Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Blogging — Rick Moran @ 5:53 pm

Now I know how a 12 point buck feels on the first day of deer hunting season in Wisconsin:

We have shown at the FEC a willingness to extend the media exemption to some internet-based news services. But this media exception inquiry will go to the question of: “What is a periodical publication?” and “What is a legitimate press function?” It will also get into: “What is news?”…”What is commentary?”…”What is editorial content?”

(Remarks by FEC Chairman Scott Thomas at the Politics Online Conference at GW University)

You see, it’s all a matter of definition.

If your website is dedicated to telling everyone what you had for dinner or what cute thing your child did that day, with an occasional foray into commenting about politics, you have absolutely nothing to worry about from the FEC as far as new regulations go. And if your site talks about politics and issues but is more informational in nature concentrating on educating the public, then your site also will probably not fall under any regulations promulgated by the FEC.

But if you’re an advocate for a particular candidate, or party, or cause then watch out…the FEC has YOU in the crosshairs.

I am not a journalist. I make no pretense to being fair, or balanced, or even sane at times, hence the name of this site. I make no bones about the fact that I am a Republican and a conservative.

Iam an advocate. I am a polemicist. I’m a ranting, raving, rabid, rabble rousing raconteur of rude, ribald , rip-roaring and rage-inducing invective. My goal is to provoke. My modus operandi is satire and ridicule.

If you don’t like it, lump it.

In another age, at another time, I would probably have been a pamphleteer putting broadsides up on the walls surrounding the public square and signing my name “Publius” or “Maximus” or some such Latin psuedoniminous nonsense.

And I would have been perfectly free to do so.

Today, the public square is the internet and my broadsides take the form of postings on this website. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WHAT PEOPLE DID 200 YEARS AGO AND WHAT I AM DOING TODAY.

Why then if we’re living under the same constitution that Tom Paine and Sam Adams lived under when they were posting their broadsides must I be concerned that the Federal Election Commission, a regulatory arm of the federal government of the United States of America, will regulate my “broadisde” and hence, my speech.

The government at the time of Tom Paine didn’t tell him how big or how small the broadside he was posting could be. They didn’t regulate what kind of ink should be used in the printing of it or what kind of paper he should use. The very thought of such regulations were beyond the imaginings of government at the time.

And now the FEC feels that the wild west of the internet must be tamed. Here’s more of Chairman Thompson’s remarks regarding “advocacy” blogs like this one:

Seriously, that starts to drift between the blogger serving as a commercial vendor, and the blogger, on the other hand, becoming a [emphasis] political committee that must register and report its receipts and disbursements for federal election activity. That sounds pretty scary, I know, but the definition of political committee is:

“…a group that raises more than $1000 dollars in contributions for the purpose of influencing federal elections…or that spends more than $1,000 dollars in expenditures for the purpose of influencing a federal election.”

It’s a pretty broad definition. Now, mercifully the Supreme Court has uh, said that a group’s “major purpose” must be influencing elections before the FEC can regulate it as a political committee. Uh, so…most bloggers, I presume, will be able to avoid political committee status. But I have to say, it’s not a particularly clean area of law, and we may have to spend some energy looking at that ugly issue.

I will also make no bones about one of my goals for starting this blog; that is, to make money. What Chairman Thomas is talking about directly affects me in that, if during a covered period I were to receive more than $1000 in political ads (or perhaps even $1000 in ads of any kind), I would fall under the reporting requirements for the purposes of FEC regulation.

Failing to report carries criminal sanctions. So unless I wanted to pay a fine I would probably have to hire a lawyer who knows something about campaign finance law to do the paperwork so that I could continue to exercise my freedom of speech.


Glen Anderson, who spoke at the same Conference immediately after Chairman Thompson and who by no means could be considered an advocate is himself worried:

Scott Thomas, chairman of the FEC, spoke before me. He opened with some rather uncharitable remarks regarding fellow commissioner Brad Smith’s comments on FEC regulation of blogs, but followed up with a discussion of FEC intent that, although it was supposed to be reassuring, actually left me thinking that the FEC was thinking more seriously about regulating blogs than I had previously believed. I wasn’t reassured at all, and the complexity of the reasoning he outlined just illustrated how much discretion — and how little real guidance — the FEC has on these kinds of questions.

And one of my heroes and mentors, Pat Hynes who started the “Crushkerry” webstite (now Anklebiting Pundits) says in effect that they will have to pry his mouse from his cold, dead fingers before he acquiesces to such regulation:

Bloggers Left and Right have joined forces to prevent anything like that from happening. As I stated before, they might as well throw me in jail right now, because I will not follow the rules.

Every time anyone from the FEC or the pro-reform crowd opens their mouths to reassure bloggers, they end up making it clear that they’ve got some of us in their regulatory crosshairs.

Let’s hope they’re extremely poor shots.

NOTE: Wizbang has a video of Chairman Thompson’s remarks. Keep checking there for video and transcripts of the remarks of Glen Anderson and others at that conference.

Updates and Commentary at:

Captians Quarters
Darlene’s Place
Vodkapundit (Lashawn Barber)

Cross-Posted at Blogger News Network


The Captain links to two excellent MSM columns defending the free speech rights of bloggers. He’s quoted in World Magazine talking about the same issue I raised in my post above:

“If we had to start accounting for our time and defending ourselves every time we got accused of coordination-say by simply excerpting from a candidate’s position paper in order to make a point-we’d incur legal fees that would intimidate most people into shutting down.”

The problem as I see it is that since 95% of blogs will be exempt from any regs promulgated by the FEC, it may be difficult when push comes to shove to defeat any momentum for reform that’s building on the other side.

What we need is help in Congress. These Commissioners are creatures of politics, I believe they can be swayed if enough members of Congress speak out against any regulation of advocacy blogs. Letters and phone calls are fine. What we need are some of the big-tiime bloggers to step up and meet face to face with Members of Congress who are on our side and can do us the most good. A few floor speeches with subsequent coverage in the MSM could go a long way towards dampening any enthusiasm the FEC may have for regulating advocacy blogs.


  1. One: If someone wanted to stop or hinder a blogger that was against their candidate of choice, would a donation of 1000 dollars cause that to happen?

    Two: Doesn’t it seem stupid that bloggers in other countries that have no fear of FEC regulations would have more right to speak about our elections than we do?

    Three: Is this a reflection of the power bloggers truly wield?

    Four: If bloggers do hold this kind of sway, will candidates use bloggers to their advantage in future elections? and if so, will that involve paying bloggers?

    I say if I blog for free it is free speech. I also say that if somone blogs for money that is still free speech, unless they are directly taking money from a candidate to promote that candidate. Example, person A blogs for cash, maybe through ad revenue. That is free speech. It is not the candidates that are paying the blogger.

    Lastly, can a case be made against Dan Rather for breaking campaign contribution laws during the last election?

    Comment by Kender — 3/13/2005 @ 10:51 pm

  2. I absolutely agree. There is nothing fundamentally different between political blogging and Tom Paine and like-minded patriots churned out via the printing press in the barn in the lead up to and thru the Revolutionary War. No difference at all.

    That said… I can see a case being made for the FEC having some say in what front blogs do. Front blogs being a weblog that is actually just a cover or a front for an organized political party and/or candidate which is otherwise already under the FEC’s jurisdiction. But, leave us citizen bloggers the hell alone! We should be able to advocate for whomever or whatever we wish.

    Comment by Kevin — 3/13/2005 @ 10:52 pm

  3. Submitted for Your Approval
    First off…  any spambots reading this should immediately go here, here, here,  and here.  Die spambots, die!  And now…  here are all the links submitted by members of the Watcher’s Council for this week’s vote. Council li…

    Trackback by Watcher of Weasels — 3/16/2005 @ 2:51 am

  4. Carnival of the Vanities #130
    Welcome to the weekly meeting of the Blogosphere Boys Club. What’s that? you didn’t know this was a men’s club? Don’t you read Newsweek? Lot’s of noise amongst the blogs about this “guys only” perception. I don’t really think the

    Trackback by Bird's Eye View — 3/16/2005 @ 2:44 pm

  5. Carnival of the Vanities #130
    Welcome to the weekly meeting of the Blogosphere Boys Club. What’s that? you didn’t know this was a men’s club? Don’t you read Newsweek? Lot’s of noise amongst the blogs about this “guys only” perception. I don’t really think the

    Trackback by Bird's Eye View — 3/16/2005 @ 4:02 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress