Saturday, March 05, 2005

More on FEC regulation of the Blogs

Commissioner Smith's interview transcripts from NRA News, part 1 and part 2. Some highlights:
Well, uh, Ken I have no idea how some of these things would be enforced [laughter background]. But that's one of the kinds of, uh, problems in the, in the thicket that we have waded into, or that we are wading into. Let me give you another example. If you link to a site, that could be deemed to be a coordinated contribution to the site. Now you might say, "...well, what's the cost of linking to a site?" or, "...what's the cost of sending out...forwarding something by your email?" It's virtually nothing. But there's two issues here: One is, of course: if somebody has made the maximum contribution, even a small, uh, addition would put him over the legal limits for contributing to the campaign.

The other thing would, uh, be that the Commission has often valued contributions not by the amount you spend, for example, corporations cannot use their resources to help a campaign to raise money. But we've said, "...let's suppose a corporation uses 20 minutes of a secretary's time and thirty dollars in postage to send out some letter..." We don't value their contribution on the basis of the amount of time spent and the $30 postage; we value it based on the value to the campaign, in terms of money raised, and so on. And if we take that approach and apply it to the Internet, then even these very nominal expenditures that people make are going to count as pretty big violations of the act.


You know, it's a tough know, the statute itself only applies the media exemption to periodicals and broadcast ads. So on its own, it wouldn't seem to apply to wouldn't seem to apply to movies...uh, and yet I think most people agree that those things are protected by the First Amendment. Aah...blogs, it gets even more difficult! You know, how do you tell what's a blog and what's not? Some people want to apply to just [inaudible] [heavily ironic] LEGITIMATE media, what's a REAL news agency??? And that, but that would be odd to me.

Under that test, for example, the Washington Post's site or the New York Times' site or the Wall Street Journal's website would be protected, but your average citizen who goes out there and starts blogging would not be entitled to the media exemption. Ah, if the goal is of course to reduce the influence of Big Powerful Corporate Actors, I'm not sure why that proposal would make any sense at all. So it's, it's a big issue. On the other hand, you know, if we exempt those blogs, we're essentially almost what Judge Koller-Cotelli said we could not do, which is exempting the Internet. Because what's a blog? I mean a blog formal terms...really a blog is just a person's website...