Agency exempts bloggers from campaign spending Laws

Hmmm… According to the NYT, the FCC has decided to exempt “most of internet” from campaign spending laws. Here’s the gist:

WASHINGTON, March 27 — The Federal Election Commission ruled unanimously Monday that political communication on the Internet, including Web logs, setting up Web sites and e-mail, was not regulated by campaign finance laws.

The commission, in a 6-to-0 decision, also ruled that paid political advertisements placed on Web sites were covered by the 2002 campaign finance law, which includes restrictions on spending and contributions and bars corporations and unions from using their treasuries to purchase Web advertisements.

The decision marked a significant step in the rapid evolution of the Internet — and, in particular, Web logs — as a force in American politics. It is the latest chapter in the conflict between First Amendment guarantees of freedom of expression and efforts by Congress to regulate campaign spending.

The commission ruling came two years after it had decided that all Internet activity was exempt from the campaign finance laws. That ruling was challenged by Congressional sponsors of the law, and a federal judge upheld that suit, ordering the commission to write rules to apply the 2002 law to the Internet.

The commission ruled that the law applied to paid political advertisements, but offered a broad exemption for all other Internet political activity, conducted by individuals or groups, even in direct coordination with a candidate.

“The commission established a categorical exemption for individuals who engage in online politics,” Michael E. Toner, the chairman of the commission, said in an interview. “The agency has taken an important step in protecting grass roots and online politics.”

At first sight, this looks like good news — it means that Bloggers’ exhortations to their readers to contribute to, support or work for candidates would be counted as contributions to candidatges and therefore fall under the contribution limit of $2,000.

My gloomy fear is that this will actually lead to massive pollution of the blogosphere, as political parties figure out ways of assembling masses of ‘individual’ pseudo-bloggers to support candidates.