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10/25/2005

Get ready for more campaign finance regulations and less freedom of speech

A circuit court decision means that the FEC is going to have to revisit and strengthen some of the campaign regulations that it had alread put forward:

The agency will also have to revisit regulations governing solicitation, electioneering communications and Internet activity.

The courts have ruled that the agency's definition for solicitation was too narrow. Currently, lawmakers must specifically ask donors to make unlimited donations to third-party groups in order to be found in violation of the law's ban on soft-money fundraising by federal lawmakers.

So the FEC must now wrestle with what types of suggestions should be considered illegal solicitations by lawmakers. For example, should lawmakers be allowed to speak at a Sierra Club or a National Right to Life Committee event if the backdrop for their speech is a banner urging support for the organization?

"The question is: How do you deal with statements that praise organizations?" he said.

Internet activity may also become more regulated. Commissioners will debate whether political bloggers such as the authors of DailyKos.com or RedState.org should be regulated if they speak with members of Congress or party strategists, not an unusual activity for online journalists.

Another rule that will be revisited is the so-called electioneering-communication rule, which exempts charities organized under section 501(c)3 of the tax code. These organizations could become subject to regulations governing overtly political groups.

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