So I’m a week late and a dollar short. I was doing research tonight for my thesis “Political Blogs: Are they an influence in the political realm?” that I’m presenting this week (don’t worry, just the final touches for any last minute breaking news) and I stumbled upon this. I was aware of talks about the bill last month but I’ve been so up to my eyeballs in thesis work that I’d forgotten all about it.
On April 3rd, the “Blogger Protection Act of 2008” was introduced by Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX). The bill would protect bloggers from strict campaign finance regulations.
What does this mean? Bloggers and their blogs would have the same protections granted to other forms of media under federal campaign finance laws. Additionally, they would have the same First Amendment rights as those in traditional media. (Just don’t get paid by their campaign to blog!)
The legislation also protects bloggers from ever being considered to have made a contribution or expenditure on behalf of, or in opposition to, a candidate by simply linking to campaign websites or writing about the positions of federal candidates.
Another advancement for recognizing bloggers as the “citizen journalists” they (we?) are! You may recall the decision in favor of DailyKos last September. The ruling stated that the elite Liberal Political Blog did not violate the Federal Election Campaign Act and any campaign finance law.
Two years ago, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) issued regulations that protected bloggers from being hampered by certain campaign finance laws. Under these regulations, bloggers cannot be considered to have made a contribution or expenditure on behalf of (or in opposition to) a candidate simply because they link to campaign websites or write about the positions of federal candidates. Additionally, blogs are treated as any other publication under the general media exemption from most campaign finance restrictions. Without such protections, bloggers could be subject to various limitations and reporting requirements under campaign finance law.
But these blogger protections are just regulatory—they are not in statute. As you may know, regulations can be changed without congressional action, and there’s no telling what a future FEC might decide to do. Furthermore, the FEC is currently defunct because of vacancies and a lack of quorum. Therefore, we shouldn’t put the freedom of bloggers in the regulatory hands of the FEC. Congress should protect them in law.
That’s why next week I’m introducing the Blogger Protection Act of 2008—to put the FEC’s regulatory protections of the freedom of bloggers into law.
If you want to support the bill, you can download this pdf file from Comparative Politics and send it to Congress. HURRY!