Bloggers from Both Sides Oppose FEC Regulations

Article excerpt

Byline: Eric Pfeiffer, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Conservative and liberal bloggers both worry their freedom of speech is threatened by proposed campaign-finance rules that seek to regulate online political speech.

The Federal Election Commission is expected tomorrow to outline rules that could limit political Web logs and e-mail solicitations and would be similar to campaign-finance laws that apply to more traditional advocacy groups, such as the AFL-CIO and the National Rifle Association.

The rules could limit the amount of campaign money bloggers would be allowed to raise and the amount federal campaigns would be allowed to spend on Internet advertising.

Last week, the House was close to voting on the Online Freedom of Speech Act, a bill sponsored by Rep. Jeb Hensarling, Texas Republican. The bill is designed to allow political blogs, e-mails and other types of individual online communication to continue operating free from FEC regulations.

Hensarling spokesman Mike Walz said in a telephone interview that the House vote has been indefinitely postponed and expressed frustration because he thinks the FEC wants Congress to act first. "The fact that [the FEC] delayed their initial vote indicates they wanted to get a clear direction from Congress," Mr. Walz said.

FEC Chairman Michael E. Toner has endorsed Mr. Hensarling's bill.

"I don't think the FEC is all that keen on this," said David Keating, executive director of Club for Growth, a group that promotes limited-government policies. "They're only doing this because the court told them to."

The FEC was expected to publish its proposed Internet regulations yesterday on its Web site. However, the agenda item was listed as "submitted late." When The Washington Times contacted the FEC, it said the item is now scheduled to be posted this morning.

When the FEC wrote its campaign-finance-reform rules in 2002, Internet communications were exempted. …