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Federal Election Commission To Bloggers: You're Exempt From Regulation!

September 5, 2007

Hey what can I say? I and many of my blogger friends have dogs in this fight. (Please, no Michael Vick jokes).

Since 1974, media activity has been exempted from U.S. federal campaign finance regulations. Costs incurred in covering a story are not a contribution or expenditure unless the outlet is owned by a candidate, political party or campaign committee.

Tuesday, the U.S. Federal Election Commission clarified this view by bringing bloggers under this umbrella.

Here's the FEC's take:

In Matter Under Review (MUR) 5928, the Commission determined that Kos Media, L.L.C., which operates the website DailyKos, did not violate the Federal Election Campaign Act.  The Commission rejected allegations that the site should be regulated as a political committee because it charges a fee to place advertising on its website and it provides “a gift of free advertising and candidate media services” by posting blog entries that support candidates.  The Commission determined that the website falls squarely within the media exemption and is therefore not subject to federal regulation under the Act.

Since 1974, media activity has been explicitly exempted from federal campaign finance regulation.   In March 2006, the Commission made clear that this exemption extends to online media publications and that “costs incurred in covering or carrying a news story, commentary, or editorial by any broadcasting station. . . , Web site, newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication, including any Internet or electronic publication,” are not a contribution or expenditure unless the facility is owned by a political party, committee, or candidate.  With respect to MUR 5928, the FEC found that Kos Media meets the definition of a media entity and that the activity described in the complaint falls within the media exemption.   Thus, activity on the DailyKos website does not constitute a contribution or expenditure that would trigger political committee status.  The Commission therefore found no reason to believe Kos Media,, or Markos Moulitsas Zuniga violated federal campaign finance law.

In MUR 5853, the Commission rejected allegations that Michael L. Grace made unreported expenditures when he leased space on a computer server to create a “blog” which advocated the defeat of Representative Mary Bono in the November 2006 election.  The Commission also rejected allegations that Grace coordinated these expenditures with Bono’s opponent in the race, David Roth, and found that no in-kind contributions to Roth’s campaign resulted from Grace’s blogging activity.  The Commission also found that the respondent did not fraudulently misrepresent himself in violation of 2U.S.C. § 441h. 

The Act exempts from regulation volunteer activity by individuals.  In the FEC’s Internet regulations, the Commission clarified that an individual’s use, without compensation, of equipment and personal services for blogging, creating, or hosting a website for the purpose of influencing a Federal election are not expenditures subject to the restrictions of campaign finance law.  Even if there were some costs or value associated with Mr. Grace’s blog, these costs are exempt from Commission regulations.  The FEC therefore found no reason to believe Mr. Grace or the Roth campaign violated federal campaign finance law. 

I don't care what politics you have. All in all a good win.

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