Bill O’Reilly blasts DailyKos as a “hate site,” but according to a federal ruling released Tuesday, the popular liberal blog is as much a part of the media as Fox News when it comes to campaign finance rules.
The Federal Election Commission unanimously dismissed a complaint filed against DailyKos by a right-wing blogger who had argued it was illegally acting as a political committee by giving support and free advertising to Democratic candidates.
Adam Bonin, the lawyer who represented DailyKos, called the ruling “a big victory, but everything about the rulemaking and the precedent strongly suggested that there was no other logical outcome.”
The ruling is only a small step in the evolution of government regulation of politics on the Web, but expect it to attract attention because of the prominence of Daily Kos.
The complaint alleged that DailyKos should have to register as a political committee since its primary purpose is promoting Democrats and it raised and spent more than $1,000 pursuing that end.
The blog, which is financially sustained by advertising, attracts between 14 million and 24 million visits per month, according to sitemeter.com.
Established in 2002 by Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, DailyKos was a driving force behind the development of the community of online liberal activists known as Netroots, who have taken an increasingly significant role in Democratic politics. The second annual convention it organized this summer drew most of the major Democratic candidates.
But with that prominence has come criticism.
Some conservative Democrats argue the site and its spawn are pulling the party too far left. And O’Reilly, host of Fox’s top-rated show "The O'Reilly Factor," has blasted DailyKos as a “hate site,” even comparing it to the Ku Klux Klan.
‘Glad to be target’
Filed by John Bambenek, who contributes to Blogcritics and writes his own blog, the complaint was among the first challenges to regulations enacted last year by the FEC that extended to the Internet the so-called media exemption.
It makes clear that costs incurred in publishing or broadcasting news or commentary are not contributions or expenditures, unless the media outlet is owned by a political party or candidate.
The FEC found that “DailyKos is precisely the type of activity that falls within the media exemption.”
Campaign finance experts had expected the verdict.
Kos lawyer Bonin, of the firm Cozen O'Connor, said he was glad Bambenek targeted DailyKos because “Markos is fortunate that he’s been successful enough that he was able to mount a defense to this case and fight it head on,” whereas less prominent bloggers might not have been able to do so.
“It should not be the role of the government to determine who is and who isn’t legitimate press,” Bonin said. “The Internet allows everyone to have a press without having to spend any money at all. And you can have just as much of an impact by spending no money as you could by spending thousands of dollars online.”
But Bambenek said just because DailyKos and a handful of other blogs have wide readership, it doesn’t mean the Internet is democratizing politics.
“If you look at the people who are really making waves — who are really getting attention — these are people who are already well-connected, who are making a lot of money doing what they’re doing,” he said.
“I’m not really sure a grass-roots individual like me is going to make a huge impact, except under rare circumstances.”
In another unanimous ruling, the FEC rejected allegations that Michael Grace broke the law by failing to report that he leased server space for a blog advocating the defeat of Rep. Mary Bono (R-Calif.) in 2006.
Any costs or value associated with the blog would qualify as volunteer activiy and, thus, be exempt, the commission found.