Her quote -- "We've seen a lot of activity on the Internet that I think has actually been good for the public discourse and question the FEC's ability to regulate that in an effective way and not stifle the type of discourse and the type of activity that allows candidates who don't have access to large major donors or the interest groups that are so much a part of modern-day campaigning to be more active as candidates or political participants."
At least some Democrats get it (but note that they're characterizing her vote in favor as "split[ting] with Democrats." Ugh). Full story after the jump...
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Rep. Stephanie Herseth split from most of her fellow Democrats Wednesday when she voted for a bill that would have excluded blogs, e-mails and other Internet communications from Federal Election Commission regulation.
The bill, entitled the Online Freedom of Speech Act, attracted 225 votes in the House. That was 47 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed under a procedure that limited debate time and allowed no amendments.
Herseth and 45 other Democrats joined 179 Republicans supporting the measure. Among the "no" votes were 143 Democrats, 38 Republicans and one independent.
Last year, a federal judge told the FEC to draw up regulations that would extend federal campaign finance and spending limits to the Web. The measure that failed on Wednesday would have exempted Internet communications.
In Washington, political observers said the House vote, in effect, clears the way for the FEC to move ahead with court-mandated rule-making to govern political speech and campaign spending on the Internet.
Herseth said the campaign finance reform measure that passed before she was elected never was intended to regulate activity on the Internet.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has introduced a companion bill, but the Senate has yet to consider it. Reid's bill was sent to the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration in March.
Herseth said, "We've seen a lot of activity on the Internet that I think has actually been good for the public discourse and question the FEC's ability to regulate that in an effective way and not stifle the type of discourse and the type of activity that allows candidates who don't have access to large major donors or the interest groups that are so much a part of modern-day campaigning to be more active as candidates or political participants."
Later, some kind of legislation might be needed regulating that activity, "particularly as it relates to campaign financing," she said.
On the House floor, opponents said that under the measure, people would not know whether Internet campaign ads were being financed by secret soft money, a term referring to funds not regulated by election laws.
Opponents also said the one-sentence bill was too broad and would invite corrupt activities online.
In an editorial this week, The New York Times said the bill "uses freedom of speech as a fig leaf, pasted on in the guise of defending political bloggers from government censorship. In fact, bloggers face no such threat under the existing campaign law."
The House bill's sponsor, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, said the federal government should not restrain the Internet, which has brought more Americans into the political process. He called the Internet "the new town square."
Steve Sibson of Mitchell, who writes the conservative blog "Sibby Online," said those intent on getting around any FEC rules would find a way to do so.
"All it does is restrict the good guys, and the bad guys still find ways to be bad guys," he said in an interview.
Sibson said the FEC is trying to tell bloggers that it doesn't want to restrict their speech but rather whether they're affiliated with or paid by political forces.
"What we want is to be treated the same as the media," he said. "We want the same media exemptions that they enjoy."
Bloggers don't get paid for what they do, said Sibson, an accountant. But it would be nobody's business if somebody were paying him, he said.
"But if somebody does want to pay us and compensate us for our efforts, and then all of a sudden we have to comply with a bunch of rules. ... That I'm starting to have a problem with."
Jon Lauck, who was a South Dakota State University history professor, received $27,000 as a research consultant from John Thune's campaign when the Republican was looking to oust Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle.
Lauck's "Daschle v. Thune" blog scrutinized Daschle and his voting record throughout the campaign.
Lauck has said many people knew he was a paid consultant to Thune's campaign, but he didn't believe he had to post any "flashing banner" on his site.
Lauck now works as a senior adviser to Thune in Sioux Falls.