These judges, commissioners, and advocacy groups are not Republican

If they had their way, DeanForAmerica's decentralized netroots campaign would have never happened, and will certainly not happen again for another candidate. I swear to the gods, how idiotic can people be? If the 3 Democratic-appointed judges on the FEC panel manage to extend the 2002 campaign finance law to regulate political speech over the internet, we Democrats can say hello to the wilderness for sure. Now, I've asked Harry Reid upfront if the Senate backs this crap, and he flat out said no, no, no, but here it is:Bradley Smith says that the freewheeling days of political blogging and online punditry are over.

In just a few months, he warns, bloggers and news organizations could risk the wrath of the federal government if they improperly link to a campaign's Web site. Even forwarding a political candidate's press release to a mailing list, depending on the details, could be punished by fines.

Smith should know. He's one of the six commissioners at the Federal Election Commission, which is beginning the perilous process of extending a controversial 2002 campaign finance law to the Internet.

In 2002, the FEC exempted the Internet by a 4-2 vote, but U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly last fall overturned that decision. "The commission's exclusion of Internet communications from the coordinated communications regulation severely undermines" the campaign finance law's purposes, Kollar-Kotelly wrote.

Smith and the other two Republican commissioners wanted to appeal the Internet-related sections. But because they couldn't get the three Democrats to go along with them, what Smith describes as a "bizarre" regulatory process now is under way.

CNET News.com spoke with Smith about the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, better known as the McCain-Feingold law, and its forthcoming extrusion onto the Internet. Here's the link to their interview: The coming crackdown on blogging.
...How can the government place a value on a blog that praises some politician?

How do we measure that? Design fees, that sort of thing? The FEC did an advisory opinion in the late 1990s (in the Leo Smith case) that I don't think we'd hold to today, saying that if you owned a computer, you'd have to calculate what percentage of the computer cost and electricity went to political advocacy. It seems absurd, but that's what the commission did. And that's the direction Judge Kollar-Kotelly [Democratic-appointed, I would add] would have us move in....

How do you see this playing out?

There's sensitivity in the commission on this. But remember the commission's decision to exempt the Internet only passed by a 4-2 vote. This time, we couldn't muster enough votes to appeal the judge's decision. We appealed parts of her decision, but there were only three votes to appeal the Internet part (and we needed four). There seem to be at least three commissioners who like this.

Then this is a partisan issue?

Yes, it is at this time. But I always point out that partisan splits tend to reflect ideology rather than party. I don't think the Democratic commissioners are sitting around saying that the Internet is working to the advantage of the Republicans.

Dammit, how can this be? The Republicans are on the right side of this issue. Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, in citing Smith, is the ignorant tool of clueless advocacy groups in DC. Even Smith himself now recognizes the folly here.

What happens next?

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.

Well then, someone in Congress needs speak out a clue to the FEC, and it's not the Republicans!

Update (Chris): I've called Democracy 21 about this, and I talked to two people asking what online activities would be affected by this ruling. They gave my number to the President of the organization and said he would get back to me. I should have more on this either today or tomorrow.

Tags: Democrats (all tags)

Comments

26 Comments

How could this even be possible...
It may take a few years, but I would have Blogpacs lawyers in court the moment they try to do this.  I can't see this holding up in challenges up to the Supreme Court.  The judge in this was FLAT out wrong.  The ONLY exception I could see is if a candidate was paying the Blog to promote him (not with an ad but in the illegal Bush way of covertly paying Pundits to support his ideas)...other than that, this would seem to be a free speech violation to me.  
by yitbos96bb 2005-03-03 05:13AM | 0 recs
There's this weird guy in MacArthur Park that
stands on a park bench and cusses about the second coming and Bush and the Blood Libel, all sort of mixed together.

I figure that about 15% of what he says is anti-Bush.  

Maybe the city should start charging him for ranting and raving?  That seems consistent with what the FEC is saying, because, face it, there's quite a bit of similarity, except that maybe some of us smell better and don't have vitamin B1 deficiencies.

by Dumbo 2005-03-03 05:37AM | 0 recs
Re: There's this weird guy in MacArthur Park that
I believe you have Al confused someone else. If the gentleman described is also drolling and spiting while challenging passerbys to a duel, it sounds like a far more accurate description of Zell Miller.

We should probably let Rupert Murdoch know that his star political commentator has moved to a more objective media format.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-03-03 08:03AM | 0 recs
Re: Indignant Gerogian
The party adrift these days appears to be gluttonous elephant, gorging itself on a feast of corporate pork the likes of which the world has never seen. Perhaps you recall the halcyon days of principled conservatism. Those long forgotten days when extremism in defense of liberty was no vice.

Alas, the new face of conservatism is not even a pale shadow of glory days of old. The unprincipled conservatives have moved in like maggots to the dying husk of the poor emaciated elephant. It is hard to deny however, that the Gay Old Party still knows how to have fun.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-03-03 03:04PM | 0 recs
Re: There's this weird guy in MacArthur Park that
I'm calling dibs on the troll if it comes back. This one seems particularly dim witted.

I haven't pulled the wings off a troll in quite a while and I fear I'm getting rusty.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-03-03 08:15AM | 0 recs
MacArthur Park Troll
You can have dibs. He's actually appears to be intelligent with an ability to write well. Only problem is, from what I've seen, his ratio of "I'm so clever when I insult liberals" posts to worthwhile critical posts is about 3 to 1.
by Curt Matlock 2005-03-03 08:28AM | 0 recs
Get your slanders right!
Jesh, didn't you get the memos?  Gore is the robot without emotions- Dean is the insane and out of control one.  That should have been 'And does Judy Dean know the whereabouts of her husband?'.  See?  Much funnier.  And reinforcing of the stereotypes.  That's the way for a Republican to be humorous.

I'll let you go this time, but for God's sake, get back on message!

by bhurtaw 2005-03-03 09:02AM | 0 recs
promotion or free speech?
What money is changing hands here? If someone posts  opinions on a blog (maybe not even their own) and it gets a lot of page views, or very few page views, isn't that still covered under free speech? Doesn't free speech include (gasp!) opinions?

I'm curious how anyone can determine that blogs are any different than the 'public square' -- what am I missing?

by musicsleuth 2005-03-03 05:48AM | 0 recs
Re: promotion or free speech?
Well, if you make a post that advocates the election of a candidate, and it's seen by 100,000 people a day, it's something of value.  Either (a) you're a member of the media, and are exempt from FEC law, or (b) it's an independent expenditure, and must be reported if it's valued at over $250.
by Adam B 2005-03-03 06:41AM | 0 recs
Re: promotion or free speech?
I think sites like act blue or other donation gathering sites are really at risk.

What I don't understand is they are going after Blogs but ignoring all the implicit help the republicans are getting by FOX and other media shills like sinclair.

by Delver Rootnose 2005-03-03 06:42AM | 0 recs
Re: promotion or free speech?
This is the same judge who somehow over-ruled the Microsoft anti-trust verdict.  Her husband is a lawyer for the worst corporate excesses at mega fees.  Yeah, Microsoft did not violate anti-trust but blogs should count as campaign contributions.  I mean, hey, all they had was written proof of anti-competitive activity direct from the keyboard of Bill Gates.

I think she judges on purely political grounds.  From her background she appears to be a right eing fundy CATHOLIC.  Catholic college.  catholic law school (actually, Catholic U.).  Weird view points.

I think outrageous appeals may be routed to her.

by David Kowalski 2005-03-03 07:37AM | 0 recs
OK, let's take a look at this
How would the FEC treat the value of Hindrocket posting a blog supporting a particular Democratic candidate. It would be very easy for Hindrocket, or anybody else, to create an "independent" site that purported to support a particular candidate. It could actually be quite lame or even negative, since the candidate has absolutely no control over the content. As long as Hindrocket explicitly endorsed candidate A, candidate A would be penalized somehow by the FEC.

How would they place a value on the benefit to the candidate? Would candidate A get "credit" for bad endorsements or if the "endorsement" actually worked against them?

Hey, I've got an idea! I think I'll set up a site to endorse Sen. Santorum. I could explain all of the reasons I support his re-election and he would be penalized for my "support", which I guarantee would be very sincere and hearfelt. The FEC and Santorum couldn't blame me if I accidently infuriated several million religious conservatives. As long as I endorse Santorum, the FEC would be obligated to penalize him.

Nah. I don't see a problem with this at all.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-03-03 07:00AM | 0 recs
Great Idea!
And you could do it for free -- all it'd take is a free Blogger account.

I'm glad that Jerome is already on the case.  I just got back from the comments threads at Kos and Atrios and there was much frothing, but little concrete action.

by Phoenix Woman 2005-03-03 08:53AM | 0 recs
what's next?
Oh brother...is that the Thought Regulation, Taxation, and Enforcement Officer right around the corner?

For gawdsake...how the hell would this truly be tracked, quantified and proven in a court of law?  Do they really understand how the internets and blogging works?  I certainly don't want my already mispent tax dollars being further diverted to enforce such another such obviously stupid wild goose chase.

by Heather in SFBay 2005-03-03 07:17AM | 0 recs
More of why campaign finance is currently flawed
Much like recent discussion regarding 527s, this gets at the heart of problems I have with campaign finance regulations as they currently exist.

Will campaign finance law work to level the playing field, or will it stifle political discussion?

There are structural problems at the core, which result in attempts at reform which limit participation, rather than insure that wealth is not used to gain undue influence over our electoral process.

With the influence of blogs and internet campaigning growing so quickly, it is unrealistic to expect that this sphere will continue to be unregulated, when it proclaims that ultimately it will have as much influence on voters as an expensive direct mail campaign, or other more traditional campaign medium.

I don't believe a media exemption is a good route either. Do we want blogs and email lists and websites to be required, as tv, print, and radio journalism is, to provide equal time to all candidates?

MyDD avoids campaign finance limitations, only to discover it must present a pro-GOP view for every pro-DEM view it publishes.

Campaign finance reform needs to be restructered to limit contributions from individuals and organizations, focusing on the total amount individuals donate in total, to all outlets.

In other words, if the limit is $2000, I can only contribute my $2000 once; I cannot contribute $2000 to a pac, $2000 to a party committee, $2000 to a candidate, $2000 to another 527, etc., etc.

Were we to focus our regulatory efforts here, all mediums would be free to participate as much as they like, free speach would be protected, and many venues for the exchange of opinions would be promoted, rather than stifled.

As it is now, the FEC has the cart in front of the horse. They must constantly look for cracks in the dam wall, to insure that someone like George Soros, to use an example on our side, isn't able to get around current limitations by throwing a few million dollars behind a website that accomplishes the same amount of influence he could have if he were able to give an unlimited amount to the candidate.

by Wesley B 2005-03-03 07:41AM | 0 recs
Re: More of why campaign finance is currently flaw
Replying to my own post here - to put the issue as I see it in a nutshell, the FEC is currently limiting the output of the money, rather than the source of the money.

So long as they focus on the outlet, they will limit political discussion. If we want real reform, we need to limit the source of the money.

by Wesley B 2005-03-03 08:14AM | 0 recs
Exactly
Public financing of elections.
by Phoenix Woman 2005-03-03 08:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Exactly
Public financing raises some other issues.

A candidate can run a public financed campaign, and then have wealthy contributors pump their own money into persuading voters, unless you outlaw any campaign speech that is not publicly funded.

In other words, no more blogs.

Have you got any thoughts on how public financing of campaigns can work in such a way that a blog like this is still legal?

by Wesley B 2005-03-03 10:39AM | 0 recs
Fox should be charged
All Fox "coverage" should be charged to the Republicans at Fox's highest advertising rates.  Those 30 second ads would mount up in a hurry.  The way things are going, CNN is also building up a tab for a the RNC and a lot of campaigns.

Any judges who believe MONEY equals free speech but FREE SPEECH equals money should head for re-education, starting at Sesame Street.  In another 20 years maybe they could be allowed back on the bench.

by David Kowalski 2005-03-03 07:42AM | 0 recs
FEC Truly Horrible
Those of us in minor party politics know that the FEC as currently constituted is a disaster, that it principally works to thwart fundamental reform to our political system. It's chief job, in practice, is to allow both major parties to violate campaign finance laws without being punished.  It also makes life very difficult for minor parties.

The FEC represents the height of bipartisan hackery.  In this case, my guess is that the GOP members' desire to appeal is based on their general hostility to all campaign finance regulations, while the Dems' refusal to appeal reflects their even deeper commitment to a political status quo that's threatened by blogs.

I am a firm believer in CFR (though in my view, all campaigns should be publicly financed). But whatever system we adopt needs to be overseen by a more credible body than the FEC.  Such a body needs to be NON-partisan, not BI-partisan.

by GreenSooner 2005-03-03 08:02AM | 0 recs
Of +course+ the GOP understands this
Cyberspace is libertarian.

Think of how absurdly un-enforceable the law
actually is. For one thing, I am about
11 seconds away from an indian telnet account.
So I go to hyderabad, which has a hosting service
in malaysia. I describe the post to a friend
of mine who writes the pages out,and we post
the html and ASPX code to a server in
malaysia.

Great. Now the democratic party has to
locate me, find out its my words -
I post under a moniker of course.

Then they have to track down the
server. They have to serve an international
warrant, that takes 3 months.

Bottom line. by the time the FEC would enforce
anything, they've already gone outside
of every election.

No, the correct stance to this is to
oppose it if only for pragmatic
reasons...

blogosphere is the only news outlet
left, folks and if you think the fascists
want to shut it down you're right but
its also your duty to keep it going.

mp3 downloads, anyone?

by turnerbroadcasting 2005-03-03 08:11AM | 0 recs
THERE IS NO RULING
He's trying to play the nuclear option.  No ruling of the kind described has been passed.  He'd have to get at least one Democratic vote to pass such a ruling.  He can't get them to vote to appeal Kotellar-Kelly's ruling, how's he going to get them to vote for such a dumb ruling?
by Robwaldeck 2005-03-03 11:54AM | 0 recs
network administrators directed to ban blogging
ADT magazine is a magazine many corporate administrators subscribe to.

Check this out -they are planning to release
a story saying employee blogging
is a threat to Corporate Security.

Excerpt:

By John K. Waters
Does employee blogging activity pose a threat to enterprise security? According to Alyn Hockey, director of research at Clearswift, it does, and on two fronts.

"Blogging has definitely emerged as a potential security threat," Hockey says. "Especially when practiced by disgruntled or malicious employees. But simple carelessness is also a factor. They don't necessarily have to have bad intentions to do some damage to a company's brand and reputation."

Redwood City, CA-based Clearswift is best-known for its MIMEsweeper content security software for e-mail and the Web.

Beyond the obvious productivity drain from employees' posting to personal Weblogs on company time, blogging provides an opportunity for deliberate or accidental breaches of confidentiality.

(best if read to the tune of Elektrobank by
the chemical brothers..)

by turnerbroadcasting 2005-03-03 12:50PM | 0 recs
Hearing
According to msnbc there is a hearing coming up this summer. I wonder how much media coverage it'll get. This is huge and is going unnoticed to the mass public and I for one am one scared blogger. What actions can we take to make sure the blogging community is heard on this matter?


"By the time the process ends with a public hearing in June, ahead of the final rule-making in the summer, the Commission will doubtless have sifted through tens of thousands of e-mails in response to proposals that seek to address perceived "loopholes" in campaign finance reform. However, it will likely back away from any specific regulatory crackdown on blogging."
by medec 2005-05-30 01:40PM | 0 recs
by shzgcs 2005-09-11 08:47AM | 0 recs
no worries
Bloggers such as Tawny Stone will always be protected.  The federal government can only go so far before the citizens won't take anymore.
by medec 2005-10-31 10:39AM | 0 recs

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