Friday, November 25, 2005

BLOGS: FEC finds a blog covering public policy is not subject to regulation

Reposted from SPJ Pressnotes, Nov. 23, 2005

Kaitlin Thaney, The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

FEC says political blog exempt from campaign law

The Federal Election Commission recognized the partisan blog Fired Up! as
a press entity that is allowed, like journalists, to cover and comment on
political candidates without their positive comments being counted as
campaign expenditures. The FEC unanimously approved Advisory Opinion
2005-16 Thursday in response to a request from the blog's organizers
concerning the application of the finance rules to sites owned and
operated by Fired Up! The five-member commission adopted the proposed
draft opinion without revision. Fired Up! consists of three state-specific
blogs for Maryland, Missouri and Washington, and one covering national
issues, each comprising a mix of editorial postings, quotes and commentary
from other news sources, and links to various articles or other blogs. The
FEC opinion is based on a long-standing two-part test. To qualify for the
exemption under the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, the FEC
considers whether the press entity is owned or controlled by a political
party, committee or candidate and examines the intentions behind the
organization's actions to determine if it is performing "legitimate press
functions." Despite its political slant and progressive content, Fired Up!
met both qualifications, the FEC found. Because "Fired Up! is a press
entity, and neither it nor its Web sites are owned or controlled by any
political party, political committee, or candidate, the costs Fired Up
incurs in covering or carrying a news story, commentary, or editorial on
its Web sites are exempt from the definitions of 'contribution' and
'expenditure.' "

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