In a good display of self-interest (which also happens to serve the interest of others on many occasions), many of the nation's newspapers and broadcast outlets declared it Sunshine Week last week, and then dedicated what resources they could marshall in producing stories about how access to public data is better for a democracy than government secrecy.
This is particularly important in Minnesota, we're told, because our state government appears to be moving in a direction of closing access to data in the interest of privacy.
If you get most of your information from the blogs, you probably didn't know about Sunshine Week because very few of them -- and none of the more than 40 I read every day from Minnesota -- touched it. The issue of access to information, let along the ability to transmit it, just isn't that important, I guess.
Well, now it's the bloggers' turn.
Some of the big blogs have railed against the effort to regulate the relationship between political parties and independent blogs for a few weeks. I even linked to a few although I can't even find the entries now. But a quick Google search shows the Daily Kos discussed the issue to a fair degree in November. Bradley Smith at CNET took a whack it almost a year ago, in a column that was picked up by bloggers from the far left to the far right.
And now this week, it's possible Washington may finally move on the simmering controversy to decide whether political blogs are subject to campaign finance rules.
Here's the bottom line on the issue courtesy of The Hill:
The heated debate over a proposal by Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) to exclude online content from the “public communications” covered by campaign-finance law has engulfed every corner of the political world, splitting both Democrats and Republicans and pitting mainstream editorial boards against left- and right-wing bloggers.
(paragraph of background deleted)
FEC Chairman Michael Toner has thrown his weight behind the Hensarling bill. The bill attempts to resolve a federal court mandate for clear congressional guidance on how the commission should apply the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law to the Internet.
And here's an editorial Toner wrote on the subject last week.
OK, to coin a phrase that's cropped up in the past few years: if you're not taking cash to run your blog -- hard or soft -- why give a rip?
Personally? I can't get my arms around this yet. It's clear to me that many blogs obviously exist to promote a particular agenda or candidate (and does so in almost every case by focusing almost exclusively on dissecting the opposition, thus allowing the party itself to maintain a clean, hands-off deniability. Why get mixed up in it if someone is doing if for you?) , but in many cases I don't know (a) who writes them or (b) whether they get any money to write them or (c) what -- if any -- the ties are to another campaign or party.
At the same time, I think we have to admit, parties have brought these "independent" bloggers in and told them "we want you to be part of the team." Could what follows a meeting like that qualify as an expenditure? And if so, is that a coordinated expenditure in this future Washington-think? That would be illegal under campaign laws I believe.
On the other hand, to what extent do you want the government to do your figuring out for you? As near as I can tell, the only thing that's presented an obstacle to relevance for some bloggers, is the blogger. The good ones thrive and are read. The hack jobs end up like so many drug pitches, former Nigerian get-rich-quick schemes, and, well, you know. Crap is crap in any medium and people have done a pretty good job at recognizing it when they see it.
Still, there is that nagging voice out there that wonders whether a blog, for example, that regularly accuses (usually in the form of a "I don't know, I'm just sayin'") fashion political opponents of breaking the law has even a chance of being heard in intelligent political discoure.
Maybe this week we'll take the first steps in finding out the answer to that question and -- and more importantly -- whose job it is -- or isn't -- to say that's a bad thing.
By the way "freedom of the press" does not apply equally across all media. Maybe that's something we should look at sometime too.
Posted at 11:28 AM on March 20, 2006
by Bob Collins
The chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, Russell Anderson, had a conference call with reporters today to say, apparently, that there were no conversations between any Supreme Court justices and Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson on the subject of the state's marriage
"We have talked amongst ourselves and our former Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz and there was no conversation about the Defense of Marriage Act. It never happened," he said.
Anderson also talked about the changing landscape of campaigning to be a judge in states like Minnesota, which elect their judges.
It was a fascinating conference call, the bulk of which you're probably not going to hear in many places because the technical quality was horrific. But, hey, what do I know about technical quality? So here it is in all of its RealPlayer feedback glory. Enjoy!
1:50 p.m. The Senate has just started debate to try to get the marriage bill out of committee. So far the Senate president has ruled the request out of order. A debate rages at the moment.
2:03 p.m. Sen. Jim Metzen under heavy fire from Republicans for ruling the request was not a recall of the bill from committee.
2:05 p.m. Vote is 34-31 to uphold the ruling of the chair, keeping the bill bottled up in committee.