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March 6, 2005 - The End of this Publication?

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Federal Election Committee Commissioner Bradley Smith in an interview cited here -

Bradley Smith says that the freewheeling days of political blogging and online punditry are over. In just a few months, he warns, bloggers and news organizations could risk the wrath of the federal government if they improperly link to a campaign's Web site. Even forwarding a political candidate's press release to a mailing list, depending on the details, could be punished by fines. Smith should know. He's one of the six commissioners at the Federal Election Commission, which is beginning the perilous process of extending a controversial 2002 campaign finance law to the Internet.


In 2002, the FEC exempted the Internet by a 4-2 vote, but U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly last fall overturned that decision. "The commission's exclusion of Internet communications from the coordinated communications regulation severely undermines" the campaign finance law's purposes, Kollar-Kotelly wrote.  

Quoting one of his responses…


The commission has generally been hands-off on the Internet. We've said, ‘If you advertise on the Internet, that's an expenditure of money--much like if you were advertising on television or the newspaper.’ Do we give bloggers the press exemption? The real question is: Would a link to a candidate's page be a problem?


If someone sets up a home page and links to their favorite politician, is that a contribution? This is a big deal, if someone has already contributed the legal maximum, or if they're at the disclosure threshold and additional expenditures have to be disclosed under federal law. Certainly a lot of bloggers are very much out front. Do we give bloggers the press exemption? If we don't give bloggers the press exemption, we have the question of, do we extend this to online-only…?  How can the government place a value on a blog that praises some politician? How do we measure that? Design fees, that sort of thing? …. How about a hyperlink? Is it worth a penny, or a dollar, to a campaign? I don't know. But I'll tell you this. ... It's still going to be difficult to value the link, but the value of the link will go up very quickly.


Then what's the real impact of the judge's decision? The judge's decision is in no way limited to ads. She says that any coordinated activity over the Internet would need to be regulated, as a minimum. The problem with coordinated activity over the Internet is that it will strike, as a minimum, Internet reporting services. They're exempt from regulation only because of the press exemption. But people have been arguing that the Internet doesn't fit under the press exemption. It becomes a really complex issue that would strike deep into the heart of the Internet and the bloggers who are writing out there today.


(Editor's note: federal law limits the press exemption to a "broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine or other periodical publication." )


From Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, and editor of the site City-Directory Atlanta


It will be interesting to see how this impacts my own website, on which during every election cycle are posted "sample" ballots of the ten counties surrounding Atlanta, as well as all the state-wide races. The tricky part:


Whenever I'm aware of the website address of a candidate, I include it as a hyperlink.


Will this be considered a political contribution? I don't think so. Does it matter that I don't discriminate between candidates, that the linkage is available to any and all candidates who ask for it?  I'm counting on it mattering, since I plan on continuing the practice.


(If you're curious to what I'm talking about, see the latest Atlanta-area elections here.)


I’m going to have to think about this.







It doesn’t matter.  I just discovered that I’ve belonged to a terrorist group for twenty-two years! 


See Media Matters here -


Fox News host Bill O'Reilly labeled the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) a "terrorist group" for filing a lawsuit against Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and for opposing Bush administration anti-terrorism measures that the group believes are unconstitutional. The lawsuit accuses Rumsfeld of approving illegal interrogation methods that led to the torture and abuse of detainees in U.S. military custody; the ACLU also believes that measures such as federal "no-fly" lists and expanded investigative and surveillance powers for federal law enforcement under the USA Patriot Act are unconstitutional. O'Reilly added: "They're terrorizin' me and my family. They're terrorizing me. I think they're terrorists."


From the March 1 broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:


O'REILLY: This ACLU has no strategy to fight the war on terror at all. Everything the United States government does -- everything -- they oppose. Everything! Nothing they like in defending ourselves against terrorists -- nothing. ...


No-fly list, remember that? National Transportation Safety Administration put a no-fly list of travelers who they considered a threat. ACLU sued, challenged it.  Can't have a "no-fly" list. Okay? That's number one. Airline discrimination. So there were some people that were saying, "Well, look, if we have these guys and they just came in from Jordan or they came in from Oman, we're gonna watch 'em closely, pull 'em aside, detain 'em, talk to 'em." ACLU sued. "No, can't do that."


Patriot Act? Uh-uh. No Patriot Act. Can't be listening on floating wiretaps like you do on drug dealers -- uh-uh. Can't try to catch terrorists like that. Can't be lookin' at people checkin' out weird things in the library -- uh-uh. Okay? Nope, sued.




Immigration, all right? ACLU sued, filed a federal lawsuit challenging an initiative by [former Attorney Geneal John] Ashcroft to enlist state and local police in the routine enforcement of federal immigration laws. No, no, can't do that. Can't have the local police or the state police; help the feds enforce immigration laws -- no way! Can't do it!


Guantánamo Bay -- all of 'em have to have civilian lawyers. No enemy combatants -- no way, uh-uh. Come on. Come on. Every single thing the United States government tries to do to protect us against terrorism, these people oppose and they'll sue -- just like Christmas. Same thing. Same thing. "We'll sue you -- put the crèche in the main part of town, sing a Christmas carol -- we'll sue you." Sue, sue, sue, sue, sue.


So look, I'm declarin' war on the ACLU. I think they're a terrorist group. They're terrorizin' me and my family. They're terrorizing me. I think they're terrorists. Can I get some lawyers to help me out here? Can we sue 'em? They're puttin' us all in danger.


In the past, O'Reilly has called the ACLU "the most dangerous organization in the United States of America right now ... second next to Al Qaeda" and "a fascist organization." He has also said that "Hitler would be a card-carrying ACLU member. So would Stalin."


Amazing.  And I’m waiting for the knock on the door.  As is half of Hollywood out here.  This O'Reilly guy is a real pip.



Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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