12. July 2005 · Comments Off on Good, But Mixed, News For Bloggers On FEC · Categories: Politics

This from Brian Faler at WaPo:

The FEC appears to have settled on about half a dozen issues, the most contentious of which is known as the “media exemption.” It refers to provisions that exempt the news media from campaign finance laws, including a nearly 100-year-old law barring corporate contributions to political candidates.


The FEC is now considering whether rules should apply to publications on the Internet. It announced earlier this year that it is inclined to formally extend the exemption to the Web sites of traditional news operations, along with such sites as Slate, Salon and the Drudge Report that exist only online. The panel did not take a position on granting the protection to bloggers, some of whom have incorporated for liability purposes. Instead, the agency asked the public for comments on the issue and held two days of hearings, much of which focused on the exemption question.


“Bloggers want it both ways,” said Carol Darr, head of the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet at George Washington University. “They want to preserve their rights as political activists, donors and even fundraisers — activities regulated by campaign finance laws — yet, at the same time, enjoy the broad exemptions from the campaign finance laws afforded to traditional journalists.”


The commission, which is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats and needs a majority vote to approve new policy, is expected to decide the issue this fall. Ellen L. Weintraub, one of the Democratic commissioners, said the FEC appears to have all but decided against regulating bloggers and is now hashing out what, if anything, it needs to do to protect them against government oversight. The FEC could give all bloggers the media exemption, or it could massage other provisions in the law to provide what some said would amount to similar protections.

But some bloggers said they won’t be satisfied with anything other than the media exemption. To do otherwise, Moulitsas of Daily Kos said, would be “creating artificial distinctions between what should be media.”

“Keep in mind, this isn’t the unbiased, free and fair journalist exemption. It’s the media exemption. It applies as much to ‘The Daily Show’ as much as it applies to partisan pundits as much as it applies to you at The Washington Post,” he said, referring to Jon Stewart’s satirical news program on cable’s Comedy Central. “There’s no reason why bloggers should be treated any differently.”

Again, this is the reason we need people like Eugene Volokh on the Supreme Court. The farce of campaign finance laws, and the “media exemption” – in the face of erupting technology, has placed us at the precipice of a fall into Constitutional crisis. I don’t have an easy answer here. My first impulse is to advocate total access, with full disclosure. But this is given lie to by the success in furthering the American Revolution, and other great causes, by authors and pamphleteers, most notably Thomas Paine, who published under “Anonymous” or other Nom de’ Plumes.

Hat Tip: InstaPundit

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