FEC Boosts Online Political Bloggers

    March 28, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

Campaign finance law will cover online political advertising, but other communication like blogs and email remains uncovered by the law.

Free speech in politics pretty much won out in the recent Federal Election Commission’s decision on what should or should not be part of campaign finance law. AP reported how the FEC decided to allow the free-wheeling world of online discussion remain free of the bonds of McCain/Feingold legislation.

That does not apply to paid advertising however. Those ads must be accounted for as part of a campaign’s federal spending and contribution limits. The Wall Street Journal noted how ads can be financed under the ruling:

The 2002 campaign finance law requires that ads for or against federal candidates be paid for with money regulated by the law, which limits contributions by individuals to $2,000 and bans union and corporation donations.

In its initial interpretation of the law in 2002, the FEC said no political activity on the Internet was covered. But a federal court judge ruled in 2004 that the commission had to craft a new rule that at the very least covered paid political advertising on the Internet.

“Individual online political activity will be protected from FEC restriction regardless of whether the individual acts alone or as part of a group, and regardless of whether the individual acts in coordination with a candidate or acts independently,” said Commission Chairman Michael E. Toner in the WSJ report.

That could be an issue for the Drum Major Institute, which purchased Google ads that display when users of the search engine query for New York state legislators. Those ads display the Institute’s grade for the legislator’s performance in Albany.

Members of unions or corporations can use their work computers to post political blog entries and other online content, provided they are not coerced to do so and work on their own time.

The decision by the FEC provided some legitimization of blogging. Bloggers received the same type of exemption from McCain/Feingold as other mainstream media types enjoyed. “There will be no second class citizens among members of the media,” Toner said.

How does the FEC decision affect your political blogging? Tell us about it at our new forums at SyndicationPro.

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.