Senators reassure bloggers

Senators McCain and Feingold deny that bloggers could be regulated under the campaign finance reform law.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
2 min read
Senators John McCain and Russ Feingold reassured the Internet community that bloggers will not be regulated by federal campaign finance laws.

The senators, who authored the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 known as the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform law, issued a statement on Tuesday in response to comments made by a Federal Elections Commission commissioner in a CNET News.com interview last week.

"The latest misinformation from the antireform crowd is the suggestion that our bill will require regulation of blogs and other Internet communications," they said. "This issue has nothing to with private citizens communicating on the Internet."

In an interview published on CNET News.com on March 3, Bradley Smith, one of six commissioners on the Federal Elections Commission, said campaign finance laws could be applied to Internet bloggers and online media that link to campaign sites.

In 2002, the FEC exempted the Internet by a 4-2 vote, but U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly last fall overturned that decision. Smith claimed this decision opened the door to regulation for bloggers and online media.

"The judge's decision is in no way limited to ads," he said. "She says that any coordinated activity over the Internet would need to be regulated, as a minimum. The problem with coordinated activity over the Internet is that it will strike, as a minimum, Internet reporting services."

He went on to say, "Do we give bloggers the press exemption? If we don't give bloggers the press exemption, we have the question of, do we extend this to online-only journals like CNET?"

Smith's comments have stirred fear among First Amendment rights advocates and helped fuel the ongoing debate over whether bloggers should be treated as journalists.

The law would have to be interpreted by a judge, but the senators who authored the campaign finance reform legislation say bloggers and online publications have nothing to fear.

"There is simply no reason--none--to think that the FEC should or intends to regulate blogs or other Internet communications by private citizens," they said in the statement. "Suggestions to the contrary are simply the latest attempt by opponents of reform to whip up baseless fears."