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FEC: Draft Rules to Regulate Political Blogs

Bloggers may be facing regulation from the Federal Election Commission. The Chicago Tribune has the story regarding draft Federal Election Commission regulations:

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

Draft rules from the Federal Election Commission, which enforces campaign finance laws, would require that paid political advertisements on the Internet declare who funded the ad, as television spots do.

Similar disclaimers would be placed on political Web sites, as well as on e-mails sent to people on purchased lists containing more than 500 addresses. 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.

The FEC long has been reluctant to craft rules for the Internet, and it has exempted the online world from many regulations that apply to other media such as television and radio. But a court ruling last fall required the agency to include the Internet in its definition of public communications and to begin regulating activities there.

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.

The final version of the rules is expected later this year, unless Congress intervenes to exempt the Internet from FEC regulation, as is wanted by lawmakers including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)

Flap’s take on this whole question of blog regulation and first amendment rights is here.

Thank Senators John McCain and Russ Feingold for this intrusion on the first amendment.

Update #1

Justene over at Calblog has this about the Bear Flag League’s brief and the Apple vs. Does case and the attacks on bloggers which the draft FEC regulations referenced above is just one:

Anonymous sources and National Security

In the case of Apple v. Does, the trial court made an exception for disclosure of a reporter’s anonymous source because the “online reporters” published trade secrets. Bloggers worried, the Bear Flag League filed an amicus brief, other bloggers filed an amicus brief, and some mainstream news outlets such as the Associated Press filed their amicus brief also.

Some newspapers don’t worry. They publish whatever they want using anonymous sources, even if national security may be involved. The Word Unheard discusses a NYT article which discloses CIA operations transporting terror suspect. After giving incredible detail, the NYT does not disclose the name of their source because he signed a secrecy agreement.

“Online reporters” have to defend themselves because they published product information which had the Confidential warning excised but the New York Times is publishing CIA operations and admitting in the article that he had signed a secrecy agreement.

Update #2

Mike Krempasky over at RedState.org has 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 section at RedState.org.

Update #3

Friends,

Time is running out at the Federal Election Commission. The period for public comment on the proposed rulemaking regarding the Internet closes June 3, 2005.

As a blogger, or blog reader – you have valuable input from your firsthand experience that the FEC desperately needs. You don’t have to be a lawyer, and you’ve got a duty to weigh in. Please take a moment and read over and endorse the 11 Principles for Online Freedom we’ve written up with the Center for Democracy & Technology and the Institute for Politics, Technology, and The Internet: http://fec.cdt.org/signup.php

If you’d like to file your own comment, here are two places where you can find help and instructions:

RedState.org: http://fec.redstate.org/story/2005/5/20/122244/721
DailyKos.com: http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2005/5/23/103820/231

Once you do submit a comment, please consider sending us a copy. Knowing what bloggers are telling the FEC will help throughout this process.

Best,

Mike Krempasky
Michael Bassik


Please sign on the dotted line – protect our precious freedom of speech!

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