05. April 2005 · Comments Off on FEC May Be Forced To Reach The Right Answer · Categories: Media Matters Not, Politics

Richard L. Hasen has a good article in FindLaw on the possibility that the FEC’s efforts to come up with some equitible regulation of internet campaign speech may lead them to disclosure rules as the only viable option:

Online Magazines Will Be Exempt, Just as Magazines Are, But What About Bloggers?

The FEC, in its new rulemaking, appears ready to treat Slate and similar on-line only magazines as “other periodical publications” benefiting from the media exemption. But it is having a harder time with bloggers.

The draft regulations would create some safe harbors for bloggers engaged in election-related speech, but it would not necessarily grant the media exemption to a blogger who uses corporate-owned computers (even by a corporate employee who blogs on her lunch hour) to maintain a blog.

The FEC will likely be inundated with anti-regulation comments from the blogging world, and one commissioner has already indicated that “it’s pretty clear that the result is not going to be bad for bloggers.” To reach that result, the final regulations are likely to expand the media exemption to virtually all bloggers, or to exempt blogging from regulation altogether even when accomplished with the significant help of corporate or union resources.

If Bloggers are Broadly Exempt, Related Corporations and Unions Will Be, Too

This is the decision that will be hard to cabin to the Internet. A few months before the 2004 election, the incorporated National Rifle Association began NRANews, a daily news and commentary program broadcast on satellite radio. The NRA is claiming the press exemption. And so it goes.

In short, as everyone gets to own the equivalent of a printing press, and everyone can become a journalist, the corporate and labor limit on campaign activity stands to be swallowed up by the media exemption

And what happens a few years from now when we receive both our Internet computer access and television signals through the same cable or signal? Is a political program broadcast or beamed from your favorite (incorporated) environmental group or evangelical organization going to get the benefit of the media exemption?

Thus, it is not clear how the FEC can give a broad exemption to bloggers now without exempting all electronic media later. For some anti-regulatory commissioners, this may be precisely the point.

Hat Tip: Eugene Volokh, who also has a good analysis on a confusing campaign speech law being considered in San Francisco here. While Orange County is well south of San Francisco, I sometimes comment on their politics and politicians. I wonder if they’d try to claim The Daily Brief has more than 500 readers there, and come after me? 🙂

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