Spare us, O Mighty FEC

Some good news for bloggers. Many have linked to this article about the FEC hearings on bloggers. The FEC is considering whether it should give bloggers the same media exemption that other media outlets have from our currently insanely stupid campaign-finance laws (Thank you, Sen. McCain). To me, it’s a no brainer that the exemption should extend, and fortunately it seems that the FEC commission might agree:

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.

I think it is utterly ridiculous that a private citizen, who often does blogging for free and as a hobby, should be subject to campaign-finance laws just because he or she feels passionate enough about the candidate of choice to blog about it.

Some people have concerns about extending this exemption because it might possibly create a loophole:

“If the FEC draws the media exemption too broadly, then it really does run the risk of eviscerating the campaign finance laws,” said Larry Noble, the head of the Center for Responsive Politics. “It would potentially let a lot of corporate and labor activity using soft money, fully coordinated with candidates, to go on the Internet. It’s also possible that once that starts, if the media exemption is drawn broadly that way, questions will be fairly asked: ‘Well, why does that only apply to the Internet? Why doesn’t it apply off the Internet?’ “

My first reaction is “Oh no, we don’t want to eviscerate these stupid laws that would be sooo lame.” I’d like to point out that the internet is a medium that requires a lot action and intent from the user. A website, even with a billion dollars pumped into it by some double-plus-evil mega- corporation, will have absolutely zero influence on any campaign unless people consciously decide to click links, read the site, believe the site, and then act on those beliefs. To assume that this type of political activity needs the protective hand of Big Brother’s regulation is insulting to the intelligence and personal responsibility of the American people. On top of this, many sites require the user to actively search for them, they don’t just leap onto your screen like TV commercials.

The committee is evenly split with Republicans and Democrats and needs a majority to make a decision. It will be interesting to see how the party lines break down. The article points out that only one committe member has already unequivocally sided with the bloggers: Ellen L. Weintraub, a Democrat. Good, I’m glad somebody on the committee has enough sense to see through this BS so quickly. Let’s hope the good sense spreads.

One thought on “Spare us, O Mighty FEC”

  1. Actually, Ellen Weintraub was considered a possible hostile at one point. Bradley Smith, the outgoing Republican, has always been the friendliest to extending the media exemption, saying it currently favors rich companies before average citizens. Needless to say he’s not popular with the campaign finance crowd.

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