FEC Applies Media Exemption to Political Blogs

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Sep 04, 2007 5:28 PM
This is good news, in the dismal world of campaign finance law. It's also one of those rare instances when we can all rejoice in good news for Kos:
The Federal Election Commission announced today that it has unanimously resolved two complaints alleging that Internet blog activity is subject to Commission regulation, finding that the activity is exempt from regulation under the media or volunteer exemption.

In Matter Under Review (MUR) 5928, the Commission determined that Kos Media, L.L.C., which operates the website DailyKos, did not violate the Federal Election Campaign Act.  The Commission rejected allegations that the site should be regulated as a political committee because it charges a fee to place advertising on its website and it provides “a gift of free advertising and candidate media services” by posting blog entries that support candidates.  The Commission determined that the website falls squarely within the media exemption and is therefore not subject to federal regulation under the Act.

Since 1974, media activity has been explicitly exempted from federal campaign finance regulation.   In March 2006, the Commission made clear that this exemption extends to online media publications and that “costs incurred in covering or carrying a news story, commentary, or editorial by any broadcasting station. . . , Web site, newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication, including any Internet or electronic publication,” are not a contribution or expenditure unless the facility is owned by a political party, committee, or candidate.  With respect to MUR 5928, the FEC found that Kos Media meets the definition of a media entity and that the activity described in the complaint falls within the media exemption.  

Thus, activity on the DailyKos website does not constitute a contribution or expenditure that would trigger political committee status.  The Commission therefore found no reason to believe Kos Media, DailyKos.com, or Markos Moulitsas Zuniga violated federal campaign finance law.

I wonder if this will extend to all bloggers, great and small, or just ones that are rollin' in traffic and moolah, like Kos. Hope so, but this seems like a victory for blogs and free speech, so yee haw.