FEC having problems drafting Internet regulations

Normally the Federal Election Commission, like other federal agencies, posts documents relating to an upcoming meeting well in advance.

But not this week. It turns out that the FEC is having a tough time agreeing on court-ordered regulations (PDF here) that could, just maybe, include a crackdown on bloggers and other sundry political Web sites.

In fact, the topic become so internally divisive that the general counsel's office was still working on the document as of late Tuesday. Nothing is ready to be released to the public, the FEC says, even though the meeting is Thursday morning.

Among the not-easy-to-answer-questions the FEC general counsel's office will have to address: Do bloggers qualify as journalists? Must Web publishers disclose any relationship with campaigns? Does posting a campaign's press release qualify as a donation? How about a favorable link?

There is some reason for bloggers to cheer: I'm being told me that the result will be less regulatory than if FEC Commissioner Bradley Smith hadn't blown the whistle here earlier this month. In other words, the Internet outcry may have worked. We'll know more soon.

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About the author

Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for CNET. You can e-mail him or follow him on Twitter as declanm. Declan previously was a reporter for Time and the Washington bureau chief for Wired and wrote the Taking Liberties section and Other People's Money column for CBS News' Web site.

 

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