DailyKos Violating Campaign Finance Law?

BlogCritics contributor John Bambenek claims to have filed an FEC complaint against DailyKos on the grounds that it is an organization committed to electing Democrats to office and provides contributions far exceeding those allowed by campaign finance laws.

Apparently, Bambenek missed the sturm und drang over this controversy that unfolded two years ago. After quite a bit of lobbying by the likes of DailyKos and RedState, the FEC ruled that bloggers are essentially exempt from the dictats of McCain-Feingold because we are considered “media.” (See Mike Krempasky and Adam B for more details.)

The Corner‘s David Freddoso calls Bambenek’s filing, “an outrage against the First Amendment that every conservative should fight vigorously.” Judging from the unanimity on this issue I’ve seen thus far (see Bruce McQuain and Sister Toldja, for example) that’s happening.

Still, it’s unclear to me why activists banding together on an Internet Web site should have any more free speech rights than those who do so in a meeting room somewhere. As outrageous as this filing is, it’s only possible because of an outrageous law that allows partisans to stifle the free speech rights of those they disagree with on the basis of “cleaning up politics.”

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Michael says:

    Still, it’s unclear to me why activists banding together on an Internet Web site should have any more free speech rights than those who do so in a meeting room somewhere.

    Maybe I missed something, but activists gathering in a meeting room somewhere are not subject to campaign finance laws, right?

  2. James Joyner says:

    Maybe I missed something, but activists gathering in a meeting room somewhere are not subject to campaign finance laws, right?

    They have filing requirements and are limited in how much they can donate and when they can spend it.

  3. Michael says:

    They have filing requirements and are limited in how much they can donate and when they can spend it.

    Whoa, lets back up a minute, you never said anything about donating and spending in the original complaint, just interested people meeting. Isn’t donating and spending money on the internet also subject to campaign finance laws?

  4. James Joyner says:

    Isn’t donating and spending money on the internet also subject to campaign finance laws?

    It depends. Presumably, DailyKos and RedState spend and raise quite a bit of money for the purposes of activist political speech, including candidate endorsements and the like. That would be prohibited activity for the NRA, AARP, NAACP, and so forth if they wanted to take out advertising.

    Apparently, though, those groups could organize as “blogs” and do much the same thing.

  5. Michael says:

    Again, I think I’m missing something. Can’t the NRA, AARP and NAACP already meet, raise money for their organizations, and spend money on their organizations without being subject to campaign finance laws? Can’t they also sell advertising space on their fliers, posters in meeting rooms, etc, to finance their organizations?

  6. Adam B. says:

    James, but there’s a difference between “raising money for yourself to later give to candidates” versus “encouraging people to contribute directly to candidates.”

  7. James Joyner says:

    James, but there’s a difference between “raising money for yourself to later give to candidates” versus “encouraging people to contribute directly to candidates.”

    It’s a pretty small difference, really. And I’d contend that sites leg RedState and Kos do more than that: They’re actively part of the campaign process, doing electioneering, opposition research, and so forth. It would be illegal under McCain-Feingold to do those things via television within 90 days (?) of a campaign.

  8. Bithead says:

    BlogCritics contributor John Bambenek claims to have filed an FEC complaint against DailyKos on the grounds that it is an organization committed to electing Democrats to office and provides contributions far exceeding those allowed by campaign finance laws.

    This may explain the newfound piety exhibited by Kos the last few days.

  9. Adam B. says:

    It makes all the difference in the world — the conduit rules only apply to contributions over which some middleman has control. The law distinguishes “I’m collecting $200 checks for Candidate X” from “Give me $200, and I’ll figure out what candidate it should go to.”

    The internet isn’t television, and, well, there are 10 other ways that’s a misunderstanding of the “electioneering communications” rules, but I’ll stick with the first.