The Washington Post reports, the plan by the FEC to implement just such regulation continues to move forward thanks to McCain-Finegold and a lost lawsuit:
"We are almost certainly going to move from an environment in which the Internet was per se not regulated to where it is going to be regulated in some part," said FEC Commissioner David M. Mason, a Republican. "That shift has huge significance because it means that people who are conducting political activity on the Internet are suddenly going to have to worry about or at least be conscious of certain legal distinctions and lines they didn't used to have to worry about."
When this all began, the real concern, of course, was how this was going to pertain to blogs. The good news is that since Bradley Smith first made his remarks concerning the FEC's possible plans to regulate bloggers, there's been some severe heat generated at all levels inside and outside of government.
His [Smith's] comments quickly ricocheted across the Web, as bloggers began wondering if they might have to bone up on election law. Two of the authors of the campaign finance legislation, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) issued a joint statement denouncing Smith's remarks, saying they would "whip up baseless fears." A few prominent online political strategists and bloggers sent a letter recently to the FEC, urging it not to restrict unpaid political activities on the Internet. Their letter has since been endorsed by more than 2,500 other supporters. Republican Commissioner Michael E. Toner said he has begun receiving "very heated" e-mails on the issue.
You may recall that little brouhaha that set the pirate flags of anarchy flying on blogs everywhere. Well, it appears the heat has had the desired effect. The "regulation of the internet" is being refocused into a more tight pattern:
Four commissioners—Democrats Scott E. Thomas and Ellen L. Weintraub, along with Toner and Mason—said in interviews that they oppose regulating independent bloggers.
"I really see no appetite at the agency for regulating bloggers," Weintraub said. "I would be very, very surprised if that was the result."
She said the commission would likely focus on other issues, such as whether to subject expenditures on Internet ad campaigns to the agency's contribution rules. The FEC requires campaign supporters who spend money on political ads in coordination with a candidate to report those expenses to the government and subjects them to contribution limits—but the rules apply only to offline ads. So if, for example, a campaign supporter pays for an ad in the Los Angeles Times at the request of a candidate, that expenditure must be reported and counted against those limits. But if the supporter pays for an ad on the Los Angeles Times's Web site, it does not.
They have no appetite for regulating bloggers because they'd never, ever succeed in doing so. It would begin an on-line insurgency which would completely overwhelm them and would demonstrate to all their total inability to enforce their regulation. Most agencies don't want unenforceable regulations. It makes them look inept. However, a narrower focus, such as "internet ad campaigns" is something they have some possibility of actually regulating, thus the shift in focus.
But here's a question for you, considering this "new" focus on regulating "internet ads" for a candidates ... instead of placing the ad on the LA Times website, what if they place it on the UK Guardian's site? Or some Canadian site heavily visited by folks in the US? What will the FEC do then?
Or better asked, what can they do?
As for foreign web sites, sounds like the beginnings of an outsourced cottage industry, doesn't it? Another possible unintended consequence of this abysmal law we know as McCain-Feingold.