OK

I have been monitoring the developments on this story (yes, monitoring naysayers) and think we can see where the FEC commissioners are lining up:

The Dems -

But it is unclear how much appetite the F.E.C., criticized in the past by advocates for election reform as being dysfunctional and ineffective, really has for trying to govern Internet activity. In interviews on Thursday, several commissioners warned about the complexities of trying to assign a dollar value to online campaign activity and said they hoped any new regulations would not stifle personal political involvement.

"People should not be alarmed," said Ellen L. Weintraub, a Democratic commissioner. "Given the impact of the Internet," Ms. Weintraub said, "I think we have to take a look at whether there are aspects of that that ought to be subject to the regulations. But again, I don't want this issue to get overblown. Because I really don't think, at the end of the day, this commission is going to do anything that affects what somebody sitting at home, on their home computer, does."

. . . Ms. Weintraub cautioned against jumping to conclusions, saying the goal was simply to address the Internet in some way. "We are looking at whether there is something short of a complete exemption for Internet activity," she said."One really good question that needs to be asked is, 'How do you value this stuff?' " she said. "Because we only track money - campaign money that people spend on campaigns - not their thoughts or their beliefs or their statements. Just when they spend money. So if something is done really cheaply, it's not going to rise to the level where it will meet our regulations anyway."

The GOP -

Although the F.E.C. appealed several elements of the judge's ruling, the Internet provision was not among them, which means it must now address it.

"I don't know how we get out of it at this point," said David M. Mason, a Republican commissioner. "We have a ruling ordering us to go back and define a rule."

In an interview, Mr. Smith said he did not believe that the judge's ruling limited the F.E.C. to regulating only paid advertising on the Internet. "In theory, there's no reason why everything that goes on a blog advocating a candidate wouldn't be an independent expenditure and subject to regulation," Mr. Smith said.

The Republican commissioners interviewed agreed that it would be difficult to place a value on most political activity conducted online, and thus to determine whether it fell under the campaign contribution limits. "If you have a very successful blogger who attracts a lot of attention based on the commentary he or she is undertaking, and maybe that activity is coordinated with a candidate, what is the value of that?" said Michael E. Toner, the third Republican member of the commission.

"Everyone here believes this is one of the most important rule-makings the F.E.C. is going to do this year," Mr. Toner added, "mainly because the Internet got millions of people involved in politics. What we do here is going to have a major consequence of how people are involved."

Looks to me that it is the GOP Commissioners who are eager to regulate Internet political activity. So, does anybody think we don't need to keep a close eye on this?

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 08:08 AM PST.

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