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Free Edgar. Make Him Run For Office

Feb
15
2005

The news that the Federal Elections Commission is going to take a look at bloggers who raise money for political candidates shouldn’t be unexpected. And it should underscore the importance of having political consultants tell their readers – and supporters – what they’re up to.
This is why it’s important that Markos Moulitas describes what he does, accurately and honestly. And this isn’t just an idle criticism. Moulitas’s lapses, his weird determination to have his cake, eat it, then smear icing on his fasting guests’ faces is going to shape the way on-line fundraising, writing and organizing is conducted by party activists and others. And Democrats refusal to think defensive on this – to assume all criticism springs from political motivation – is just as troublesome as Moulitsas’ behavior. There’s a good reason we have laws governing the role that money plays in politics. It’s called Watergate.


According to Roll Call, the commission is curious about all the coordinated communication. You know, when a blogger – I’m going to use that word from now on to refer to folks who work mostly as consultants or harsh partisans – writes about a candidate, takes money from a candidate and pushes the candidate agenda.
Last fall, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled that the agency had erred in its interpretation of several portions of [campaign finance laws], including its exemption of the Internet from coordinated communications.
“The Commission’s exclusion of Internet communications from the coordinated communications regulation severely undermines FECA’s purposes,” Kollar-Kotelly wrote in her September 2004 opinion.
Siding with Reps. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) and Marty Meehan (D-Mass.)…two key House sponsors [of the campaign finance laws known as McCain-Feingold], Kollar-Kotelly concluded that not regulating such expenditures would “permit rampant circumvention of the campaign finance laws and foster corruption or the appearance of corruption.”

It won’t, of course. The pig-headed among us will insist the FEC’s decision, regardless of how tentative it is, is politically motivated. It doesn’t help that argument that conservatives are screaming pretty loudly about the whole thing. But they’ve gone to the trouble to make themselves partially bullet-proof on the money side of things.
There’s a simple solution to all of this: Full, immediate and complete electronic disclosure. Campaigns – anyone raising money for anyone at any time – should be required to file nightly forms with the FEC. Those forms should be posted to a publicly available website and be open to public scrutiny immediately via the web just as documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission are available and open to public scrutiny soon after they’re received. It’s a simple, inexpensive and effective. If it works for Wall Street, it can work for anyone, even politicians.

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