FEC: Political Blogs Exempt From McCain-Feingold

The Federal Election Commission last week said that a group of political blogs was exempt from the requirements of the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002, commonly known as McCain-Feingold. In an advisory note, the FEC stated that a group of Democratic blogs, incorporated as "Fired Up," engaged mainly in news gathering and distribution--and therefore, should be considered as media.

"Because Fired Up is a press entity, and neither it nor its websites are owned or controlled by any political party, political committee or candidate, the costs Fired Up incurs in covering or carrying a news story, commentary, or editorial on its websites are exempt from the definition of 'contribution' and 'expenditure,'" wrote the FEC.

Roy Temple, who runs Fired Up, said he filed the request for the advisory to clarify his site's standing under the law. If the FEC did not treat Fired Up as media, the Web sites' costs could potentially be considered corporate contributions that would fall within the McCain-Feingold regulations. "We believed that we qualified for the media exemption, but we also wanted to have some clarity with regard to one of the significant assumptions that we were operating," he said. "I'm very pleased with it. The New York Times can just assume that they qualify for the press exemption, and now we know we do."

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Temple said, however, that he also filed the request for clarification from the FEC to force the issue to the forefront, and get the commission to make a decision on where bloggers stood. "We thought there was an opportunity to get clarification for our purposes, but also to force the question," he said. "It's far better for us to ask and know now."

Democratic political consultant Michael Bassik said the FEC's decision shows that it's willing to take blogs seriously as media entities. "If it proves anything, it proves that the FEC understands that blogging resembles traditional media in many ways--and as a result, deserves to be treated with the same respect and consideration when it comes to campaign finance law," he said.

Bassik added that he views this decision as just the first step. "We need to continue the fight to ensure that these rights are given to Podcasts, wikis and yet-to-be discovered media for political messaging," he said. "Blogs are just one method for distributing news and opinion online, but there are countless others that are yet to come."

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