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Decision on political bloggers' fate postponed

Final rules for extending campaign-finance rules to the Internet won't come before the Federal Election Commission until Monday, a commission spokesman said Wednesday.

Commissioners had scheduled debate on the matter for this Thursday at 1 p.m. PST, already an eleventh-hour postponement from last week's meeting agenda.

No reason was given for the second date change, though the spokesman said the six-member commission had been intensely engaged in closed-door work throughout the day. The text of the FEC's final rules has not surfaced yet but was expected to be released before Monday's meeting.

The FEC is under court order to issue new regulations establishing parameters for the Internet. Last spring it released a 47-page draft document (click here for PDF) and invited the public to comment.

And comment they did. Bloggers and free speech advocates have been fiercely lobbying Congress to pass a new law that clearly excludes the entire Internet from the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act, better known as McCain-Feingold.

A tug-of-war has ensued. Late last year, Democrats defeated a last-minute effort by the U.S. House of Representatives to pass a bill that would have done just that, but a House panel recently approved that same measure again. A full floor vote planned for last week has been delayed indefinitely, perhaps in anticipation of FEC action.

Meanwhile, campaign-finance reform advocates inside and outside of Congress have been pushing for a narrower exemption. An alternative House proposal would, among other things, immunize self-publishers from reporting their activities, but only if their expenses did not exceed $5,000 per year.