Saturday, April 23, 2005

Let blogs run free

Let the Blogs run free

Here is an
editorial from the Chicago Tribune on the how to deal with Blogs. I could not agree more, some one in the MSM finally gets it. - Sailor

"Let blogs run free

April 23, 2005

Sometimes the best political action is no action. When Congress passed the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law in 2002, it deliberately avoided mention of the Internet. That has been very healthy for American democracy.

Unfortunately recent actions by the courts and Congress raise new questions as to how long that benign neglect will last, particularly for that feisty, sometimes foul-mouthed, but often innovative new medium known as the blog.

Short for Web log, the Internet-based diaries have exploded into a bountiful and boisterous blogosphere of voices from diverse political views. Some of the blogs got a lot of attention in 2004, raising funds, Web-casting attack ads and providing links to candidate sites and political action groups.

Whether the authors of the 1st Amendment imagined such a boundless platform for a cacophony of voices, it is not hard to imagine that they would have approved.

Nevertheless, questions have been raised about whether bloggers are making an end run around campaign finance laws. Should a blogger's online endorsement and promotion of a candidate be counted as an "in-kind contribution" to the campaign? Should the blogger be subject to campaign finance law if he's raising money? Are these journalists or political activists?

That last question erupted with a vengeance after revelations that South Dakota Republican John Thune's Senate campaign paid two bloggers who posted attacks against Thune's Democratic opponent, Tom Daschle. Howard Dean's presidential campaign paid two blogs for (presumably) unrelated consulting services.

The Federal Election Commission has proposed new rules and scheduled public hearings in June to address blogging-for-dollars and other political funding issues in the largely uncharted universe of cyberspace.

This creates all sorts of potential tensions. Which Web sites and blogs should be considered legitimate news organizations, exempt from McCain-Feingold's restrictions, and which should not? Should individual bloggers be treated differently than organizations? If a blogger receives payment for a political activity, does that turn the blog into a political committee that is subject to campaign finance regulation?

Such questions would be rendered moot under new laws proposed by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, and Rep. Jeb Hensarling, a Texas Republican, to exclude the Internet from federal campaign finance laws. They have the right idea.

Attempts to regulate the flow of political writing run smack into the 1st Amendment protection of speech. And there's a long trail of evidence that campaign finance "reform" laws are ultimately futile. Campaign cash, like water, finds new channels when old ones are blocked.

Democracy is better served by more voices and choices, not fewer ones. Congress and the FEC should encourage more civic involvement and welcome more online voices to the political process instead of throwing regulatory roadblocks in the way.

Copyright © 2005, Chicago Tribune "

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