Some Political Ads on Net to Be Regulated

Updated: The Federal Election Commission reins in some Web sites, but will leave most untouched.

The Federal Election Commission extended its rules about campaign ads to some Internet Web sites, it said, to ensure political committees properly finance and disclose their Internet communications.

The FEC approved the new standards at its meeting March 27.

The FEC now requires that candidates for federal office disclose their spending on advertising that appears on a Web site or accompanying an Internet search result.

A large swath of the Internet and Internet publishers appear to be untouched by the edict. According to a 96-page draft of the rules made public March 24, also excluded are bloggers who dont take paid political ads plus politically focused e-mails sent to less than 500 addresses at a time.

More than a year in the making, the FEC is now weighing in on this issue because more people get their news and information from the Internet and, simultaneously, more political campaigning is being done online.

In fact, the number of Americans using the Internet for political information doubled between 2000 and 2004 to 63 million, while 18 percent of Americans said they got a majority of their information about the 2004 presidential election from the Internet.

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Yet at the same time, the FEC was under pressure to take a light-handed touch in order not to dampen the freewheeling spirit of the Internet. Of particular note are the growing number of bloggers and their growing political clout.

"Everyday activity, even when political in nature, will not be affected by the changes made in this rulemaking," the FEC wrote in the draft of the rules.

Several commentators digesting the rules cheered its light touch, especially on bloggers

"Hooray! Let my peoples go!" writes this blogger. "Bloggers now officially have the right to call John Kerry a goober-butt without having to provide equal time to goober-butt for a re-butt-al. Im still waiting on my first check from the Republican National Committee though. Hey, Terry! Send payment through PayPal to ..."

Editors Note: The story was updated to reflect the results of the March 27 vote by the Federal Election Commission.

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