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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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Comment Preferences

  •  y'know (none)
    I have to give her credit for at least trying to explain her position.  I think she does does bring up semi-valid concerns.  Tho I wholeheartedly disagree with her suggestions for dealing with those concerns.

    The world will end not with a bang, but with a "Do'oh!"

    by Love and Death on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 07:29:21 PM PDT

    •  "give her credit" (none)
      I know kos DESPISES what this woman is saying, but like you, I wonder if there could be a some reasoning behind her words. I actually CAN imagine FoxNews financing a deceptively named blog, dropping ads for it all OVER the net and the real world. Sure, kos and atrios would help US see through the BS, but with the right marketing, they could become huge with the not-so-with-it FoxNews/CNN/MSNBC watchers.

      Just saying, while her approach may be imperfect, her worries may be legitimate. Is there SOME WAY to find a middle ground that would address her concerns???

      •  But What's The Problem With That? (none)
        What, exactly, is the problem with More Speech, if it comes from an actual media corporation?

        Look: if Halliburton wants to have a blog, it shouldn't be able to -- the ban on corporate expenditures on politics ought not go that far.

        But you can craft rules that bar activity you don't want (such as coordination between 527s and candidates online) without having to also build tiny boxes into which you hope all "good bloggers" will fit -- without a broad press exemption, such entities as group blogs and incorporated bloggers might have real legal risk.

        Take FreeRepublic, okay? It is a business that takes in donations totalling thousands of dollars to operate a site that exists to, among other things, allow a large group of individuals promote and attack candidates for federal election. If it is not given the "media exemption" extended to talk radio hosts, newspapers and the like, then, quite clearly, it's a political committee that needs to register with the FEC, disclose its contributions and expenditures, etc.

        "Let's put our heads together/And start a new country up/Our father's father's father tried/Erased the parts he didn't like" - R.E.M., "Cuyahoga"

        by Adam B on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 08:05:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I Admit It's Just Uneasiness (none)
          I suppose FoxNews wasn't the best example of why this makes me uneasy, as it is already considered to be (ack)journalism. I think I tried before to conceive of an individual paying for MILLIONS of dollars worth of ads, on the net or elsewhere, for a single candidate and calling themselves a "journalist" or a "blogger."

          I'm perhaps no more articulate in my worries than Darr is, and I by no means support the directions she seems to be taking - I do NOT want legitimate blogs inhibited in any way, shape, or form. But, if Karl Rove bought FreeRepublic and dumped millions into advertising it, then put up donation tabs on the site, shouldn't that be regulated? (I know, you don't think so... I'm just not so sure...)

          •  of course I don't think so. (none)
            Because I don't see the harms.  It's almost like saying that Markos or Atrios are fine unless they don't get TOO successful at doing this, because then, they're too powerful.  But as long as Viacom/Disney/NewsCorp/GE get the exemption for their news/editorial/commentary, why not Kos Media, LLC, or the Freepers?

            And the "millions in advertising" doesn't work.  Neither of those two guys has ever spent a dime on ads, and look where they are. Compare it to all the commercial online ventures that have failed.  What works here is good content and social relations, not money.

            "Let's put our heads together/And start a new country up/Our father's father's father tried/Erased the parts he didn't like" - R.E.M., "Cuyahoga"

            by Adam B on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 09:08:43 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  "What works here..." (none)
              What works here is the truth. But given enough money, people seem to be able to manufacture their own truths - Rupert Murdoch, Karl Rove, etc. That said...

              I hadn't quite given thought to the idea of all of the media conglomerates basically getting their exemptions while clearly supporting one candidate over the other. I actually HATE the fact that Viacom/Disney/NewsCorp/GE can put out whatever tripe they want, at whatever expense. It's turned my dad into a fucking rightwing zombie. However, I'm not sure what can be done.

              I don't pretend to understand the issues as well as you seem to, but the feeling that "something should be done" persists. What exactly that "something" is, I'm not entirely certain...

              •  Here's what can be done (4.00)
                Bar entities (PACs/state parties/527s) that can't coordinate with federal candidates on other media buys from being able to do so with the Internet either.  That takes care of Judge Kollar-Kotelly's order.

                Otherwise, just leave it all alone until there's a problem.  If one happens, the FEC will still be around in 2006.  But this is, as one panelist said yesterday, a rulemaking in search of a problem right now.

                "Any content-based regulation of the Internet, no matter how benign the purpose, could burn the global village to roast the pig." -- ACLU v Reno (E.D. Pa. 1996)

                by Adam B on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 09:25:52 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  this seems (none)
                  like a totally reasonable solution. But acbonin, I find your arguments throughout to be a lot more convincing and a lot more rational than that of Kos himself. Can you tell him to tone it down a little?

                  "When I came to this town, my eyes were big blue stars. Now they're big green dollar signs." - Jean Arthur, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"

                  by brooksfoe on Thu Jun 30, 2005 at 12:12:26 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Agreed. (none)
                    I like Kos, but he is not at his best when he over-personalizes conflicts. He has publicly flogged this woman enough.  

                    "False language, evil in itself, infects the soul with evil." ----Socrates

                    by Mimikatz on Thu Jun 30, 2005 at 09:02:30 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

              •  let me further explain (before going to bed) (3.80)
                Any regulation that's proposed, no matter how innocent seeming, just opens up an avenue for investigation to determine compliance.

                Say you required bloggers to disclose all funding sources.  Well, hey, it's December 2007, and I can't believe that Markos says so many great things about Joe Biden and nothing nice about his primary opponent, Hillary Clinton, even though I know that Markos is a good progressive and, therefore, can't possibly really like Biden that much.  So I'm going to write the FEC and tell them I that I think I have good reason to believe Markos has to be getting paid by Biden to say all this stuff.

                And if the FEC believes there's any possible merit, they're going to issue subpoenae to Markos.  Turn over your bank records.  Your email archives.  Come in for a deposition.  Lawyer up.  Etc.

                And maybe it's not Markos.  Maybe it's just a frequent commenter on this site who others here seem to pay attention to.

                See the problem with not leaving things alone?

                "Any content-based regulation of the Internet, no matter how benign the purpose, could burn the global village to roast the pig." -- ACLU v Reno (E.D. Pa. 1996)

                by Adam B on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 09:32:16 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  apparently your dad doesn't care about the truth (1.00)
                If what works here is the truth, why doesn't it work for your dad?  perhaps he's simply corrupt at the core, and thus open and ready to accept the lies, as so many people are.
            •  It's the conflict of interest (none)
              We exempt Viacom/Disney/NewsCorp/GE, as well as Kos Media, LLC, and the Freepers, because despite any partisan leanings, and any vocal support for one side or another, their chief function is that of a media entity: Their job is to spread information.

              Kos, Freepers, etc. also have a direct political function: to organize around issues and collect funds for political candidates.

              2 points: Do we want Viacom/Disney/NewsCorp/GE to be able to actively promote certain candidates, to the point where the corperations are asking people to donate?

              And: The difference between Kos, Freepers, etc. and allowing Halliburton to own a blog is that the traditional blogs are generally owned by people who operate the blog out of a personal want to express themselves. And I think that's a very good thing. But should corperations be allowed to maintain such a thing, if that means corperations soliciting donations and funnling millions of dollars for the blog, which doesn't just actively promotes a partisan agenda, but solicits donations and organises activists?

              Wouldn't that be the equivelant of giving ads directly for candidate donation pages?

              And what if a PAC opened up a blog. What legal status does it have? A 521? or a media entity?

              Or a non-profit, like Focus on the Family. If it had a blog?

              I appreciate the intent, I just have a few reservations.

              The Kool-Aid. We drank of it. And it tasted sweet. It tasted like something...Truth.

              by Pluto101 on Thu Jun 30, 2005 at 06:49:04 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  smart questions (none)
                Here's where I come down on this, and others may disagree:
                Do we want Viacom/Disney/NewsCorp/GE to be able to actively promote certain candidates, to the point where the corperations are asking people to donate?

                When they're operating within scarce, high-cost-of-entry, regulated media, probably not.  We can't all own television or radio stations, which is why tv stations that receive the media exemption have a legal obligations to, essentially, "play fair" -- evenhanded treatment of the issues, ad rates not determined based on partisan affiliation, etc.  

                But a newspapers, a magazine or a newsletter?  Or a local radio host?  I have no real problem there.

                But should corperations be allowed to maintain such a thing, if that means corperations soliciting donations and funnling millions of dollars for the blog, which doesn't just actively promotes a partisan agenda, but solicits donations and organises activists?

                There's no reason not to apply the traditional bar on corporate activity in politics to this sphere.  Halliburton is not a media company, and unless its "blog" was an actual attempt to cover the news rather than express corporate political views, it should not be legally protected.

                "Any content-based regulation of the Internet, no matter how benign the purpose, could burn the global village to roast the pig." -- ACLU v Reno (E.D. Pa. 1996)

                by Adam B on Thu Jun 30, 2005 at 07:10:16 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  it's like the torture scenario (none)
            Suppose that torturing someone could reveal information that would save a billion lives -- wouldn't it be ok to do so?

            Such arguments are fallacious and dishonest, because incredible scenarios are being invented in order justify behavior, not in those fictitious scenarios, but in real life situations without any of the incredible features of the scenarios.  Nothing justifies regulation of actual existing blogs, and inventing silly and stupid scenarios to try to find such a justification is advocating for the devil.

        •  aren't there two issues here ac? (none)
          As I see it, there is the exemption, and there is campaign finance reform. I'm not clear why Darr thinks the exemption for bloggers would matter in itself, as long as the campaign MONEY is kept out.

          However, as you may know from our previous interchanges, I, apparently like many others here,  am very worried about big money using blogs just like they do any other media, and these fears are not assuaged by the low barriers to entry for blogs. And I continue to be irritated and puzzled by Kos's tone on this issue, in which people who would even raise objections to his views are mocked and ridiculed. Can we agree that there are legitimate progressive concerns about the use of money to control debate, and we are trying to find appropriate analogies and approaches to guide us in addressing these ocncerns in this medium?

          "Scrutinize the bill, it is you who must pay it...You must take over the leadership." - Brecht

          by pedestrian xing on Thu Jun 30, 2005 at 03:15:13 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  middle ground (none)
        I doubt it.

        Not without an undue intrusion on privacy.  If I came into a large sum of money and wanted to get democrats elected in the future, I would want the freedom to launch an all out "net war"

        I think if there were some way to overturn 200+ years of law and strip corperations of the benifits of being a "person" we could make a start....

        ...but that aint gonna happen

        The world will end not with a bang, but with a "Do'oh!"

        by Love and Death on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 08:07:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  She seems to have a mediocre mind (none)
    I know nothing of her other than what I have read on this board.  But there are enough quotes with enough context to indicate that she is fairly typical of a class of mediocre academics who thrive in just about every institution of higher learning.  Not particularly evil, just muddle-headed.  People like that can go along way.  Look at our President (though it is remotely possible he actually is evil in addition to being hopelessly muddle-headed).
  •  On: (none)
    "large corporations and unions who seek to unfairly influence campaigns by spending huge amounts of money under the guise of being a blog..."

    What a confused woman she is. She is applying the 20th century mass media model (3 networks and every city has a morning and evening paper) to the internet age where the consumer seek the information he or she wants...(the pull versus the push model).

    Blogs live or die on their credibility, not on how much money they spend on servers or web design or Google ads.

    Let's all chip in and by this lady a laptop, a cable modem, and a free year on AOL.

     

    Freedom does not march.

    by ex republican on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 07:35:22 PM PDT

    •  I'm not so sure (none)
      I am not convinced a very deep pocketbook couldn't buy a certain level of credibility. Look at how many people take fox news or the moonie sheet as credible.

      I guess I do not share the belief that the "net" is nessicarily better informed and able to pick out untruths better than the general population.  In fact It may be worse.  Think about how often the missing troop deaths thing or the pentagon was never attacked stories appear even here.

      ...posting from a phone so excuse the mess

      The world will end not with a bang, but with a "Do'oh!"

      by Love and Death on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 07:59:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  what I've never quite understood (none)
      This is really what I've never fully grasped about campaign finance reform in general.  What exactly are people afraid that these big corporations and wealthy donors (and labor unions) are buying with their megabucks?  Votes?  Rigged machines?  If what they are buying is ultimately nothing more than publicity -- public relations campaigns, however broadly orchestrated and fancy -- then just how "unfair" can that ever be?  I mean, if candidates are truly nothing more than soap, then perhaps the argument can be made that more advertising dollars will yield more votes.  This could certainly be valid, for example, in the early stages of a primary campaign, pushing the best-financed candidate to the top of the heap among little-known contenders.  But that's ALWAYS been the case.  

      But especially in general campaigns, between the parties, I can't see how more money, beyond a certain threshold, ultimately leads to more votes.  Look at how many trillions Kerry and Bush spent in '04.  Does anyone really believe that the election results would have been substantially different if either one of them had spent, say, $100 million more, or less?  To believe otherwise is to suggest that our democratic system as a whole, is no more substantive than a Coke-Pepsi, McDonald's-Burger King advertising battle.  Call me naive, but I'm still not convinced that we're collectively such intellectual sheep.  Yet the entire campaign finance debate is premised on the assumption that we are.

      So this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause -- Padme

      by dnta on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 08:02:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  what they can do (none)
        In other media, is crowd out other speech in a scarce market.

        The idea is that we give corporations certain legal privileges to allow them to amass wealth in a way that individuals can't; they shouldn't be able to take those protections to turn around and have undue influence in the political sphere.

        "Let's put our heads together/And start a new country up/Our father's father's father tried/Erased the parts he didn't like" - R.E.M., "Cuyahoga"

        by Adam B on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 08:06:57 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  it's based on facts (1.66)
        There have been plenty of studies on the effect of spending on voting; try reading a bit.
        •  Thanks for being so helpful (none)
          I have a Master's degree in public policy and media, and have studied the subject for more than 20 years.  If you think you have something useful to offer, provide some sources, don't just thrust condescending assertions in my face.

          So this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause -- Padme

          by dnta on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 10:42:09 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  You're being a jerk all over this diary (none)
          You "margin" rate someone who thinks maybe calling Darr a "bitch" is unproductive.  You imply that somebody's father may just be corrupt. And now, you presume to know what someone has read.

          "But your flag decal won't get you into heaven anymore"--Prine

          by Cathy on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 10:53:14 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I had the same general sense, at times..... (none)
    At the last "Personal Democracy Forum" :

    How did person __ come to be heading this or that panel discussion when they clearly knew next to nothing about the subject matter in question ?

    It's not what ya know, it's who.

  •  Star chamber (4.00)
    Sounds like Carol Darr and her ilk thinks there should be a star chamber of special people who sit in judgement of who is and is not worthy of being bestowed with the journalistic privileges.

    As Kos points out, corporations have less influence in the blogosphere than they do on corporate media. The internet literally supports an infinite number of blogs, whereas broadcast media such as TV and radio have a restricted number of outlets, already controlled by corporations. Even the old-style UHF channels and college radio are all but disappeared. Corporations that don't own the airwaves certainly influence the content by their advertising dollars. Halliburton or any other corporation could never buy off every blog, since blogs are open source publishing and can not be controlled by any one entity.

    How anyone can seriously think blogs are more corrupting than corporate-owned TV, radio and print is beyond me. We still don't even have everyone in the country using the internet.

  •  Who funds Pew? (none)
    large corporations and unions who seek to unfairly influence campaigns by spending huge amounts of money under the guise of being a blog

    As opposed to funding right wing stink tanks and front organizations such as Pew.

  •  If you would actually listen to what she's saying, (none)
    it's actually quite reasonable, however you might oversimplify it as "Halliburton is going to open a blog". Protecting your own turf doesn't necessarily mean being oblivious to what other effects it may have. Yeah, you don't want them to fuck with you, that doesn't mean you should let our entire campaign finance system get fucked up.

    "Better the occasional errors of a caring government than the intentional omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference." - FDR

    by DudeUrSistersHOT on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 07:43:08 PM PDT

  •  Quarterly Kos (none)
    Online edition free; four-page print newsletter of online highlights $30/year for four issues.

    Come on Kos, you know you want to kill the trees.

  •  Didn't know there were any mimeographs left. (none)

    RIP: LAND OF THE FREE

    by NorCalJim on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 07:51:31 PM PDT

  •  What special privileges? (none)
    Journalist ethics require NO special privileges. A journalist represents the public.

    As news editor of a local newspaper, I once met up with a retired librarian who was an expert on a particular local topic. When asked how she obtained her information, she answered that she had obtained it via public records including FOIA requests. Journalists do just that on behalf of the public -- seek out public records, public meetings, etc. Of course, now we have the Patriot's Act, "privatization," which interferes with obtaining taxpayer-funded records and an administration which does not believe in public records. However, no ethical journalist would claim a privileged status.

    Unless, Darr is thinking of "shield laws," protecting sources, but we all know via the Plame case how sacrosanct they are.

    Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings. - Heinrich Heine (1821)

    by Caneel on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 07:59:11 PM PDT

  •  Wasn't it Shell (none)
    that had fake news reporters with big Shell emblems on their blazers?  I think it was Reagan era.  Didn't last long, probably because they were laughed out of business.  And a young Jon Stewart learned a comedy lesson....

    NOTICE: No warning shots fired on this unit.

    by moltar on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 08:05:29 PM PDT

  •  For the party establishment? (none)
    Who does Carol Darr speak for?

    She may just be speaking for herself and trying to find a voice in this to justify her current position or to somehow get back into government work. I found this bio for her

    Darr has spent most of her career in national politics and government. During the Clinton-Gore Administration, she served as the Acting General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Commerce and as Associate Administrator of the Office of International Affairs in the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. She also chaired the International Telecommunications Working Group of the interagency Information Infrastructure Task Force (IITF), and was part of the U.S. delegation to the G7 Information Society Conference in Brussels.

    In the 1992 election, Darr served as General Counsel to the Democratic National Committee. Previously, she had served as the Chief Counsel to the Dukakis/Bentsen Presidential Committee in 1988 and as the Deputy Counsel to the Carter/Mondale Presidential Committee in 1980. She was an associate at the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, the Deputy Counsel for Elections at the U.S. Senate Committee for Rules and Elections, and worked as a staff attorney at the Federal Election Commission.

    Darr was the vice president of two high-tech trade associations. She received an M.Litt in History from Christ's College, Cambridge University, and a J.D. and a B.A. from the University of Memphis.

     

  •  My question to Kos is... (3.00)
    Do you even bother to try to understand her point of view, or are you just dismissing it with the knee jerk reaction of trying to defend your own turf?

    The issue is NOT that Halliburton is going to open its own blog. The issue is that you or anyone could give thousands of dollars in free and completely unregulated advertising to campaigns. Or Halliburton could buy $200,000 in unregulated ads that advocate for a certain candidate. What if one of the top conservative blogs gave $5,000 in free advertising to a certain candidate? In a completely unregulated blogosphere, that's perfectly okay despite the $2000 personal contribution limit.

    You position on this is very disappointing in that it is no different than polluting industries trying to protect the status quo for themselves despite negative effects for the public. I thought better of you, kos. I thought you would advocate for what's in the public good, not what's just good for you personally.

    "Better the occasional errors of a caring government than the intentional omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference." - FDR

    by DudeUrSistersHOT on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 08:28:21 PM PDT

    •  that man is full of straw (none)
      Nowhere has Markos advocated that the internet be completely unregulated.

      "Let's put our heads together/And start a new country up/Our father's father's father tried/Erased the parts he didn't like" - R.E.M., "Cuyahoga"

      by Adam B on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 08:33:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  He is completely dismissing what she is saying (none)
        and she is making the point that the internet needs some regulation. Therefore, kos seems to be advocating unregulated internets. She didn't say that bloggers should not have the media exemption.

        "Better the occasional errors of a caring government than the intentional omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference." - FDR

        by DudeUrSistersHOT on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 08:36:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  wrong on both counts (none)
          IPDI written comments
          If the statute is to survive, two principles must emerge. First, the class of bloggers entitled to be treated as "news media" -- and thus exempt from most campaign finance laws -- must be limited.

          Black/Moulitsas/Stoller written comments
          As noted in the introduction, these regulations go much further than is necessary to comply with Judge Kollar-Kotelly's order. Her grievances stemmed from the absence of regulations regarding coordinated communications and did not reach into other substantive areas. Therefore, proposed regulations amending 11 CFR §§ 109.21 and 109.37 regarding coordinated communications are within the proper scope of the regulations, though we would further encourage the FEC to amend 11 CFR § 109.21(c) to exempt all dissemination, republication, etc., of campaign materials on the Internet generally.

          "Let's put our heads together/And start a new country up/Our father's father's father tried/Erased the parts he didn't like" - R.E.M., "Cuyahoga"

          by Adam B on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 08:42:45 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  GWU is my alma mater. (2.00)
    And I wholly apologize. I will not donate another penny to them until this bitch changes her attitude. I wrote and told them as much too.

    -fink

    •  maybe it's just me (3.00)
      I believe we can disagree with the IPDI and Ms. Darr's views without getting into that kind of name-calling.

      "Let's put our heads together/And start a new country up/Our father's father's father tried/Erased the parts he didn't like" - R.E.M., "Cuyahoga"

      by Adam B on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 09:09:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I nearly fell off my chair (none)
    when one commissioner seemed to be saying being unsuccessful in your advocacy is worth a eyebrow raising mention.  I don't get what their problem is.  You aren't supposed to editorialize and if you do advocate, better be successful?

    It's confusing to me what Carol Darr's fears are.  Is it that you might be wholly owned in a sense by a candidate and therefore nothing but a paid house organ, which is different from oh, say the Washington Times, huh?

    Maybe I have to reread all that's been reported but if someone feels sorry for me, please tell me why the Democrats are the bad guys here, what are they afraid of?

    "But your flag decal won't get you into heaven anymore"--Prine

    by Cathy on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 10:28:01 PM PDT

  •  sp? (none)
    What pisses me off is that privilege is mispelled like 10 fucking times.

    And the narrow width of the text is like reading off toilet paper, it driving me crazy.

  •  Eschaton is now a web magazine (none)
    Heh indeedy!
  •  kos, this makes you look really bad (none)
    I'm with DudeYrSistersHot. Let us count the ways, Kos, in which you are looking really bad here.

    1. Why are you calling Darr a "fool"? Are you so unsure of the merits of your own argument that you have to resort to name-calling? Why not call her "wrong"?

    2. "Now she admits that the media exemption fits "the good, the bad, the hacks, the partisans, and the crazies."  But fuck the bloggers." - This is a ridiculous distortion of Darr's position. She is concerned about partisan pseudo-blogs, heavily financed by corporations, unions, or other organizations, circumventing the limits of campaign-finance laws. She's talking about some limited regulation to set some boundaries. If I advocate that pesticides not be tested on humans, am I saying, "fuck the chemical companies"?

    3. "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."

    You are not naive, nor are you ignorant of how the blogosphere functions - you are one of blogging's most successful practitioners. So you can only be practicing intellectual self-deception here. You know perfectly well how people with five million dollars to spend can tilt the blogosphere. Advertising buys, contagious media marketing firms, on and on. The blogosphere is not immune to money, any more than the web in general is. There was a time, back around '96, when many of the same claims you are making for the blogosphere were made for the internet itself. Money would never be able to affect this medium. Every hobbyist stood on a level playing field with the largest corporation. Of course this turned out to be nonsense; money is the difference between the webpage of your local bookstore and Amazon. If campaign financing laws are held to have no writ on the internet, as you seem to advocate, then it's quite likely that money will gradually annihilate the blogosphere as well. In fact, it's already happening; the 'sphere is distilling into two classes of blogs, full-time ones run by career bloggers which support themselves through advertising, and the hobbyists'. As is so often the case, your willful utopian libertarianism on this issue is likely to contribute to the poisoning of a public resource by rich corporations - all in the interests, no doubt, of the GOP.

    "When I came to this town, my eyes were big blue stars. Now they're big green dollar signs." - Jean Arthur, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"

    by brooksfoe on Thu Jun 30, 2005 at 12:01:53 AM PDT

    •  But I don't think that translates here. (none)
      Whatever you can say about the impact of advertising elsewhere, I don't think there's one example you can point to of money being spent having an impact on internet politics.

      "Any content-based regulation of the Internet, no matter how benign the purpose, could burn the global village to roast the pig." -- ACLU v Reno (E.D. Pa. 1996)

      by Adam B on Thu Jun 30, 2005 at 04:12:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  What about in the future? (none)
        I'm not sure what you are defining as Internet politics? The success of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth camapign was to a great extent due to their use of the Internet. Didn't this have an impact? If they could have fully coordinated with the campaign under the auspices of being a blog, wouldn't the impact have been even greater?

        However, if you are talking about political advertisting on the Internet in general, that may be true - but mainly because it was hardly used in the 2004 election cycle. But that will surely change in '06 and '08 with the the increased use of paid search, blogads and RSS advertising. Should this not be regulated in some way?

        •  three things. (none)
          1. Peter Churchill, the poster here, is an IPDI staffer.  Ain't Google great!

          2. Because of that, you know that we do advocate enforcing the same restrictions on coordination on the Internet as in other media.  Page five of our Comment. That's what compliance with the district court order requires.  Nothing more.  

          3.  In terms of regulating internet advertising by including it within "public communications", there's a sensible way to do that.  I'm just leery of doing so until some harm is really manifested.

          "Any content-based regulation of the Internet, no matter how benign the purpose, could burn the global village to roast the pig." -- ACLU v Reno (E.D. Pa. 1996)

          by Adam B on Thu Jun 30, 2005 at 09:14:07 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  True, but... (none)
            Re point 1, I am indeed a research assistant at IPDI, though most of time is spent researching the future of political advertising on the Internet. However, as a Brit and a Labour supporter, I've 'enjoyed' some of the wilder comments about Carol's conservative associates...

            Re point 2, just to clarify - if Swift Boat Vets was also a blog, and all blogs were given Media Exemption, could they now coordinate with the campaign, or would that be excluded by your proposed extention?

            Re point 3, I understand, and to some extent, share your reluctance to regulate before any harm manifests itself. My concern is that '06 or '08 will see an explosion of advertisting on the Internet, most of it negative.

            If too lightly regulated, I fear we will see an explosion of highly partisan advertisting that could prove to have a big 'chilling' factor on online participation, especially as people are now beginning to rely on online sources for their political news including, of course, blogs.

            The Internet, in no small part because of blogs, has seen a welcome return to citizen participation. I, for one, would be greatly disheartend if that ideal is swamped by a rush of unregulated online advertisting, leaving more casual political observers to conclude that politics online is as bad as everywhere else.

            •  response (none)
              1.  I've never accused IPDI of being conservative; the stance you're taking here is a liberal, pro-reform one that is well-suited elsewhere.  Just not in this environment.

              2.  The Swift Boat Vets (and other 527s) should be no more free to get the media exemption for a blog than they can for a newspaper.  But to be sure, the legal status of 527s will change somehow between now and when the 2006 campaign begins in earnest, so I think this is something of a non-starter.

              3.  The fear of advertising on the internet stems from some notion that it'll overwhelm the discourse in response to it, and that, I think, isn't a problem here.  I think neither the slickness nor the pervasiveness of an ad matters here -- see JibJab for the perfect example; what matters is the content.

              4.  And as I've said elsewhere on this page, and as everyone said on the panel yesterday (#6) that most focused on it, there are ways that one should sensible regulate paid advertising under the 'public communications' sphere, so long as sufficient thresholds have met.  Even though I don't see the need, it does look like the FEC is going to do something on that topic.  But that's not at the core of the issues my clients care about.

              "Any content-based regulation of the Internet, no matter how benign the purpose, could burn the global village to roast the pig." -- ACLU v Reno (E.D. Pa. 1996)

              by Adam B on Thu Jun 30, 2005 at 10:21:32 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  idiotic (none)
    let corporations start all the blogs they want. see how much luck they have. this is such a twisted crock of shiat when the real problem is corporate ownership of traditional media where there's less competition and choices. not everyone can start a tv network, but anyone can start a blog.

    she's a dildo.

  •  asdf (none)
    WHO... does Number Two... WORK FOR?!?

    --

    And now, back to your regularly scheduled blogging.

    Just because we can, that doesn't mean we should.

    by Simplify on Thu Jun 30, 2005 at 02:08:26 AM PDT

  •  Re: Our "special privilages"... (none)
    I'll admit, I haven't read all the comments, but I couldn't- not after reading what you (Kos) wrote about your driving experience after hearing her argument/testimony.

    I, too, have had many such drives- more so in the last 4 years- and some of these gnawing mental exercises while commuting from one place to another have caused me to show up late at my intended destination, having missed off-ramps and sometimes entire communities!

    But-to the point- I, too, was struck by those words, "special privileges", as applied to the Special and somehow, CERTIFIED-Official-Class: "Press"

    But I knew why it bothered me. It bothered me because of this:

    The Conventions of a number of the States having, at the time of adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order
    to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and
    restrictive clauses should be added, and as extending the ground of public
    confidence in the Government will best insure the beneficent ends of its
    institution . . .The Bill of Rights

    Just contemplating how marginalized our "inalienable rights" have become would have easily caused me to run out of gas before I realized where I was originally headed when got in the car.

    I don't know if this contributes anything.
    Maybe this will:

    First Amendment To The Constitution of The United States

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
    prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech,
    or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to
    petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    Thank god for Kos and for all the committed, if under-privileged, contributors to this miracle of democracy which continuously recreates itself moment by moment, day by day.

  •  Duh.. FNC? (none)
    Has this woman not heard of a little thing called the Fox News Channel?   Is she incapable of seeing that the 'abuse' she's worried about can happen at any scale at any time with any "news" organisation?

    Sigh.

    ---Nathaniel

  •  kos, this proposed workaround of regulations (none)
    I am concerned by this proposal by ElectionMall Technologies to create a "Blogger Identity Seal" (BIS) for lookup to track funding back and forth.

    One thing my radar wonders about is the provenance of ElectionMall, which is providing online communications for both parties (it's "bipartisan"), but the loyalties of key founders are pure Republican.

    Founder Ravi Singh of Aurora, Ill. started out on campaigns "helping Republican candidates such as Senator Bob Dole, Governor Jim Edgar, Sheriff John Zaruba, and Aurora Mayor John Stover." He tried to run for the Illinois statehouse in 1997 "in the spirit of Ronald Reagan and George Bush" [Link].

    And the firm is "funded by Microsoft exec George Spix" according to the BIS press release.

    Spix's most recent donations [ $118,000 in 2002 and 2004 ] were all Republican. [He gave to everyone from Katherine Harris to John Thune to GWBush ($4K for '04) to the RNC.]

    His donations for the 2 earlier cycles  totaled an additional $171,800 for 1998 and 2000 and went entirely to Republicans, except for $500 to Joe Lieberman in 1999.

       Now, CEO Singh's donations are not so large: for 2004, $2500 to the NRSC and for 2000, $1000 to Bush. Not outsized, for sure, but his loyalties remain evident.

        This matters to me because Democrats have involved these folk in their web-based operations.

    ElectionMall's press-release page accessible from their homepage (www.electionmall.biz) tells us they were part of MTV's Rock the Vote mobile phone text messaging service (which had only a limited number of participants), and they provide the DNC's special email registrations for individuals of the form  my-name@democrat.com, an encrypted service.

    They also are the software bridge for Meetup.com, beginning in June 2004 (with specific mention of GOTV efforts).

    So why does a funder, mentioned in every press release, who has given $290,000 to only Republican causes since 1998 ($85,000 to the RNC on a single day in 1999) launch a company that same year that services both sides? Is this who the Democrats should entrust their tracking info with?

  •  Kos, what about anonymity? (none)
    Leaving all other questions aside, should anonymous bloggers enjoy any form of journalistic privilege? I'm writing a column on this today called "Anonymous sources, anonymous 'journalists'?"

    I'll send it out to my usual contacts, but I can't tell where it will appear, because I don't know myself. I usually try the San Francisco Chronicle first, then shotgun it if they don't go for it.

    In any case, I'd appreciate a quote that I can use.

    newsroom-l.net News and issues for journalists.

    by Jules Siegel on Thu Jun 30, 2005 at 05:57:24 AM PDT

    •  I don't get the question (none)
      Are you asking whether bloggers have the right to be anonymous or whether bloggers who are anonymous have the right to the same journalistic privileges as named journalists?

      "Any content-based regulation of the Internet, no matter how benign the purpose, could burn the global village to roast the pig." -- ACLU v Reno (E.D. Pa. 1996)

      by Adam B on Thu Jun 30, 2005 at 06:42:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The question is... (none)
        Should anonymous bloggers enjoy any form of journalistic privilege?

        We do have anonymous journalists. Book reviewers come to mind. This raises the question of whether or not anonymous journalists should enjoy any special privileges.

        If journalists can claim the right to protect the identity of their sources, why couldn't they also claim the right to protect their own identities?

        We do sometimes get killed for what we report, don't we?

        newsroom-l.net News and issues for journalists.

        by Jules Siegel on Thu Jun 30, 2005 at 07:16:59 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  not even a question (none)
          That legal right is well-established.  We don't license the press in America.

          "Any content-based regulation of the Internet, no matter how benign the purpose, could burn the global village to roast the pig." -- ACLU v Reno (E.D. Pa. 1996)

          by Adam B on Thu Jun 30, 2005 at 07:40:50 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  You've lost me. (none)
            What legal right to what? To publish anonymously?
            To publish anonymously and simultaneously have the privilege of refusing to reveal anonymous sources?

            Seems like you would be making it impossible to prove libel.

            Are you saying that anyone can publish anything, signed or not, about anyone and refuse to reveal sources? Or do some criteria apply? If so, how are they determined?

            newsroom-l.net News and issues for journalists.

            by Jules Siegel on Thu Jun 30, 2005 at 08:01:45 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Something else from the UN we ignore (none)
    "Everyone has the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." - United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 (emphasis mine)

    Shouldn't that shut down all debate on this?
    I mean, I can understand the concerns about opening a backdoor to unlimited campaign contributions but the people who voice these concerns don't seem to understand how the internet works.  This isn't like radio, print, or TV.  With those media, the richest guy wins.  With the internet, anyone with a keyboard and a connection can start a blog.   Anyone.
    With those other media, money buys you more airtime, wider coverage, better production values, etc.   If I were to set up a blog tomorrow it would be just as available to the people as Kos'.  It would potentially reach just as many homes.  It might not be as pretty though.  Anyway, the only thing that would separate mine from Kos' would be the quality of the content...and we all know more money doesn't mean better quality (I'm looking at you Hollywood).
    Anyway, my point is that the emergence of the blog  as a legitimate news source has only increased the quality of our democracy.  We need only look at difference between mainstream media's and the blogsphere's treatment of the DSM to see the positive effects of blogs.  This story would have just died without the blogs.  The mainstream media didn't want to touch it; calling it 'old news'.  OLD NEWS!!!  I could go on forever about this, but I suggest you read/see Manufacturing Consent to get an idea of how the mainstream media edits and shapes the news.
    Hmmm, mt first real post and I ramble on and on.  Sorry, I'll try to keep it down in the future.

    "Soon the time will come when everybody's somebody, so nobody is anybody" - Catherine Wheel

    by grafton on Thu Jun 30, 2005 at 06:31:08 AM PDT

  •  How to get under Markos' skin... (none)
    In all seriousness I think you have seriously compromised your well-thought-out and reasonable position by attacking Ms. Darr WAY TOO VOCIFEROUSLY. And not nicely, neither.

    I share your frustration, heck, I even share your opinion that she probably doesn't belong at GWU and IPDI doing what she's supposed to be doing. Her grasp of basic logic is virtually non-existent. (If Halliburton can start a blog, can't they (or Rupert Murdoch) buy a broadcaster (or several))?! Seriously, her arguments are not worthy of serious consideration.

    HOWEVER, and this is important, she herself is worthy of respect and consideration, especially as it is the arguments we should be fighting, not the inarticulate messenger. I think you do yourself (and therefore all of us) a disservice by letting your anger and frustration get the better of you, Markos.

    And, yes, I realize this is your blog, but it would be irresponsible to believe that your vituperation online wouldn't have some bearing on others' receptivity to your ideas.

    Serioously, this is not intended as a criticism, just some (hoepfully) helpful advice.

    "...there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." Hamlet, Act II, Scene ii.

    by thingamabob on Thu Jun 30, 2005 at 06:40:20 AM PDT

  •  Carol Darr's response (none)
    Once again, you have distorted my words by omitting key parts of my argument.  At this point, your inaccuracies can only be considered willful and deliberate.

    You quote me as saying:

    "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."

    What you left out were the next paragraphs that complete the argument:

    "There are those who applaud that result.  But only if you think the system cannot get any worse than it is, should you welcome a development that will gut the 98-year-old prohibition on corporate contributions in federal elections.  

    "The FEC or the Congress can widely grant the media exception to anyone with a blog, or almost anyone, and the precedents, and the legislative history all point in that direction. Or they can preserve the prohibition on corporate money that has stood for almost a century.  They cannot do both.

    "And that's a pity, because they are both goals worth fighting for."

    For reasons that are quite inexplicable to me, you have declined to engage in a serious debate on the merits of this extraordinarily difficult issue.  I am especially surprised at the continued name-calling, given that you yourself are a lawyer, who presumably can understand and appreciate legal arguments.

    I am heartened by the growing sophistication of many your readers on this issue, and their desire to grapple honestly with the far-reaching consequences of the media exemption.  It is hoped that their conduct will serve as an example.

    Carol Darr

    •  I'm happy to have that debate (none)
      Because while we've thoroughly engaged your arguments via our written submissions, you haven't addressed ours.

      So let me ask you this:

      1.  Is there really a danger of a broad media exemption swallowing the rule by allowing unbridled corporate-political speech, the HalliburtonBlog?  The FEC deals with this issue regularly, and sometimes (Wal-Mart/Dole), there are hard cases in terms of whether something's a legitimate media publication, but they can deal with those under 441b and the like.  But why not start from a presumption of the exemption and work backwards, rather than a case-by-case expansion based on bloggers having to file for advisory opinions?

      2.  Okay, suppose you're right.  Suppose that Halliburton can establish the million-dollar blog with video, audio, email lists, everything.  So what?  What evidence is there that such amassing and displaying of corporate wealth would actually have some corrupting influence on voters?  As Matt Stoller reviewed in his testimony during your panel, other corporations (like Mazda) have failed woefully in faux-grassroots efforts to encourage people to shift allegiances in any way, and instead repelled them.   Purchased email lists never work either.  So given that the most successful blogs (and flash ads) often cost next-to-nothing to create, what, exactly, can corporate wealth do in this sphere that's troubling?

      3.  Same question the commissioners asked of Don Simon: what, if anything, did you see during the unregulated Internet of 2004 politics that should have been stopped?

      I await your response.

      "Any content-based regulation of the Internet, no matter how benign the purpose, could burn the global village to roast the pig." -- ACLU v Reno (E.D. Pa. 1996)

      by Adam B on Thu Jun 30, 2005 at 09:09:30 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  GW Journalism Alum here (none)
    Kos, before you tar and feather GW for this, as a GW journalism alum, let me tell you about some of the prescient things I learned in the GW J-school.

    One of the first lessons I learned there was that trying to define "journalism" is an impossibility. In the end, for America's system of press freedom to work, my professors noted that a wider definition of what "journalism" means has to be in place. When you say one lunatic with a flyer he sticks in people's mailboxes isn't a journalist, it creates a slope where John Ashcroft could say the same thing about the New York Times. I learned that if you want to call yourself a "journalist," you take on the responsibility to get it right and be fair, not because you are legally required to, but because informing people is about more than a knock-off job.

    The most important thing I learned there, though, (on this topic) was from my Media Law and TV/Radio Writing professor, Carl Stern. He would immediately object to anyone calling journalism a "profession". Why? Because "professions" are regulated by government. Doctors, lawyers, accountants - they are all part of professions, and their right to do what they do is determined by the state. Journalists should never be defined by any branch of government, and thus should not be called a profession. To acknowledge it as one is to implicity allow government to restrict the press.

    It was under this line of thought that many of my journalism classes at GW in the late 1990s talked about the burgeoning effects of the Internet in democratizing journalism, and how the role of citizen journalism would emerge. At the time, this  was a very forward-thinking concept, and in many ways is the same today.

    All this is by way of saying: don't assume that because Carol Darr has an office in some other department on the other end of campus, GW's School of Media and Public Affairs is stuck in the mud and devoted to dead trees and nothing else. It's quite the opposite.

  •  Repsonse of Carol Darr to Kos's attorney (none)
    First, I am assuming that the earlier post from Markos' attorney, Adam Bonin, represents the response and views of Markos himself.

    I am happy to answer your questions, and pleased that you have decided to address the difficult legal issues involved.

    Your question: Is there really a danger of a broad media exemption swallowing the rule?

    Answer: Yes. And it's not just an exemption for corporate money.  Even though I used the example of Halliburton funding a blog in my testimony, the same legal exemption applies to unions and to huge contributions from wealthy individuals.  

    Question:  Why not start with a presumption [that all bloggers are entitled to] an exemption, and work backwards, rather than a case by case expansion based on bloggers having to file for an advisory opinion?

    Answer:   I am not in favor of bloggers' having to file for an exemption on a case by case basis, because such a situation would overwhelm the Commission's ability to process the applications, and it would impose unnecessary legal expenses on bloggers for the cost incurred in drafting the requests for the advisory opinions.

    As for after-the-fact determinations, as practical matter, the only way that the Commission can deal with specific cases after the questionable conduct has occurred is to process it as a complaint, or what they call a Matter Under Review, or MUR.  Respondents in these cases also face the risk not only of incurring substantial legal fees, but also of civil fines.

    The better way is for the Commission to issue clear guidance who is covered under the media exemption and who isn't. They can do that through a rulemaking (perhaps this one, but more likely a separate one that would give people the opportunity to comment on their proposed rule) or a detailed, but broadly applicable advisory opinion (but an advisory opinion would offer absolute legal protection only to the party that requested it).

    Question:  What evidence is there that amassing and displaying corporate wealth would actually have some corrupting influence on voters?

    Answer:  The corrosive effect of big money - from individuals, corporations, or unions - on elections and on subsequent legislation and Executive Branch decisions is so obvious that I don't even know where to begin in making the case against it.  As I said earlier, I have seen the process up close, and it has made me a reformer. In my view the only reliably clean money is small money from individuals who realize that their modest contributions are not buying anything but good government.  Individuals, corporations and unions who make huge contributions almost always want something in return.

    Question:  Rephrased, your question, as I see it, is this:  The Internet is an interactive medium that requires the voter to do something pro-active, such as go to a Website or open an email.  Given this dynamic, isn't it impossible for big money to exert a corrosive effect on the Internet?

    Answer:  High-quality content, such as persuasive political videos, does not necessarily have to be expensive, but it often is.  The two national party committees are spending millions amassing and refining detailed voter lists that will allow them to micro-target just the right personalized appeal to each voter.  Not only are such lists extremely expensive, they get around the spam problem somewhat.  In addition, as handheld devices become more ubiquitous, the distinction between TV and the Internet will fade.  So, yes, I do think that big money can and will infect the Internet.

    Question:  What, if anything did you see during the unregulated Internet of the 2004 politics that should have been stopped?

    Answer: This was the first presidential election in which the Internet as an advertising medium was a factor, and for several reasons, only miniscule amounts of money were spent on the Internet in relation to TV, radio and newspaper ads.  There were several reasons for this which will probably disappear in 2006 and certainly by 2008.  Those reasons were:
    1.    Very few political consultants knew how to purchase Internet advertising.
    2.    Many questioned whether the Internet was a persuasive medium, given that so many households still did not have broadband and could not easily get media-rich advertising with sound and moving images.
    3.    Many consultants thought that Internet advertising was preaching to the choir.  That, of course, is a function of where you advertise.

    Similarly, there was no "soft money" spent in 1976, the first election after the post-Watergate reforms were passed.  Nobody had figured out how to do it.  Both parties figured it out in 1980; and the Republican spent about $3 million in soft money, and the Democrats about $1.5 million.  From there it took off, so much so that in the 2000 election, each party spent hundreds of millions of dollars in soft money.

    In the past 30 years, I have never seen a legal loophole go unexploited.  And once exploited, it gains legitimacy unless the FEC immediately shuts it down.  The answer to the argument that if it ain't broke, don't fix it, is this: Once the horse is out of the barn, it is impossible to rein it back in.  

    Now a question for you:  Don't you think you should apologize - on the front of your blog, not in the comment section - for the abusive, insulting and unfair comments you have directed at me for trying to address these legitimate legal issues?  It is the job of non-profit academically-based institutes, such as the one I run, to raise such issues, regardless of how uncomfortable these issues may be, and to explain the ramifications and consequences of the various choices before us.  It is not my job to take sides, for or against bloggers or the mainsteam media, and I have not done so. I think that your readers have begun to realize that analysis and illumination was my goal, not protecting one side or the other.  

    I welcome a continuing substantive dialogue.

    Best regards,
    Carol Darr

    •  one note (none)
      I'm only speaking for myself here; Markos is fully capable of speaking for himself, as are my other two clients in this rulemaking.  But he's better in speaking of the culture; I'm better in speaking about the law.

      Will respond substantively in the morning, but I have to say, the notion that "Very few political consultants knew how to purchase Internet advertising [in 2004]" is absolutely laughable.

      "Any content-based regulation of the Internet, no matter how benign the purpose, could burn the global village to roast the pig." -- ACLU v Reno (E.D. Pa. 1996)

      by Adam B on Thu Jun 30, 2005 at 08:16:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  changed my mind. will respond now. (none)
      1.  I think you misconceive our argument if you believe that we advocate no regulation here.  Indeed, we think the anti-coordination rules are fine, and that internet advertising probably ought to be brought within the public communications definition.  But these aren't the core issues to my clients or their readers, so we haven't said too much about them.

      2.  Re the media exemption, given the amount of partisan advocacy and even fundraising that's already allowed in other media, what types of blog activity (by individuals, groups, etc.) would you like to see fall outside the protection?  

      3.  The difference between the internet and other media in terms of the impact of corporate wealth isn't the interactivity of this medium as much as it is the lack of scarcity of bandwidth and low costs of participation.  To put it bluntly, money can't really buy you anything much of use here.  Bought lists aren't effective -- only opt-ins are.  The slickness of an ad isn't as big of a factor here because of how cheaply anyone can make one.

      4.  One specific example: a campaign would never be so silly as to email out a video file to a bulk list of recipients.  (a) Their mail servers couldn't handle it; (b) it'd be blocked as spam by the recipients and (c) would bring them into disrepute for doing so.

      5.  On a factual level, I just can't buy that political consultants didn't accept the power of the internet in 2004 or didn't know where to find ad placement.  That just goes completely against my experience as having been on a federal campaign last year and observing everything else that happened.  Once Dean showed the money that could be raised, everyone tried.  Everyone.  So the idea that there's a difference of degree that my occur in the future?  I don't see it.

      6.  I'll let Markos respond to the last point, but I have to ask: what "advice and illumination" was served by your emailing Scott Thomas?

      "Any content-based regulation of the Internet, no matter how benign the purpose, could burn the global village to roast the pig." -- ACLU v Reno (E.D. Pa. 1996)

      by Adam B on Thu Jun 30, 2005 at 08:29:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It may seem surprising, but... (none)
        it sounds like you were on a rather more Internet savvy campaign than many.

        Re Point 5, in 2004, spending on Internet advertising accounted for only $16 million dollars of a total political advertising expenditure of $1.75 billion (TNS Media Intelligence/CMAG). This is far below what the corporate world is currently spending on the Internet as a percentage of their advertising expenditure, which is anticipated to grow considerably over the next few years at the expense of other media.

        Why was the expenditure so low when many observers expected it to much higher? Well, according to the political and industry experts I have spoken to, for the very reasons Carol states above. Yes, people saw the potential to raise money online. But most of them did it via email, not online advertising.

        But do I see a 'difference of degree that may occur in the future?' Definitely.

        Upfront ad commitments for the 2005-06 prime-time season on television are considerably down on expectations. Why? Well, according to the article, in no small part because, "Carat, like other big media agencies, is betting heavily on new media, especially online and digital media"

        It may seem to surprising to those of us familiar with the power and potential of online advertising that it was not used more in 2004. But as people of our generation move into more prominent positions on campaigns, that will change, and quickly.

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