Political blogging crackdown

Bradley Smith, one of the six commissioners on the Federal Election Commission, warns today of upcoming regulation on political blogging. The News.com article says bloggers and news outlets could be in trouble for "improperly linking to a campaign's Web site." In a nutshell, he's saying such links equate to campaign contributions:

"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."

As you read along, the real issue is that the current Federal law that exempts the press from this type of regulation doesn't currently cover online activities such as blogging.

Comments

More link silliness

Roughly related, but not quite deserving it's own thread :)

Bill O'Reilly tries to sue NewsHounds for linking to him

Thanks Brad

not quite

The current law that exempts the press doesn't cover web sites/blogs.

Which means it's not yet "the law" as such, it's just not covered in the current law. Links-as-contributions will either have to be clarified through specific legislation, or run through the court system when someone tries to enforce the contribution limitation on a site owner.

Either way, if the matter is pushed hard enough, it will probably end up in a courtroom with attorneys haggling the point that a link is not necessarily the same as an ad, and while an ad in the NYTimes would have to count as a contribution, an editorial would not, and therefore while a 'featured' sidebar link or banner/graphic link may be counted as a contribution, perhaps a text link embedded in a blog entry would not.

Then there's the question about whether or not the linking site actually sells ad space or not... and if they don't, how would a featured/graphic link be priced? And so on and so forth...

...which is why I said it was stupid.

Too late

mivox - the problem is that it already is the law! The current law that exempts the press doesn't cover web sites/blogs.

graywolf -- there's no limit on the receiver of donations. The limits are on the giver. So all your linkbombing won't prevent the guy/gal you don't like from accepting other forms of ... ahem ... contributions. :)

*guffaw*

That's the stupidest thing I've heard so far today...

...which means it will probably become law.

Valuation and source?

So if Yahoo puts a link in their directory is that a gift or a public service? What about a link from Wikipedia?

How are links valued? Only if they pass PR? So if I use NoFollow to link to Senator Bozo's campaign site is it worth less than a full monty link?

If the link is within editorial content is it still not speech?

Google will have a cow if a US Gov't agency actually places an official $$ value on a PR passing link! Or worse if a Fed. Court accepts a formula for calculating a $$ value. Talk about a direct attack on their business model and control of linking on the web!

In any event I don't think things are as clear cut as Bradley Smith wants people to believe. The whole thing will get mired in the courts.

So can if I can convince a mi

So can if I can convince a million people to googlebomb the candidate I diskline for "clueless politician", I'll not only be making fun of them, but depleting the amount of "real" contributions they can get?

I think somebody needs to go back to the drawing board with that one ...

True, but...

... political contributions are not protected as political speech, and that's why we have limits on how much can be contributed to a campaign or candidate.

And the issue is that current law doesn't cover links from a web site or blog as "political speech", but rather as "political contribution."

I agree with you that a link should be considered speech.....

Doubtful

I'm no lawyer, but the Supremes have been very frank about political speech being exactly the most protected form of speech. They have also upheld the individuals right to put up political signs on their yards and property despite local prohibitions. So it seems to me that if Joe Voter wants to put up a link to X candidates website it is no different than me putting up an election sign on my yard, a bumpersticker on my car or wearing a button on my person. IMO, the 1st Amendment trumps McCain-Feingold. A link is a vote or speech - in this case political speech.