- May 19, 2004
- Reaction score
- Political Leaning
- Libertarian - Right
WASHINGTON — The Federal Election Commission is considering whether to require political bloggers to disclose whether they are receiving funds from a political campaign, the latest step in a larger debate over whether political activity on the Internet should be regulated by the government. Friday is the deadline set for the FEC to receive public comments on a number of proposed regulations dealing with Internet activities. The commission will hold hearings on June 28-29 in Washington, D.C., before deciding on final action.
One of those new rules, the disclosure requirement, has many bloggers bristling, accusing the government of unfairly targeting them and impinging on free speech. But other political activists say that blogs can act as secret cover for political smear campaigns and create a Potemkin village of grassroots support. They say if that's the impact, then the Web logs should be required to disclose whether their operators are on a campaign payroll.
"I think there is a benefit for voters when they find out that something they find on the Internet is more of a paid advertisement than independent analysis," said Rick Hasen, a Loyola Law School professor who has been one of the more vocal proponents for disclosure requirements. "We have all sorts of rules regarding television advertisements; I don't think this is going too far."
The explosion of political blogs on the Internet has invited the focus of campaign finance reformers, who say these Web sites can be used with virtually no controls to communicate campaign material, messages, advertisements and attacks against political opponents.
They point to a situation in South Dakota, where it was revealed that Jason Van Beek and John Lauck, who operated political blogs supporting Republican John Thune in his challenge to unseat Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle, were paid by the Thune campaign $8,000 and $27,000 respectively for consultant work.
Their relationship was not disclosed by Thune or on their Web sites, which featured daily attacks on Daschle, who lost the 2004 race.
"No one is talking about limiting speech or spending, just disclosure, and I think that it is very valuable for voters to know if campaigns are behind a blog," said Hasen. "If you are reading something that said John Thune is a great senator, you might react differently if you knew John Thune paid for it."