FEC Affirms First Amendment Rights for Bloggers

Free SpeechIt is not often that you will catch me writing anything positive about the Federal Elections Commission. Today is an exception. The FEC unanimously issued an Advisory Opinion 2005-16 today, opining that blogs have the same rights as other forms of media.

At issue was whether blogs are to be exempted from campaign finance laws. The FEC Opinion states:

According to the House report on the 1974 amendments to the Act, the press exception made plain Congress’s intent that the Act would not “limit or burden in any way the first amendment freedoms of the press . . .” and would assure “the unfettered right of the newspapers, TV networks, and other media to cover and comment on political campaigns.”

The opinion came as a result of a request for an advisory opinion submitted by FiredUpAmerica.com. The FEC determined that online political commentary is clearly not considered a campaign contribution.

Thus, because Fired Up is a press entity, and neither it nor its websites are owned or controlled by any political party, political committee, or candidate, the costs Fired Up incurs in covering or carrying a news story, commentary, or editorial on its websites are exempt from the definitions of “contribution” and “expenditure.” The Commission notes that an entity otherwise eligible for the press exception would not lose its eligibility merely because of a lack of objectivity in a news story, commentary, or editorial, even if the news story, commentary, or editorial expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate for Federal office.

William Ernest Hocking perhaps said it best with, “Where men cannot freely convey their thoughts to one another, no other liberty is secure.”

posted by Stephen Gordon