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September 04, 2007 06:21 PM UTC

Should Blogs Be Regulated by Campaign Finance?

  • by: Colorado Pols

As Jeff Bridges writes at State 38:

Just because speech is free doesn’t mean we shouldn’t know who’s paying for it.  From the Seattle Times:

The rapid growth of political blogs and Web sites has attracted the attention of [Washington] state elections officials, who are considering what, if any, new regulations should be imposed on the Internet…

The FEC said bloggers do not have to reveal payments directly from political campaigns, but the campaigns must disclose such payments as expenditures…

…Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for free speech.  115% or more in favor of, and I got in more fights than I care to remember with my high school principal about his abuse of my first amendment rights.

However, if a blog gets money from a candidate they ought to disclose it.  They ought to for the sake of their own credibility, but also because we require a “Paid for by…” line on TV commercials, radio spots, print ads, and billboards.  We should require the same of bought-and-paid-for bloggers.  It’s no different than the disclosure made by the Wall Street Journal when covering Dow Jones – and presumably in the future when reporting on the zany antics of News Corp.

And like I said, just because speech is free doesn’t mean we shouldn’t know who’s paying for it.


26 thoughts on “Should Blogs Be Regulated by Campaign Finance?

  1. Shouldn’t CO Pols say who its blog publishers are?  We all know this site is tilted but if we knew who was publishing we’d have a better idea of the where it was coming from.

              1. not HRC.  I also rant and rave about JP and Angie, but no I’ve never seen a dime for my dribble.

                The difference here is it’s not my site and I’m not publishing stories.  I’m merely reacting to the stories.  Would you read an editorial in the nytimes from an anonymous source?  Would you read a Denver post story with no author?  Why should this blog be any different?  I know lots of other state political blogs are very upfront about who is running them and a little disclosure would be nice from Pols.

                1. instead of answering, you deflected the issue and placed blame on someone else… like you fear him.

                  You are not a very good shrill for HRC. I like her, her candidacy, and will vote for her IF she wins the primary. However, as of now she is about 3 notches down the totem poll, and people like you attacking other Democratic candidates viciously only deters me from supporting the one you shamelessly shrill about. But you’re not alone. The Polis supporters are the same; it’s as if there is a sense of entitlements in those two campaigns, something I can neither relate to nor respect. It’s a characterists that Bush has, and one that I find horribly dangerous.

                  So, a word of advice. Think of Reagans 11th Commandment before opening your mouth on this blog. Because you may be throwing a rock in a glass house.

                    1. I never claimed to be above attacks, or think there is anything wrong with it.  You however in the same breath as you are judging me go on to do the same thing you claim to be against.  You are a great example of why candidates should never put themselves on pedistals because no one can ever live up to it.

    1. Posting anonymously and getting paid to push an agenda are two very different things.  Over at State38 I included a line from the Seattle Times story about Dick Wadham’s campaign with Thune:

      “In 2004, a group of conservative bloggers attacked incumbent Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle in South Dakota, who lost to GOP challenger John Thune. After the election, Thune’s campaign filed disclosure reports with the FEC indicating that his campaign had paid the bloggers.”

      Now that just ain’t right.  If you get paid you ought to disclose it, but if you push an agenda but don’t get paid I don’t think it matters whether you do it anonymously or not.

  2. Not that anyone’s asking, or cares:

    I am not and have not been paid by Tom Tancredo. Or Tom Wiens. Or Ted Harvey. Or Bill Winter. Or anyone else.

    I view anonymous blogs by individuals like the anonymous pamphlets during the times of the Founding Fathers.

  3. If someone blogs here and they are shilling for a candidate, 90% of the time it is obvious.  The other 10% deserve to do it since they are able to do so intelligently (Andy Bradshaw comes to mind). 

    There are some bloggers here who voluntarily disclose they are working for a candidate.

    A blog designed by/for a candidate is also obvious most of the time. 

    No need for regulation.

    1. In the Thune/Daschle case, the bloggers in question lied and pronounced their impartiality throughout the whole campaign.  Only after-the-fact did it turn out that Dick Wadhams had hired them.

      I have no beef with disclosure; it doesn’t even need to interfere with anonymity provided there’s some legal method of tracking incoming and outgoing funds.

  4. I’d like to know who is getting paid for their opinions.  But unless the press in general is required to do this (and I don’t think they are), I don’t see why blogs should be.

    As a matter of ethics, bloggers should disclose.  But making it a legal requirement is quite a different matter.

    1. I have never seen an instance where a reporter failed to disclose a financial interest in a subject being reported on.  I’ve tried googling for the law, but I’m a communications guy, not a researcher or a lawyer.

      Note my WSJ/Dow Jones/News Corp. reference in the post – Dow Jones owns the WSJ, and News Corp. is in the process of buying Dow Jones.  When the WSJ covers the proceedings they always make it clear they have a very pertinent interest in the outcome of the purchase.

  5. That of jurisdiction.

    For such a policy or law to be effective, it would have to be federal.  But then the blogger could use servers in Sri Lanka or wherever. 

    And is it the location of the blogger or of the server?  Or the bank account being sullied?

    Perhaps a change in campaign reporting would be the more effective.  Candidates would need to winnow out bloggers in their reporting, “I have $X to bloggers, here are there names and the blog’s names.”

    All in all, a tough implementation.

    1. Legally, location is any and/or all of the above.  You can go after the blogger, the server, the candidate, the payment, or the wire transmissions.

      Putting the server in Sri Lanka poses some extra evidentiary difficulties, but I hear the NSA has a solution for that, and it doesn’t even require a warrant…

  6. I belive that it should be the right of any individual who is self-publishing to remain anonymous or pseudonymous.  However, in a political campaign, I think that when campaigns, parties, corporations, unions, or other organizations fund activities, they ought to be identified.  It may be an important piece of information for a voter, as candidates may feel an obligation for “payback” to those who supported them during the campaign.  It is also useful to know when attacks against a candidate are being organized by the opposition.

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