Does A Blog = A Radio Show in Campaign Finance Law?
We all know that the RI Board of Elections gave Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey a hard time by asserting that he was taking an “in kind” contribution by hosting a radio show on WPRO. For the record, I don’t support campaign finance laws and think they are an abridgement of free speech. We in RI have followed the national current and instituted campaign finance reform that is little more than an incumbent protection scheme.
Nonetheless, prompted by Hugh Hewitt, I now wonder if the RI Board of Elections could apply the “Laffey Standard” to a candidate who blogs? For example, RI Secretary of State (and declared 2006 Senate candidate) Matthew Brown is a contributor to the Huffington Post, which is both hosted out-of-state (I believe), is supported (at least partially) by advertising revenue, and has a national audience. Do the campaign finance laws cover such “in kind,” out-of-state campaign contributions if it is done via a blog? If not, why not? A forum is a forum, isn’t it? As Hewitt points out:
Matt Brown is a candidate in an FEC regulated race. The Huffington Post is giving him valuable blog space. Is this a contribution? If Brown was running editorials on a television station, would that be an in-kind contribution? If a newspaper allowed [Brown] to run daily op-eds, would that be a contribution?
I along with most other bloggers absolutely reject the idea that anything a blogger writes or says on blog is a contribution to a candidate’s campaign, but I haven’t thought through the situation where the blogger is a candidate for office blogging on another’s website. This is a much more troublesome and thus inviting target for the overactive regualtors at the FEC. I’d welcome the opinion of experienced campaign counsel.
I would too.