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March 25, 2005

Mike Krempansky at Redstate continues to keep an eagle eye on the FEC while it debates the best way to regulate Internet campaign activity, or the least worst way, depending on the point of view. Mike has attended the initial FEC hearing on the subject and managed to get his hands on an initial draft of proposals from March 10th that, according to Mike, amounted to speech regulation worse than what Brad Smith had predicted the week before its drafting:

To step back a moment, remember on March 3rd, Commissioner Bradley Smith warned of some real potential problems with the upcoming rulemaking process. In return for ringing the alarm bell, he was dismissed as a crank, a partisan, an ideologue and most of all, just plain wrong. The FEC would NEVER do something like regulate bloggers heavens no! Its inconceivable.

Well, I dont think that word means what they think it means.

And now, we can prove that 1) Smith was right, and then some, 2) Had Smith not rung that bell, we may well have regretted it, 3) those on the FEC that criticized smith and told bloggers, in effect, to chill out werent being honest with us and 4) the FEC should be viewed with the highest suspicion throughout this regulatory process.

The real deal-killer here appears to be section 5 of the proposal, which stands earlier protestations that bloggers were safe from regulation on their head:

The proposed definition of "public communication" would also include any third-party content placed on another person's website, unless access to the third party content is password protected and available to only 500 or fewer viewers, or is a communication under 11 CFR 114.3 or 114.7(h) to the restricted class of a corporation or labor organization or to members of a membership organization. Such content could take the form, for example, of paid advertisements, such as banner advertisements or "pop-up" advertisements that appear on a website. Such content could also take the form of blogs that appear on a "host" site, whether or not a blogger pays a fee for the hosting service. Thus, under the proposed rule, a "public communication" would include both a publicly available website and any publicly available content on that website. (Pg 20, line 3)

This could mean a campaign blog. On the other hand, the FEC proposes such loose language here that they could enforce it on any third-party blog with more than 500 readers -- and note that the reader limit doesn't refer to any specific time frame. This could mean 500 a day, a week, a month, or throughout an entire political campaign.

So much for Ellen Weintraub's assurances that the FEC had no interest in regulating bloggers. The commissioner told that to the New York Times and other media on March 4th, and yet six days later, the FEC proposes blog regulation in black and white. Can you imagine that -- an FEC commissioner who doesn't tell the American public the truth about regulating speech? Inconceivable!

Mike has been invited to speak on behalf of bloggers at a panel with Chris Shays' general counsel and FEC chair Scott Thomas next week on Capitol Hill. Let's hope we can show them what coordination looks like, blogosphere-style.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 25, 2005 5:39 AM

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