash and the passive, brainwashed ” Good Germans ” of this
      nation backing them up. Our First Republic is dead and gone.

      We must begin a Second Revolution with the motto – DISTRUST & TERRIFY!
      And it must be an intellectual and spiritual one.

      More anon! See also http://WWW.levyarts.com- Reply to ICLVT@adelphia.net

    4. Red on May 31st, 2005 7:42 pm

      Lester,

      The term big shot blogger is relative. Blogs could endorse candidates on the national, state and local levels. It is not just the larger blogs that have influence. There is no doubt that political campaigns will actively market them selves on blogs in ads in the future. They would be crazy not to.

      I would dare say that many more than just the biggies have a pony in this race.

    5. Paul Carlisle on May 31st, 2005 8:03 pm

      Trust the FEC? Well, pretty much.

      Trust the political party apparatus? No way. You can bet that if the FEC enshrines this rule, the courts will be clogged with punitive complaints aimed at those espousing the other party’s view. The result will be an inevitable chilling of speech, as even those scrupulous about avoiding funding (however that winds up being interpreted once a gaggle of lawyers gets ahold of the vague wording) will be force to shut down their sites simply out of fear of being hit with a lawsuit they have no resources to defend themselves against.

    6. Brian Carnell on May 31st, 2005 8:11 pm

      The “what if we get hit with a lawsuit we can’t afford” item is a bit of a canard since this could be said of pretty much any law. What if you get hit with a libel/slander lawsuit that you are unable to afford? The question doesn’t delegitimize libel/slander applied to blogs one bit.

      “There is simply no reason – none – to think that the FEC should or intends to regulate blogs or other Internet communications by private citizens.”

      And what if I’ve incorporated my blogs as an LLC?

      And what about free ads, regardless. Don’t free ads constitute a donation?

      Suppose I generate $1,000/month from my blogs in advertising, and for two months I decide to replace all my paid advertising with and ad I create endorsing my favorite candidate. Isn’t that a clear donation of $2,000 to my candidate?

      The basic problem is with the campaign finance laws. There’s no way to consistently apply them to the Internet in a sensible way, and they’re going to become increasingly anachronistic and twisted into all sorts of pretzel knots trying to deal with it.

    7. Sailor in the Desert on May 31st, 2005 8:22 pm

      As I understand it, any blog having more than 500 hits a week would be subject to FEC regulation. It is not just the big boys and girls of blogdom. Quite frankly, the FEC has no business regulating to political speech of bloggers then it does trying to regulate individual campaign volunteers, or those fellows back in the days of the Town Square, that stood on their soap boxes and ranted.

    8. Krempasky on May 31st, 2005 8:30 pm

      Sailor – i think you’re confusing the current proposed rule with an early staff draft from the FEC general counsel’s office.

    9. Red on May 31st, 2005 8:41 pm

      Brian,

      Although you make a point with any “law suit” being devastating the ability for such freedoms of speech to be placed in the hands of FEC and Campaign finance is chilling.

      “There is simply no reason – none – to think that the FEC should or intends to regulate blogs or other Internet communications by private citizens.”

      “And what if I’ve incorporated my blogs as an LLC?”

      And what about free ads, regardless. Don’t free ads constitute a donation?.

      Thats just the point. Private? Incorporated? LLC? Free ads, donations and on and on. Wait until a private citizen has a blog that is just as influential as a local government party chair. Like they will not be ripped like the swifties.

      There is so much vague laws and seeing what was allowed to go thru campaign finance, does anyone trust the FEC?

    10. ditariel on May 31st, 2005 8:53 pm

      A possible outcome of this would be a massive legal revolt: literally every blogger starts blogging with foreign hosting services.

      The FEC would be continuously embarrassed by its powerlessness to stop us.
      Yes…..”US”.

    11. Tom on May 31st, 2005 9:11 pm

      The power of the blog is not in the post, but in the link. We can write the most wonderful propoganda for a candidate, but if no one links to it, typically it is not seen.

      But if Instapundit was a clearing house, you could have a different site every day extolling a candidate and Instapundit or other large feeder sending people over them.

      The FEC will never understand that.

    12. Julie Pierce on May 31st, 2005 9:36 pm

      I trust the FEC.
      First I am a little tiny, teenie weenie regular everyday girl.
      I have no, I repeat no connections to anyone.
      No one cares what I think or say.
      If someone wants me to run for office we will worry about it when they sign over the check.

    13. M. Simon on May 31st, 2005 9:38 pm

      Suppose every blog that posts on political matters was required to hire a lawyer and an accountant to keep track of in kind donations as regular political operatives have to do these days to keep up with the FEC.

      At 700 hits a week (many of my posts have nothing to do with politics) with peak weeks at 2K – 3K I’d be required to pony up to keep blogging.

      Of course you only need to look at the problems Canada had with the Gomery inquiry to see where all this is headed.

      I’d e-mail my political stuff to some Brit friends to keep the heat on.

      The regulation of political speech is anti-American.

    14. M. Simon on May 31st, 2005 9:39 pm

      I not sure sowing distrust and fear in the Pubs is a good idea. They have more guns than the Dems.

    15. M. Simon on May 31st, 2005 9:47 pm

      In addition the Pubs have about 2X as many ex-military as the Dems.

      The Dems would be crazy to raise the fear level to a point where a shooting war started.

      Of course if you consider the number of Pub campaign offices shot at vs Dems during the last campaign perhaps the shooting war has already started. So far the Pubs have held their fire. Given sufficient provocation will that state of affairs last?

      But given the fact that the Dems are losing public support perhaps a Lenninist coup is the only way for them to gain power. They aren’t called the evil party for nothing.

    16. Eric Scheie on May 31st, 2005 10:28 pm

      Regulating any blog — large or small — for ANY reason, is unconstitutional. What part of “Congress shall make no law” do the bastards not understand? The FEC does not have jurisdiction, and we should not treat it as if it does.

      The commenter who complained that this concerns only “bigshot bloggers like InstaPundit, who endorse any candidate with the bucks to advertise irrespective of political persuasion” not only fails to understand the founding principles, but discredits himself with the laughably ignorant smear of Glenn Reynolds.

    17. FullosseousFlap’s Dental Blog » FEC: Draft Rules to Regulate Political Blogs on May 31st, 2005 11:29 pm

      [...] this piece on Answering or Trying to Answer FEC Questions . Red over at SacredMonkeys has Should Blogs Trust the FEC? And the mother of all pieces – thousands of words on the FEC is at the FEC secti [...]

    18. M. Simon on June 1st, 2005 2:02 am

      The way to defeat this of course is massive civil disobedience.

      Give them 100,000 cases to prosecute per election.

      Eric,

      As to the No Law bit – it is obvious that Congress lost te ability to read a long time ago. Of course the Supreme Court has its own definition of words. If Bill Clinton has trouble parsin “sex” and “is” what makes you think the Supremes understand “no”?

      Even for the so-called strict constructionists the Constitution is not a settled document.

      It is rule by whim with after the fact rationalizations.

    19. Blog Fan on June 1st, 2005 1:50 pm

      I would be truly upset if I could not read the uncensored thoughts of the general public.

      God Bless!

    20. David on June 1st, 2005 1:57 pm

      As of my reply there are 18 prior comments on this topic. Each one of them is an expression of opinion. It does not matter whether they are for, against or indifferent to the proposed rulemaking by the FCC or any other topic. What matters is each person had the right to read this blog and to freely express their opinion; a right protected by the Constitution in my opinion.

      Big bloggers, little bloggers, 200 hits or 1 million – if any site is prohibited from freedom of speech it is wrong. My only caveat to that is the blogger must be responsible and reasonable in publishing. You cannot tell lies about Dick and Jane that ultimately cause them harm, etc. Moreover, certain things should not be said publicly even if it is true.

      The big bloggers used to be little bloggers. They may have never become big bloggers if prohibitive rules, such as the FEC proposes, were in place three years ago. Don’t be fooled for a minute – whatever administration is “ruling” from the White House, will have a subjective effect on the implementation and enforcement of FEC mandates.

      Red & Tom – thanks for the positive comment and referral.

    21. Dave Redfern on June 1st, 2005 2:35 pm

      Trust the FEC?

      HELL NO ! Politics plays too much of a role in governmental agencies anyway. Just today we find out the nitty gritty of “Deep Throat” and the political overtones present in that ordeal. Forget that Nixon was a foul mouthed crook, Mr. Felt did not have any 1st amendment rights and could not speak out for fear of retribution.

      Trust the FEC? Only if you think that Deep Throat would have lived to be 91 if the powers that be knew his identity.

    22. La Shawn Barber's Corner on June 2nd, 2005 7:10 am

      FEC vs. Bloggers Hoopla Overhyped?

      Bloggers have been blogging about the Federal Election Commission for months, worried about whether the bureaucracy planned to regulate political activity on the Internet (blogs included) under the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform law. But according …

    23. Scared Monkeys » Blog Archive » Last Chance For Blogger to Voice their Opinion with the FEC on June 3rd, 2005 5:16 pm

      [...] u have to say. Who else is posting: Bill Hobbs Desert Cat’s Musing Previous Post: Should Blogs Trust the FEC?

      This entry was posted

      on Friday, Jun [...]

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