Dayton v. Kennedy

Returning Senator Mark Dayton to the Ranks of the Idle Rich in 2006

12/09/2004

Dayton v. Kennedy To Be Regulated?

CBSNews.com is reporting this morning that the Federal Election Commission is poised to issue new rules governing political blogs early next year. The impetus seems to be the decisive role played by several South Dakota blogs in 2004 with Daschle v. Thune at the vanguard.

Excerpts:
Internet blogs are providing a new and unregulated medium for politically motivated attacks. With the same First Amendment protections as newspapers, blogs are increasingly gaining influence.
While many are must-reads for political junkies, are some Internet blogs also being used as proxies for campaigns? In the nation’s hottest Senate race, this past year, the answer was yes.
Little over a month ago, the first Senate party leader in 52 years was ousted when South Dakota Republican John Thune defeated top Senate Democrat Tom Daschle. While more than $40 million was spent in the race, saturating the airwaves with advertising, a potentially more intriguing front was also opened.
The two leading South Dakota blogs – websites full of informal analysis, opinions and links – were authored by paid advisers to Thune’s campaign.
The Sioux Falls Argus Leader and the National Journal first cited Federal Election Commission documents showing that Jon Lauck, of Daschle v Thune, and Jason Van Beek, of South Dakota Politics, were advisers to the Thune campaign.
The documents, also obtained by CBS News, show that in June and October the Thune campaign paid Lauck $27,000 and Van Beek $8,000. Lauck had also worked on Thune’s 2002 congressional race.
Both blogs favored Thune, but neither gave any disclaimer during the election that the authors were on the payroll of the Republican candidate.
No laws have apparently been broken. Case precedent on political speech as it pertains to blogs does not exist. But where journalists' careers may be broken on ethics violations, bloggers are writing in the Wild West of cyberspace. There remains no code of ethics, or even an employer, to enforce any standard.
At minimum, the role of blogs in the Daschle-Thune race is a telling harbinger for 2006 and 2008. Some blogs could become new vehicles for the old political dirty tricks.
Beginning next year, the F.E.C. will institute new rules on the restricted uses of the Internet as it relates to political speech.
“I think those questions are going to have to be asked and answered,” said Lillian BeVier, a First Amendment expert at the University of Virginia. “It’s going to be an issue and it should be an issue.”

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