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Campaign-finance reform and the blogosphere March 29, 2006

Posted by papundit in Uncategorized.

There's a must-read article by Brian Anderson in the Winter 2006 City Journal that explained the dangers of FEC regulation of blogs. Here's a summary:

While working to implement McCain-Feingold, the Federal Election Commission voted 4 to 2 to exempt the web in 2002. After McCain and Feingold disagreed and sued, a federal judge agreed with them. Anderson explains that FEC rules "could shackle the political blogosphere." After commenting on the power of bloggers to counter bias in the press, Anderson observes,

"Without the blogosphere, Howell Raines would still be the New York Times’s editor, Dan Rather would only now be retiring, garlanded with praise—and John Kerry might be president of the U.S., assuming that CBS News had gotten away
with its last-minute falsehood about President Bush’s military service that the diligent bloggers at PowerLine, LittleGreenFootballs, and other sites swiftly debunked."

Well put. Blogs give the average American the chance to participate in our democracy. Many people are too busy working and taking care of family responsibilities to attend a protest or cheer at a political rally. But don't they have a right to be heard anyway? If blogging enables Americans to make their views heard from the comfort of their home or office as they pause between errands and other daily responsibilities, isn't that something we should celebrate instead of regulate?

Anderson seems to recognize this. After explaining the risks to bloggers if the FEC decides to regulate the internet further, he notes,

"Most political bloggers aren’t paid 'professional' reporters or commentators but just democratic citizens with day jobs who like to exercise their right to voice their opinions. If doing so without a lawyer puts them or their families at risk, many will simply stop blogging about politics—or never start."

We are not professional activists or paid campaign workers. We work fulltime and volunteer in our community. We founded this blog in order to have a forum (however small) for our beliefs. We believe every American has the right to free speech and to comment on the political process. One of us is a veteran who served in the military in order to protect that right.

In his article, Anderson wondered,

"Are the hundreds of political blogs that have sprouted over the last few years—twenty-first-century versions of the Revolutionary era’s political pamphlets—'press,' and thus exempt from FEC regulations?"

Both liberal and conservative bloggers opposed the attempt to regulate online political speech. In a victory for free speech, the FEC unanimously decided to protect individual online political activity on March 27, 2006.

"Under the new rule, bloggers on the Internet would be entitled to the same exemption from the campaign finance law that newspapers and other traditional forms of media have long received."



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