Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Thursday, March 03, 2005
 
ARGH: McCain FeinGold Threatens Blogs?

When I was in college it seemed like all my fellow Democrats were just obsessed with getting McCain-Feingold passed. They were convinced that the greatest problem in politics was money, that it disadvantaged the Democrats enormously, and that McCain-Feingold would finally bring politics back to the people. I have no idea if this reflected Democratic gospel throughout the country--Berkeley not being the best place to find an exemplar sample. I have noticed that Democrats seem particularly loyal to the idea of McCain Feingold even when it doesn't really help them mechanically (Bill Clinton having been one of the greatest party fundraisers of all time), and not necessarily willing to debate the nitty gritty of the regulations. Campus Republicans were against it, ostensibly on First Amendment grounds, but their arguments were almost always about the actual campaign contribution caps, not the advertising--and I certainly thought that we have to keep bribery under control. Still, I was a little lukewarm on the law. I applauded many of its ideas and motives, but was not confident in its mechanics. Apparently, I was right.

Josh Marshall at TalkingPointsMemo links to a CNET interview with Federal Election Commissioner Bradley Smith. It's terribly unclear, but it seems that previously, in 2002, the FEC specifically exempted the Internet from McCain Feingold rules aimed at prohibiting coordination in traditional advertising between a political campaign and an advocacy group, since advocacy groups are not subject to the same stringent donation laws that campaigns ostensibly are. Apparently Chris Shays (R-CT) and Marty Meehan (D-MA), the House sponsors of the bill, decided to sue the FEC over this, and last September U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly decided that the special treatment of the Internet was against the intent of the law. In fact, it seems, an exemption for news organizations to just mention candidates may only apply to old media. The problem is--how do you define an online ad? Is a link an ad? Is mentioning a candidate positively an ad? Is reproducing campaign email an ad? Is a mass mail asking your friends to donate an ad? Kollar-Kotelly apparently wants to regulate all that. Which could easily include fining individual bloggers for linking to candidates and extolling them. And most individual bloggers, like me, can't possibly afford to deal with FEC fines. Inscrutably, the three Democratic commissioners seem to be on her side, stymying the FEC's ability to appeal her decision. The ability to say your say on the internet and spread information cheaply is probably the single greatest first amendment development of the last 100 years, and has done more to bring politics to the people since the advent of radio--yet it's under attack by those wishing to protect politics from special interests. ARGH.

In 2001, Josh Gerstein--the first online journalist I really followed, whose excellent ABCNews.com White House Wag column, has, sadly, been taken down by ABC--wrote a piece cleverly pointing out the asymmetries between the law's effect on newspapers and on television. You can catch a visually mangled version at web.archive.org. So now it isn't entirely clear what exemptions apply to what media and how. In fact, this whole story is a bit tangled up, and I'm still looking into it. To quote Bradley Smith from the interview: "This is an incredible thicket. If someone else doesn't take action, for instance in Congress, we're running a real possibility of serious Internet regulation. It's going to be bizarre."
 


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Saheli Datta started this when she was a journalism student at Columbia in New York. Now she lives in the Bay Area. *Old people call me R. New people, call me Saheli. Thanks! My homepage. Specifically, my links. Email me: Saheli [AT] Gmail [dot] Com

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Blogs I Read (Or Try To)
113th Street
american footprints(Nadezhda & Praktike)
ANNA's Diary
Apartment Therapy
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Dave Barry
The Bellman
Mine's On The 45 (Brimful)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
ChennaiCentral
ClimateBoy
Combing the Sphere
Crooked Timber
Daily Dose of Imagery
The Daily Rhino (Bong Breaker)
Dark Days Ahead
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Atanu Dey on India's Development (Deeshaa)
Daniel Drezner
Ennis
Ephemera
Cyrus Farivar
Finding My Voice
Forsv
Neil Gaiman
Ganesh Blog
Geeky Chic 2.0 (Echan)
Geomblog
Green Ink!
Heliolith
Alexandra Huddleston
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Indeterminacy
India Uncut
InSpiteOfEverything
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter et al
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Jesus Politics
John and Belle Have a Blog
Mark A. R. Kleiman
KnowProse (Taran Rampersad)
1Locana
Maenad (Nori Heikkinen)
Scott McCloud
Mind Without Borders
Electrolite: Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Corey Pein
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Kevin G. Powell
QuakeHelp (South Asian Quake)
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)
Reneebop
Rhinocrisy
Scott Rosenberg(Salon.com)
Rox Populi
Felix(&Rhian)Salmon
samVaad
Nick Schager
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Sepia Mutiny
Amardeep Singh
Snarkmarket (Robin Sloan & Matt Thompson)
South-East Asian Earthquake and Tsunami Blog
SreeTips: New To Sree
Steprous (Bear)
Robert Stribley
Subjunctive.net:klog
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
Tech Policy
TiffinBox
A Tiny Revolution
To The Teeth
TreeHugger
Unfogged
VatulBlog
Venk@
Manish Vij
Vinod's Blog
War and Piece
Nollind Whachell
Wonkette
WorldChanging
Matthew Yglesias:Old
Yglesias:Tpmcafe
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham
Ethan Zuckerman
Zwichenzug



Some Categories

Blogs focusing on policy, politics, and national security:
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Daniel Drezner
Eschaton(Atrios)
Green Ink!
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Informed Comment: Juan Cole
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Irregular Analyses
Jesus Politics
Mark A. R. Kleiman
Liberals Against Terrorism(Nadezhda & Praktike)
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
War and Piece
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Yglesias:Tpmcafe

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Daily Dose of Imagery
Ephemera
Alexandra Huddleston
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)
TiffinBox

Columbia Journalism Folks
Apartment Therapy
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
Ranajit Dam
Cyrus Farivar
Alexandra Huddleston
InSpiteOfEverything
Corey Pein
Nick Schager
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham

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