Today Senator Russ Feingold posted a diary on MyDD addressing the concerns of late regarding the potential threat of FEC regulation of the blogosphere. He takes a moment to defend the bill, which is only natural, but then goes on state his position on the internet and political activism:
The FEC must tread carefully in the area of political communications on the Internet. Political news and commentary on the Internet are important, even vital, to our democracy, and becoming more so. For starters, the FEC should provide adequate protection for legitimate online journalists. Online journalists should be treated the same as other legitimate broadcast media, newspapers, etc. and, at this point, I don't see any reason why the FEC shouldn't include legitimate online journalists and bloggers in the "media exemption" rule.
The definitions and rules relating to "coordinated activity" should be clarified, so legitimate bloggers and journalists alike don't have to worry about vague rules for legitimate activity. Certainly linking to campaign websites, quoting from or republishing campaign materials and even providing a link for donations to a candidate, if done without compensation, should not cause a blogger to be deemed to have made a contribution to a campaign or trigger reporting requirements.
Also, the FEC should generally exempt independent, unpaid political activity by bloggers on the Internet. We must let this town square, which has added a significant dimension to our political process, continue to flourish. When the FEC issues a proposal on this issue later this month, rest assured that I will be reviewing it carefully and offering detailed comments.
At a time in the country when we need free and open discourse, when the Senate is rubber stamping a bankruptcy bill which hurts those who have no power, when the country is involved in a war with no timetable for an exit strategy, we must be able to speak our minds without fear of recrimination from the government.
His comparison of bloggers to campus protesters in the days of yore is quaint, and I believe misses the scale of participation (which is international) and, more important, the magnitude of change that the internet is bringing to our culture and ourselves. Yet he still "gets it" a lot more than the mainstream media, who continue to wring their hands with worry as if "bloggers" was a new television news channel. [Edit: I see the good Senator has now cross-posted on DKos, so he seems to "get it" at least that much.]
What's sad is that so few of our elected officials from either party seem particularly attuned to -- let alone interested in -- what we ordinary folk need, want or demand. We're supposedly the boss, but it seems like now -- especially now -- we the citizens are treated by our government as the enemy, and that their real and only consitutents are the multinational corporations -- many of which are foreign-owned!
Isn't that somehow a violation of their oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America?