Link to a political candidate a
contribution to his campaign?
The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA) is U.S.
Congressional legislation which regulates the financing of political
campaigns. It is also known as the McCain-Feingold law. It was carefully
drafted NOT to include online press, commentary or blogs.
allowed people last year to direct visitors to the official Website of any
presidential candidate without that link being considered a contribution to
the campaign, a political activity or an illegal donation.
ast year a federal judge ruled that many of
the F.E.C. rules were too lax and specifically asked it to address the
question of Internet activity:
The "exclusion of Internet communications
from the coordinated communications regulation severely undermines" the
campaign finance law's purposes.
So these days the Federal Election Commission
is beginning the process of extending its controversial 2002 campaign
finance law to the internet.
One question will be, whether a Web page's link
to a candidate's site constitutes a contribution.
But how would that be calculated? (
law, contributions over $1,000 or services of an equivalent value must be
The ideas on this are getting very bizare:
FEC already has received an advisory opinion suggesting the value placed on
a blog that praises a politician or links to a campaign website might be
based on what percentage of the computer cost and electricity went to
The campaign finance law has a press exemption,
but it is unclear whether bloggers or online journals fit that description.
Several news sources and blogs have specualted if
the extension of the
Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 could mean fines to sites
that improperly link to official campaign sites or even the end of political
March 6, 2005: Kornblut, Anne,
F.E.C. to Consider Internet Politicking, New York Times:
"Federal election commissioners are
preparing to consider how revamped campaign finance laws apply to
political activity on the Internet, including online advertising,
fund-raising e-mail messages and Web logs."
March 3, 2005: McCullagh, Declan,
The coming crackdown on blogging, CNet:
"In just a few months, he warns,
bloggers and news organizations could risk the wrath of the federal
government if they improperly link to a campaign's Web site."
February 15, 2005: McCullagh,
Political Web ads may be curtailed, CNet:
"The Federal Election Commission plans
to begin reviewing next month whether the Internet should continue to
enjoy its privileged status as exempt from some of the stricter dictates
of a 2002 campaign finance law."
On March 8
Sens. McCain and Feingold issued a statement:
"... The latest
misinformation from the anti-reform crowd is the suggestion that our bill
will require regulation of blogs and other Internet communications. A recent
federal court decision requires the Federal Election Commission to open a
new rulemaking on Internet communications. The FEC will be looking at
whether and how paid advertising on the Internet should be treated, i.e.,
should it be treated differently than paid advertising on television or
radio.... So far, the FEC has not even proposed new regulations... This
issue has nothing to with private citizens communicating on the Internet.
There is simply no reason - none - to think that the FEC should or intends
to regulate blogs or other Internet communications by private citizens.
Suggestions to the contrary are simply the latest attempt by opponents of
reform to whip up baseless fears. BCRA was intended to empower ordinary
citizens, and it has been successful in doing so. We will continue to fight
for that goal."