Bloggers and web site operators may support, oppose, link to, and work cooperatively with federal political candidates. This freedom was reaffirmed when the newly re-constituted Federal Election Commission released its first two enforcement cases August 12.
The Commission’s refusal to regulate blogging and internet sites is not new, but it is notable is that the pro-blogger decision was made within a week or two of the new Commission taking office. Of the scores of items on its docket, the new Commission chose to address this one first: quite likely because they wanted to send a signal to that bloggers are free to engage in politics
Specifically, the Commission said that Gordon Fischer, a former state political party chairman, did not violate election law when he maintained a web site and blog (Iowa True Blue) promoting Barack Obama and criticizing Hillary Clinton. (Our friends at CCP note that the complaint was filed by a Clinton supporter: observing that all too many FEC complaints are filed for political harassment
–Money that Fischer spent creating and maintaining the site was not regulated by the FEC.
–Even if Fischer coordinated (discussed the blog and postings) with the Obama campaign, the site remained free from Federal election regulation.
–A link to a campaign web site or video does not subject the site linking to the campaign to regulation.
–blogs and web sites may “republish” campaign material without violating election laws.
Bottom line: by making this case one of the first two it released, the Federal Election Commission reaffirms that bloggers and web site operators may support and oppose political candidates, republish or link to campaign material, and work as closely as they wish with campaigns in doing so.
The one activity that remains subject to FEC regulation is paying for an ad on someone else’s web site supporting or opposing a Federal candidate.