Proposed FEC rules leave most political activity on Net unregulated

By The Associated Press

Editor's note: The rules officially took effect on May 12, 2006.

WASHINGTON — The Federal Election Commission has released proposed new rules that would leave almost all Internet political activity unregulated.

The proposal would, however, require paid advertisements for federal candidates on the Internet to be paid for with money regulated by federal campaign law.

There has been an explosion of political activity on the Internet and political bloggers who offer diverse views say they should be free of government regulation.

In a summary of the March 24 proposal, the FEC said the rules "are intended to ensure that political committees properly finance and disclose their Internet communications, without impeding individual citizens from using the Internet to speak freely regarding candidates and elections."

The proposal covers paid Internet advertising placed on another person's Web site, but does not encompass any other form of Internet communications.

A recent federal court decision on campaign-finance law held that the previous definition of "public communication" impermissibly excluded all Internet communications.

The federal court instructed the six-member FEC to draw up regulations that would extend the nation's campaign-finance and spending limits to the Web.

Last year, bloggers told the Committee on House Administration that regulations encompassing the Internet, even ones just on advertising, would have a chilling effect on free speech.