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Our good friend Matt Stoller at MyDD wants to draw your attention to some recent news regarding the group "Americans for Job Security".

While the pro-"reform" lobby is chasing boogeymen on the Internet, we've got a complete unaccountable 501c(6) non-profit trade association, not subject to disclosure requirements, spending $1,000,000 on television ads for Rick Santorum.  They're run by some well-known Republican operatives, including veterans of the Swift Boat smear.  AJS even manages to use the same footage in their ads as Santorum does in his own, and for now, they're free to do this under the law.  

And yet, Democracy 21 and their allies seem to be silent on this.

But notice: AJS isn't spending piles of money to support Santorum on the Internet -- they're spending it on television.  The group doesn't even have a website, from what I can tell.

If the "reform" lobby want to get behind some type of legislation to force disclosure of the contributors behind such spending, or any other sensible means to stem such corruption, the readers of this site would help to lobby like hell to get it passed.

But instead of going after real and actual present harms, they're worried about bloggers.  Why?  Members of the reform lobby like Common Cause have been our real and natural allies on so many issues, and we should be working together to clean up politics.  

But we see robust and unfettered political discourse on the Internet as being part of the solution to dirty politics, and they see it as part of the problem.  And I think it's from that difference in mindset -- that failure to grasp what this medium empowers individuals and groups of citizens to do -- that has led us to where are today.

Update by kos: I pulled my post on the same topic. Adam's was better.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 09:33 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Great Minds . . . (4.00)
    Markos and I will now engage in a staring contest to see who blinks.
    •  I had a clever comment (none)
      On that thread using both the word "schadenfreude" and "orwellian".

      Seriously, though, Dem. 21 etc. are focusing on 527s prior to 501(c)s. Partially because it's easier, as 527s usually register as political action committees and thus are easier to get the FEC to deal with, as opposed to the IRS, but also because you have to kill demon 1 before you can kill demon 2.

      "If Kaine...can win by 6 points, then it's safe to say this is no longer a red state. Virginia is now a purple state" - Chuck Todd

      by VirginiaBelle on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 09:44:18 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  How about . . . (none)
        . . . just a press release from them saying "this is bad"?

        The 527 legislation was mauled in Committee, and who knows what's going to happen there.  But it's this stuff -- large corporate-related group activity -- for which the legislative push is needed.  

        As to whether 527s need to be handled before 501-c-6, I don't know.

        •  Indeed it was (none)
          I wouldn't want any of the legislation currently in existence to pass. But 501(c)s are going to be distinctly harder to deal with than 527s, as you are threatening the entire non-profit realm in an effort to remove the bad apples. Thus, if you can't do 527s, 501(c)s are out of the question.

          That being said, I'm surprised they haven't sent out a press release saying as much, god knows they send one every day.

          "If Kaine...can win by 6 points, then it's safe to say this is no longer a red state. Virginia is now a purple state" - Chuck Todd

          by VirginiaBelle on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 10:01:03 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  right (none)
            when the FEC's staff floated a restriction to the 501(c) groups along with the 527s there was an outcry from a ton of groups and they withdrew the proposal.

            Ann Coulter, the right-wing bully who seems too loud even when you mute the television. -NYT Magazine

            by juls on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 10:05:13 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  The push for 527 regulation (none)
              came from Democracy 21.  It's ridiculous to attack them for not condemning groups like Americans for Job Security when they tried to do something about it, but were shot down by every other non profit.  See this, from the Alliance for Justice, for instance.

              An excerpt:

              These letters reveal the true motive of Democracy 21, the Campaign Legal Center, and the Center for Responsive Politics and that motive is to win this rulemaking and close the door for 527s. They have asked that the 501(c) organizations be excluded merely to enhance the chances of succeeding in this rulemaking. If, as they desire, carving out the 501(c) organizations from this rulemaking enables the rules to be adopted by the FEC, this group will quickly shift focus to the 501(c) organizations. There is no better evidence than their own words from their March 16 letter to the FEC:

              While working in 2002, I remember Wertheimer condemning the 2002 AJS ads against Wellstone.

              Find out what's the matter with K Street at

              by dtmky on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 10:18:37 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Yep. That sums it up (none)
                Of course, they think closing that door on 527s is a bad thing, whereas I think its a good thing. Also, it should be noted that AJS is a 501(c)6, not a 527, and so the 527 legislation wouldn't affect them. But you're still absolutely right that the next step would be looking at the 501(c) process, etc. (Not that they want to outlaw 501(c)s or anything, but there should be a bit more transparency in the process).

                "If Kaine...can win by 6 points, then it's safe to say this is no longer a red state. Virginia is now a purple state" - Chuck Todd

                by VirginiaBelle on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 10:24:07 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  right (none)
                  they said at the time the 527s flared up that if they closed the loophole then the 501c6 would be the next logical way for organizations to file under.  dealing with the 501(c)s is a much thornier situation.

                  Ann Coulter, the right-wing bully who seems too loud even when you mute the television. -NYT Magazine

                  by juls on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 10:31:09 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Thanks to both of you (none)
                    I don't pretend that this is simple, or that I know the answers here.  Experts like you two can do this place a great service by spelling these things out as you have.

                    Can we agree that, compared to this, whether a blog should be treated as "press" ought to be relatively insignificant for them?

                    •  Cheers to that (none)
                      The general point of this whole post is certainly valid.  No question.
                    •  Yep (none)
                      And I'm quite sure they'd prefer to be fighting that fight. However, unfortunately one of the problems right now is that there's not a lot of energy for major reform on the Hill, which means its the minor reforms that get all the attention.

                      "If Kaine...can win by 6 points, then it's safe to say this is no longer a red state. Virginia is now a purple state" - Chuck Todd

                      by VirginiaBelle on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 11:37:48 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  ok at least we have a discussion here (none)
                      Adam B - I continue to feel that you have not grasped the nettle of what protections should be in place to ensure that the internet does not become a Trojan Horse that undermines campaign finance reform. That's not about the press exception per se, it's about having restrictions apply on the internet. I would answer your question by saying, "can't we all agree that blogs and the internet should be subject to the same restrictions for campaign donations as other fund-raising paths?"

                      Nonetheless, I appreciate as always your respectful and thoughtful engagement on these issues, and your appreciation that there ARE conflicting loyalties here. I consistently find your posts on this subject vastly more constructive than Kos'. What is up with him on this issue? I have almost never seen him post on this subject without stooping to snarky name-calling or often much worse, with ZERO acknowledgement that there are complex issues for progressives here. He always seems to exude pure right-wing mentality here, like, "keep the government's filthy hands off my blog..." What is up with that? Anyway, thanks again for your considerate discussion.

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

                      by pedestrian xing on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 04:42:25 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  No one disagrees with that. (none)
                        The restrictions on donations -- who can give, and how much -- should and do apply.  It's not like an individual restricted to $2100/candidate/cycle should be able to donate $5000 as long as it's over the internet -- no one disputes that.

                        And there is no restriction on any medium -- tv, radio, print -- in terms of an exempt publisher's ability to encourage viewers/listeners/readers to donate to a preferred candidate.  

                        I think it's very frustrating to see organizations which portray themselves as friends of liberal reform be so antagonist to a medium which accomplishes through technology what they seek to do through law, and to see them make some very silly and dishonest arguments in doing so.

                        •  what about soft money? (none)
                          What about unrestricted use of soft money to fund websites and promote them with ads? What about the spending side?

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

                          by pedestrian xing on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 05:09:46 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  I have said this repeatedly. (none)
                            I'd have no problem with a bill that closed that loophole -- even though such excesses didn't occur in 2003-04 -- so long as the bill also offered sufficient protection for the individual and group activities which merit protection.
                          •  OK... (none)
                            Instead of looking at Common Cause and Democracy 21 as adversaries and wondering why they don't seem to get the positive, progressive aspects of the blogosphere, why not attempt a joint effort around those lines? Why not, in other words, propose a solution that will do exactly what you have just said (which I too would have no problem with)?

                            I know you have said this before. But the usual flavor of posts around here on this issue (yours included -- look at the title of this thread) is just to critique what someone else is doing. That critique often obscures your own acknowledgement here that there is a potential problem.

                            I guess what I'd like is an approach that goes beyond criticism, and offers a constructive proposal to protect the blogosphere free speech and organizing capabilities, without creating a big-money Trojan Horse. That is what I mean by "grasping the nettle" here.

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

                            by pedestrian xing on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 05:53:57 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  It's been attempted (none)
                            Those groups aren't interested, unfortunately.  Which is why our efforts have been directed towards the Hill directly and to other organizations, where they've been more fruitful.
                          •  alright... (none)
                            Thanks for your patience responding to my comments -- I realize I am not as current on this as you are. However, you must be able to understand my frustration when any of us who are concerned about campaign finance reform get so little acknowledgement from Kos. You should tell him to leave posting on this issue to you -- period. He does his own cause absolutely no good, he is just too adversarial and contemptuous. That "enemies list" still sticks in my craw to this day...

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

                            by pedestrian xing on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 06:51:59 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  well (none)
                            It's incumbent on those people with influence in and with the reform community to urge them to move away from fearing this medium (and those who use it) and towards a recognition that the cost, access and scarcity issues suggest a slightly different approach.

                            It'd be easier not to have an "enemies list" if more people acted like friends of the medium.  What may have broken my back was when Shays-Meehan sent a "Dear Colleague" letter around in response to the one that this site co-wrote with RedState that was attacked for "circulating on the Internet", like we had posted it in a bathroom stall.

                          •  Isn't it a mirror image complaint though? (none)
                            Adam - I'm not familiar with the letters you cite, but for sake of argument I accept they were mean-spirited and dismissive. But don't you think they see it the same way? I can only imagine -- based on the absolute dripping venom I have seen Kos post here -- that the Shays-Meehan progenitors and supporters are thinking the same thing here, like, "Hey, we're basically on the same side, why you do us like this?" The tone coming out of this blog on these issues has been, frankly, hysterical; I can only imagine what's been coming from the wingers. And "enemies lists" are the creatures of the Nixons and O'Reilly's of the world; they don't exactly promote dialogue.

                            If you really want to influence people or get them to compromise with you, you need to start from some basic recognition of where they are coming from. Maybe that did happen, and maybe they turned a deaf ear, and that's when the venom started. But all I've ever seen from Kos on this has been so mean-spirited and dismissive in its own right that it made ME hopping mad, and I'm a long time part of this community, and (this issue aside) a true Kos fan; I was a Deaniac in the heady days of the first "bat," and I've given a lot of donations to candidates through this blog alone. So I can sort of imagine the effect this 'tude had on those less immediately disposed to understand the progressive potential of this medium.

                            Anyway, we all do what we can -- one part of which is to try educate ourselves as best we can. And for your efforts to help all of us understand these issues better, I again thank you.

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

                            by pedestrian xing on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 10:23:22 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Two notes (none)
                            1.  I don't know how to dress this up in legal terms, but they started it.  It all goes back to the original filed comments before the FEC by IPDI and then D21/CLC/et al in June, as well as their subsequent testimony.  That's when their hostility to the medium and anti-freedom mindset was made apparent.  Anything we've said about them has been responsive to that, and they've been unwilling to engage in dialogue.

                            2.  We're not interested in influencing them at this point; they don't pass laws or regulations.  Congress and the FEC do.  We're competing "special interests", as it were.
                          •  Adam (none)
                            I'm sure there will be another thread in which to continue this on at one point, but this comment struck me, because I think I have a decent guess as to why tempers on both sides have been raised.

                            When you try and influence Congress to go against Shays and Meehan, you're trying to break up the BCRA coalition that is in very shaky condition now, partially because the CBC and other Democrats think they got screwed by BCRA, and the GOP moderates are thinking about their re-election chances and don't want to piss off the party brass that has loathed BCRA from its inception. And that coalition is absolutely essential to 527 legislation, keeping the Pres. Public Funding system, and other sneaky ways people are trying to overturn BCRA. I'm not saying you're doing this intentionally, but I suspect that given the tenuous nature of that coalition, their defensiveness would be up there.

                            Add to this the general opinion, no offense, that Bradley Smith et. al. is using the blogs as a Trojan Horse because they're easy to whip into a frenzy, and you get a pretty lethal combination of defensiveness and dismissiveness.

                            Again, my organization does aboslutely nothing with internet regulation so this qualifies as wild speculation, but it's worth considering in your approach.

                            "If Kaine...can win by 6 points, then it's safe to say this is no longer a red state. Virginia is now a purple state" - Chuck Todd

                            by VirginiaBelle on Thu Dec 08, 2005 at 07:55:35 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Without saying too much more (none)
                            I can certainly confirm that we've been sensitive to a number of these issues.
                •  New thinking (none)
                  This is a hard issue.  It's important that we know who's spending money to influence the political process.  There are also fundamental speech rights that need to be respected and strengthened.

                  My initial thought is that we should approach this issue from the other side, by requiring that corporations disclose both to their shareholders and to a public database all funds used for political activity -- from electioneering to issue advocacy.  They almost always launder their money through trade associations, whether the National Association of Manufacturers or the American Insurance Association, so any regulatory effort would require accurate accounting from those groups.

                  Approaching it from the corporate donor side would highlight the most serious threats to the political process, while not imposing on non-profits nearly as much.

                  Find out what's the matter with K Street at

                  by dtmky on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 11:24:59 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

  •  It's not a failure to grasp the power of the (none)
    internet at all.  They absolutely understand the power of the internet and that is what they are trying to stop.  The worst thing for them would be if real change could be effected by the common person uniting with others of like-mind.  Information is power, and the internet allows discovery and consolidation of vast information.  
    •  That's just not accurate (none)
      The FEC has many faults, mostly that it is slow and toothless in enforcement, but THEY ARE NOT OUT TO GET THE LITTLE GUY.

      There are pretty big flaws in the campaign finance law scheme, but this is just not an accurate description of what the FEC is doing.  Wertheimer is not out to squash the little guy.  That is not his motivation.

      He, and the FEC, are clearly slow in changing the law to reflect the realities of the internet, and are stuck worrying about unlikely scenarios of big business busting through giant internet loopholes.

      But attributing their motivations to some cabal with Bush to crush the good guys is just silly and counterproductive.

  •  But this IS likely a violation of the law (none)
    If Casey hasn't already filed a complaint with the FEC, he hasn't done his job.

    The usage of the same clip by both entities is indicative that they have COORDINATED their communications strategy.  Thus, every dime this shady group has spent on these ads should be deemed an excessive, illegal contribution to Santorum.  Even if they make a plausible claim that it really was a coincidence, the FEC will rule that one party has to stop using the clip because an outside group cannot just redistribute a campaign's own message or materials.

    This is not a hard case.  One problem, admittedly, is that FEC enforcement acts slower than paint drying, which severely limits it effectiveness.

  •  Take Lieberman's remarks (none)
    as revealing.  Dissent to them is corruption.  In their world we should all shut the hell up and let daddy in power do whatever he wants.  Dissent to us is taking back that power and cleaning up the theft and lies.  They don't want blogs, because when people talk and share information and not the propaganda, they might get ideas and throw someone out of office.  Ever wonder why freedom of speech is the first amendment?

    "You might think that. I couldn't possibly comment." Frances Urquhart (House of Cards)

    by Yankee in exile on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 09:47:58 AM PST

  •  i doubt you will get to Fred (none)
    but you could get to people at Common Cause.  they have been working in the blogosphere ever since i starting posting on kos for them in early 2004.  go post questions on common blog.  Adam, you and kos should email Ed Davis, who will occasionally post over on MyDD.  All of the staff have their phone numbers listed on their website.  Encourage them to post on where they are at on this issue and why.  They have long used this site and others to advocate, they have something to lose as do us all.

    Ann Coulter, the right-wing bully who seems too loud even when you mute the television. -NYT Magazine

    by juls on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 09:48:02 AM PST

  •  Freedom isn't free and all that (none)
    What kind of lobbying power do sites like the DailyKos have?  This whole topic intrigues me, mostly due to the part about the "conservative" groups not liking freedom of speech.  The whole throwing the baby out with the bathwater thing makes me laugh - on on side, they provide a lot of hate speech and disinformation, on the other, they claim it is hate speech and disinformation that needs to be regulated.  Oh, and because these splinter groups on the Internet can do it cheaper than they can with the traditional media outlets they've worked so long and hard to control...
    •  Actually (none)
      On this particular issue, conservative groups are the ones crying free speech all the time, which I have to admit is one reason I'm so skeptical of the complaints.

      "If Kaine...can win by 6 points, then it's safe to say this is no longer a red state. Virginia is now a purple state" - Chuck Todd

      by VirginiaBelle on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 10:11:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Inspirational! (none)
    In fact, I think it inspired me to coin the First All Purpose Daily Kos Comment:

    "Truth, justice or the American way."

    (Apologies and full credit to anyone who beat me to it.)

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who will watch the watchers?)

    by The Crusty Bunker on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 10:09:43 AM PST

  •  How do they fail to get it? (none)
    These politicians need to read Index on Censorship

    If the great humanists (Shakespeare, Erasmus, Milton, Twain, Martin Luther King, Jr., ad infinitem) had ever prophecised that in the future every common citizen in the world would have access to the full spectrum of information available on the Internet, they'd have gone mad with joy.  Can't wait to read the netroots book.

    FYI:  Handbook for bloggers and cyber-dissidents from Reporters without Borders

    Are we still routinely torturing helpless prisoners, and if so, does it feel right that we as American citizens are not outraged by the practice? -Al Gore

    by soyinkafan on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 10:15:01 AM PST

  •  It's Bad on TV but GOOD on the Net??? (4.00)
    So let me get this straight - the official party line on Kos is:

    We're against unrestricted party-coordinated media ... on TV.
    But we're in favor of totally unrestricted party-coordinated media ... on the Net.

    Is that about right?  

    And the difference is: Kos appears on the net!  

    I guess if Kos gets a TV show we'll all be looking to deregulate ALL campaign finance.

    If you believe in campaign finance restrictions, then they should apply to YOU, TOO.  I believe they're the only chance for the little guy to be heard.  If Kos IS party-coordinated, then it SHOULD be regulated.  
    Why does everyone here disagree with that?

    •  While I sorta agree (none)
      There is a legitimate point to be made here. The idea is that AJS is a shady organization that clearly undercuts the goals of BCRA, whereas dkos is an organization that is more of an incidental effect of legislation designed to prevent other abuse. The difficulty is that Kos is a corporation.

      "If Kaine...can win by 6 points, then it's safe to say this is no longer a red state. Virginia is now a purple state" - Chuck Todd

      by VirginiaBelle on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 10:51:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  There's no comparison (none)
        I agree - AJS should totally be punished for this - they're obviously breaking the existing law.

        But dKos is NOT breaking the law, so there's no comparison.  As you said, "dkos is an organization that is more of an incidental effect of legislation designed to prevent other abuse." -- dKos is not subject to regulation precisely because of that fact.

        To argue that for some reason there should be no campaign finance regulation that affects net speech, when dKos isn't currently even a target of any such regulation, is huge overkill for a nonexistent problem.  

        •  Two things (none)
          1.  No one on this side of the aisle is arguing that "there should be no campaign finance regulation that affects net speech".  

          2.  DailyKos clearly is a target of the reform lobby, as their filed comments regarding FiredUp (and the Thomas/McDonald concurrence) make clear.
          •  Quick reply (none)
            >> No one on this side of the aisle is arguing that "there should be no campaign finance regulation that affects net speech".  

            I think it's important to make that point more clear.  In your initial post you advocate "unfettered political discourse on the Internet"
            In your post on the "Online Freedom of Speech Act" a while back you said the whole point was you wanted to "keep the political blogosphere free from burdensome regulation as the 2006 elections approach."

            The terms "unfettered" and "Free from burdensome regulation" sound a lot like advocating "no regulating that affects net speech".

            Exactly what regulation do you support on web-based campaign activity, and how was that regulation protected in HR 1606?  Maybe the answer to that will make me feel better about this whole thing.

            >>DailyKos clearly is a target of the reform lobby

            Yeah, we're all targets of some lobby or other.  But dKos is not the target of current regulation

            •  Well (none)
              There is no "current" regulation -- the FEC's been working on it since March, and promises an answer by February.

              As we've said all along, I would support extending the soft money rules from the BCRA to the Internet.  But if the choice is between overregulating and underregulating, I'll take the latter, which is why I support 1606 and, more importantly, oppose HR 4194.  

              HR 4389, the Miller-Conyers bill to extend the press exception to the Internet, would also be a great move.

    •  Here's the difference -- I can't post on Fox News (none)
      That's all the difference you need.  If my voice could be put equal to the millions of dollars in purchased ads, then I wouldn't care who purchased the ads or how they decided what to say.  But since, for anything posted on Daily Kos, someone can put up their own website for almost no cost, I'm not worried about how Daily Kos is paid for and by whom.

      Also, remember that the influence of both Daily Kos and TV stations comes from the large number of visitors.  Web users have literally billions of alternative destinations.  There are only a handful of networks that reach everyone's TV.

      Finally, I wouldn't have any problems with regulation of blog ads.  Regulating the blog content itself is another matter, since Kos enjoys no government-enforced exclusive rights to scarce airwaves.  And since we seem to have forgotten to regulate the political content of our airwaves lately.

      This isn't Republicans vs. Democrats, it's Republicans vs. Democracy.

      by randompost on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 11:17:38 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  So only blogs with comments are exempted? (none)
        You have a great point.  However, it doesn't apply to the legislation AdamB is pushing.  That legislation would exempt ALL net communications - not just web sites where individuals can post comments.

        You might say -- but you can start your own website tomorrow, to counter any website you disagree with.  I can start an access cable TV show tomorrow too - it's actually even cheaper than starting a web site.  

        The key is, in either medium I do not have an equal voice, and a big part of the inequality is MONEY. The huge evil that AdamB is worried about is that some day Kos might have to do financial reporting - NOT that some day Kos would be "shut down.  

        If money is NOT a factor in one's voice on the web, then why are we so worried about a law that requires ONLY financial reporting?
        If money IS a factor in one's voice on the web, then the "equal speech" argument is invalid unless there's equal money.

        •  Actually, No. (none)
          First of all, "only financial reporting" is a misnomer.  

          The site couldn't stay incorporated, because anything it said would then be an illegal in-kind corporate contribution to a campaign.

          So DailyKos would be forced to register as a political committee.  As such, I doubt it could host any diaries by candidates for federal office or their staffers without running directly into the coordination rules.   Restrictions would start to come in about the amount of advertising it could accept.  It would be ridiculously messy.  And bad.

          •  Need clarification (none)
            Are you talking about what would happen if the "major purpose" test applied to dKos?  

            Then yes, they would have to register as a political committee.  I think that a corporation whose "major purpose" is to advocate for a particular party, candidate, or group of candidates should have to be regulated as a political committee. I can't imagine a good reason why this shouldn't be true.  

            If the regulations are too burdensome, then they're too burdensome for print, too.  Change them.

            The press should be exempted because it is NOT affiliated with a particular party, candidate, or group of candidates.  I happen to agree that the press exemption should apply on the internet -- but like in the print world, it should not apply to those whose "major purpose" is to advocate for a candidate.  

            And I'll happily give up candidate diaries on dKos in exchange for protecting democracy through robust campaign finance regulation.

            •  But that's what you're missing (none)
              How are you going to sort out which sites have a major purpose of electing candidates, as opposed to offering news, opinion and commentary on progressive issues and politics?  What, exactly, puts this site on one side of that line?  Eschaton?  The Corner?

              This site isn't owned or controlled by a candidate, party or group of candidates.  That's why it ought to get the same exception as the National Review and the New York Post.

              •  Agree (none)
                >>That's why it ought to get the same exception as the National Review and the New York Post.

                ... and it does.

                •  Well... (none)
                  ...maybe.  Depends if this site is deemed to have a different major purpose than Fired Up.

                  If the Campaign Legal Center has its way, The Nation gets the exception and this site doesn't:

                  This reality is perhaps best illustrated by Kos Media, LLC, a corporation which posted the following in February 2004: "My agenda is out in the open (to help elect Democrats).  . . .  If my site can help raise some money to win a House race in Kentucky, then people will take notice.  . . .  That may sound hopelessly naive, but that's one main difference between bloggers . . . and traditional media journalists . . . .  We're activists.  Not reporters.  Not talking heads.  Not journalists.  But activists.  The difference is stark."  Although avowedly not a corporation of journalists in 2004, my understanding is that Kos Media, LLC now wishes to re-cast itself as a media corporation. . . .

                  Brian points to several publications as examples of entities that are both partisan and eligible for the media exemption, including the Nation.  A visit to the Nation's Web site reveals the following as the corporation's mission: "The Nation will not be the organ of any party, sect, or body.  It will, on the contrary, make an earnest effort to bring to the discussion of political and social questions a really critical spirit, and to wage war upon the vices of violence, exaggeration, and misrepresentation by which so much of the political writing of the day is marred.  -from The Nation's founding prospectus, 1865."

                  The Nation's purpose does not appear partisan to me.

                  •  You're right - "major purpose" is bad (none)
                    A court is unlikely to rely solely on the mission statement of a website to determine it's "major purpose."  If the mission statement is the test, there's an easy fix to that (change the statement, continue the mission).

                    But I get the point.  "Major purpose" is pretty vague.  I'm generally happy to rely on judges and juries to determine the bounds of very broad categories like this, and I'd even rely on the FEC (after all, that's what elections are for).  But it would be preferable to have a better test.

            •  Now you're getting closer (none)
              I personally would not oppose loosening some campaign regulations, especially those that have the result of "qualifying" media outlets.  My bar is that something that gives uneven access to the public (like owning a station or buying a TV ad) should be subject to regulation and scrutiny.

              I did not mention above that my ideal campaign finance reform would be to remove the exclusivity of broadcast rights, and have broadcasters do spread-spectrum packets (essentially, convert their frequencies to carrying the internet or something similar that would be accessible without full-fledged computers).

              The technological reasons for exclusive broadcast rights are gone.  The only reason to maintain them now is community service and an authoritative voice -- both of these imply old-style fairness and equal time doctrines, and no ads might not be bad either.

              Eben Moglen, an attorney for the Free Software Foundation (which wrote the key licences that govern open source software sharing), says that by 2015, he wants to bring suit to end all exclusive broadcast rights on First Amendment grounds.  I agree.

              This isn't Republicans vs. Democrats, it's Republicans vs. Democracy.

              by randompost on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 12:43:47 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

    •  I do agree (none)
      Well said! This is the simple point I have yet to hear effectively answered.

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

      by pedestrian xing on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 04:51:18 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Common Cause's "debate" metaphor (none)
    I wonder if the problem is that Common Cause and the "reform lobby" thinks that elections should be run as large debates, where both sides have exactly the same opportunities to make their case in front of the public, which then must decide the merits of the arguments and choose a winner.  Their legislative agenda (spending limits, definitions of issue ads, media versus advocacy) and what they don't try to regulate (think tanks, advocacy groups, lobbyists, media consolidation) do suggest this vision.

    You can see that by the logic of this metaphor, each side should be armed with equal, opposing, well-regulated web sites, or even better, that there should be one big advocacy supersite where all candidates can duke it out on a level playing field.  The blog reality we have now is too messy, too hard to regulate, and may just result in gasp, one side having more and livelier websites than the other guy.

    There are, of course, several problems with this metaphor:

    1. There is no one "stage" for real campaigns.  Regulation might be simpler if TV ads or mailers were the whole game, but democracy wouldn't be better.

    2. Real political discourse does not have a beginning and an ending.  Political activity goes on all the time, and so there are opportunities for both discourse and corruption all the time.  More importantly, the election process is but one direction the road goes.  The rest of the time, constituents and donors are pushing their agenda, so they have the courting to do, and that's where the real corruption goes on.  One might even suggest that, as a creature of Washington, the "reform lobby" is intrinsically blind to this.

    3. The metaphor, ironically, legitimates money as equivalent to support.  "If you can raise enough funds, we'll match you, because you must have grassroots support" and "Legitimate political activities are those that get filed with the FEC."

    4. Political discourse is a conversation, and not a speech.  By only allowing the public the roles of donor and campaign volunteer, the debate metaphor cuts off, or at least devalues, more natural forms of expression, like bitching to your neighbors.

    5. What happens when the debate moderators (the media) are themselves corrupt, or just when one side is good at "working the ref"?  Or maybe just when, being moderators, the media recuse themselves from reporting the facts?

    Hmmm, I'm beginning to think that this metaphor explains a lot about what has been wrong with the political landscape these past four decades, and what is so right and refreshing about the internet...

    This isn't Republicans vs. Democrats, it's Republicans vs. Democracy.

    by randompost on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 11:01:57 AM PST

  •  Common Cause, Dem 21 (none)
    are still middlemen in campaigns, and middlemen in democracy.  Strong, participative blogs may support all of their causes, but they also compete with them for effectiveness.  There has not been enough long-term investment in these organizations to guarantee they will last in some form if something better develops.  

    Dem 21 and Common Cause are right now are fighting for their relevancy, and I would expect it to be a motivated fight.  The Republican equivalents (Americans for Progress etc.) are not similarly panicked because there is no overlap between their activism and the Republican "netroots" activism which mainly transpires in churches.

    Q:"You've called Bush a loser." A:"And a liar." Q:"You apologized for the loser comment." A:"But never for the liar, have I?" - Rolling Stone with Harry Reid

    by alivingston on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 11:59:15 AM PST

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