Thursday, March 03, 2005

Here's Something Incredibly Dumbheaded

Bradley Smith of the FEC Tells us that there is a coming crackdown on political blogging:
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.

[...]

Q: What rules will apply to the Internet that did not before?
A: The commission has generally been hands-off on the Internet. We've said, "If you advertise on the Internet, that's an expenditure of money--much like if you were advertising on television or the newspaper."

The real question is: Would a link to a candidate's page be a problem? If someone sets up a home page and links to their favorite politician, is that a contribution? This is a big deal, if someone has already contributed the legal maximum, or if they're at the disclosure threshold and additional expenditures have to be disclosed under federal law.

Certainly a lot of bloggers are very much out front. Do we give bloggers the press exemption? If we don't give bloggers the press exemption, we have the question of, do we extend this to online-only journals like CNET?

[...]

"How about a hyperlink? Is it worth a penny, or a dollar, to a campaign?

I don't know. But I'll tell you this. One thing the commission has argued over, debated, wrestled with, is how to value assistance to a campaign."

[...]

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.

One of the reasons it's a good time to (fix this) now is you don't know who's benefiting. Both the Democrats and Republicans used the Internet very effectively in the last campaign.

Guh. They are going to evaluate the value of hyperlinks from somebody's personal homepage? How much would a hyplink such as, oh, "These guys are complete boneheads" be valued as? Or how about "Click here to view some arrogant jerks" ?

I guess I also don't understand why this should be a partisan issue. I mean, I understand that the response (according to the article) went down party lines, but it seems there is enough blogging on the left and right side of the aisles that neither side would say that the other is receiving an unfair advantage. I'm a bit ignorant here, so maybe that isn't the point.

What this really seems like to me is an incursion of free speech. Everybody has some sort of sphere of influence, whether that is through a blog or through family and friends. Is the FEC going to extend the Campaign Reform Act to familial diatribes at the dinner table?

UPDATE:
More comments via Instapundit and Michelle Malkin, if you're interested.

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