Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The FEC: A Blogger's Friend or Foe?

There is an arcane, but important debate currently raging in DC and in the blogosphere. It concerns the "media exemption" for the media during elections.

According to The Post, "That exemption allows journalists working for corporations such as The Washington Post, Fox News and WTOP to go about their daily business without having to worry about running afoul of the law. Those protections, designed to protect the freedom of the press, allow newspapers, for example, to endorse political candidates without having those writings be considered contributions to the campaigns. 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.

Many bloggers say they not only are entitled to those same protections but also will need them to shield themselves from legal harassment."

What do you think? It's a tough call. On the one hand, I'd hate to be fined for making exceessive "contributions" to a campaign. On the other hand, what obstacles would there be to Philip Morris or Lockheed Martin or whatever corporation setting up a "blog" that supports their candidates and issues.

I'm on the fence. Uncharacteristically so.

1 comment:

Miko said...

Well...corporate blogging itself is already well underway. I haven't seen it applied specifically to political activity, but that's not to say it won't happen.

That said, to me this seems to be a straightforward free-speech issue. Are writings typically considered 'contributions'?. What rule is the 'media exemption' exempting newspapers from? I'm not clear on that.