OK

So we all know Carol Darr, clueless embarrassment to George Washington University, heading up the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet.

The IPDI has, as its mission statement, this:

  1. The establishment of a research base for the study of online politics, especially with respect to American campaigns and elections.

  2. The design, testing, refinement, and promotion of appropriate standards of practice for the conduct of online campaigning.

  3. The creation and public promotion of an online public space where good campaign practices and democratic values may thrive.

Yet this is what Darr said in her prepared remarks (PDF):

At its essence, [the media exemption] allows a media corporation, through certain of its employees -- reporters, editorial writers, and cartoonists -- to spend an unlimited amount of corporate money communicating with candidates, asking them anything about their campaigns, with no question relating to money or strategy off limits, activities, in short, that would be considered "coordination" if the person doing the asking were not considered media.  

This exemption is so broad that, aside from the various journalists' codes of ethics, there is absolutely nothing to stop the reporters from becoming partisan advocates of a candidate - what reporters derisively call "getting in the tank" with the candidate.  

The media exemption, however, allows them this leeway, because to do otherwise would interfere with their rights as journalists. And all members of the press are entitled to this exemption: the good, the bad, the hacks, the partisans, and the crazies. Everyone from The New York Times to the National Inquirer to the independent journalist working in his basement distributing his work around the neighborhood on a mimeographed sheet is protected by the media exemption.  

This broad treatment is in keeping with the legislative history, and is consistent with the FEC's previous advisory opinions. Given these precedents, I expect that the members of the Commission will grant the exemption widely to bloggers, or you will send it back to Congress and they will specifically include bloggers.  

But this broadly granted media exception contains within it an absolutely unavoidable consequence.  And that is, there is no way to keep big money out of this picture.  

My concern is not with the average citizen who chooses to publish a blog and share his or her viewpoints on the Internet, but with large corporations and unions who seek to unfairly influence campaigns by spending huge amounts of money under the guise of being a blog [...]

That is what I fear about the widely granted media exemption.  Not that the old media will lose it power. They can take care of themselves. What I fear is that our fragile, very flawed system of campaign finance regulation will completely destroyed.  

This is quite the turnaround for Darr, who said in her submitted comments to the FEC  that providing bloggers with the media exemption would threaten "the privileged status the press currently enjoys will diminish." Furthermore:

The issue before the FEC goes to the heart of the fundamental questions that define a democracy's relationship to a free press: Who should be treated as a journalist, and what special privileges, if any, should they receive?

"Special privileges". The "privileged status".

Now she admits that the media exemption fits "the good, the bad, the hacks, the partisans, and the crazies."  But fuck the bloggers. Because -- why? Because it threatens the special privileges and privileged status of the press? Nah, that argument made her look like an ass the last time we dealt with this issue.

Nah, the reason now is that it would allow -- gasp! -- Haliburton to start a blog! And somehow, this blog would cause the collapse of the campaign finance regime. I wish I was kidding.

To which I say, "welcome to the blogosphere, Haliburton! Join the over 12 million blogs already in the blogosphere." I'm pretty confident CFR would survive the emergence of yet another blog. One of 20,000 created every day.

That GWU suffers this fool is extraordinary. Given that IPDI is supposed to promote a space where democratic values may thrive, it's shocking that Darr is more concerned with protecting the special priviliges and privileged status of the old media than in promoting the explosion of grassroots media.

Given her inability to embrace the blogging revolution, and the transformative effects it is having on our democracy, it's time GWU transfers her to a more appropriate setting.

To be clear, I don't care that Darr wrote a hostile comment to the FEC. I don't care she gave hostile testimony, no matter how much it belonged on amateur hour. Those reformer groups who gave hostile testimony to the commission, and submitted hostile comments, are doing what they're supposed to be doing -- zealously attempting to control the flow of money into the political system. I disagree with them on this particular issue, and think they're wildly off the mark, but at least I respect their efforts. They're playing in character, doing what they're supposed to be doing.

Carol Darr is supposed to be promoting democratic values in the online space. Instead she is attempting to muzzle bloggers. All in the name of protecting the special privileges and privileged status of traditional journalists.

She is seriously at the wrong place.

Update: The Talent Show has closed shop in light of the proposed FEC regulations. Lucky for everyone, he's started a web magazine in its place. Same address. Same content. New nomenclature.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 07:14 PM PDT.

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