Thursday, March 03, 2005


In an interview with CNET, Bradley Smith, a commissioner at the Federal Election Commission, says that the golden age of political blogging and online punditry is passing. He warns that bloggers and web-news organizations may risk the wrath of the federal government if they improperly link to a campaign's web site if the Commission extends the controversial 2002 campaign finance law to the Internet.

In 2002, the internet was exempted from campaign finance laws by a 4-2 vote of the FEC, but U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly last fall overturned that decision opining that "[t]he commission's exclusion of Internet communications from the coordinated communications regulation severely undermines" the purpose of the campaign finance law.

Commissioner Smith warns:
The judge's decision is in no way limited to ads. She says that any coordinated activity over the Internet would need to be regulated, as a minimum. The problem with coordinated activity over the Internet is that it will strike, as a minimum, Internet reporting services.

They're exempt from regulation only because of the press exemption. But people have been arguing that the Internet doesn't fit under the press exemption. It becomes a really complex issue that would strike deep into the heart of the Internet and the bloggers who are writing out there today.


It's going to be a battle, and if nobody in Congress is willing to stand up and say, "Keep your hands off of this, and we'll change the statute to make it clear," then I think grassroots Internet activity is in danger. The impact would affect e-mail lists, especially if there's any sense that they're done in coordination with the campaign. If I forward something from the campaign to my personal list of several hundred people, which is a great grassroots activity, that's what we're talking about having to look at.
If you have read this far, you will want to read the entire interview.

And if you would like to join me in giving the finger to these restrictions, consider donating some cash to Christine Cegelis' campaign via my So-Called Virtual Funraising Party.

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