Summary of Federal Election Commission Proceedings Regarding
Campaign Activity and the Internet


This page was last updated on January 12, 2000.

On November 1, 1999, the Federal Election Commission (FEC), the agency charged with enforcing federal election laws, issued a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) regarding campaign activity and the Internet.

The NOI stated that the FEC "is currently examining the issues raised by the use of the Internet to conduct campaign activity."

As a part of this inquiry, the FEC is also examining whether Internet publications qualify as "press" within the meaning of the Federal Election Campaign Act, and hence, are exempt from limitations imposed on others. Tech Law Journal is affected by this proceeding. Readers may wish to take this into consideration in assessing the objectivity of this summary.

"The Commission is conducting this review in order to assess the applicability of the Federal Election Campaign Act and the Commission's current regulations to campaign activity conducted using this medium. In order to assist in its review, the Commission invites comments on the application of the Act and the current regulations to Internet campaign activity. The Commission will use the comments received to determine whether or not to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking ("NPRM"), which may include proposed changes to its regulations. An NPRM would seek further comment on any proposed revisions to the Commission's rules. The Commission has made no final decisions regarding the issues discussed in this notice, and may ultimately decide to take no action."

The NOI elaborated that among the topics being examined are candidate's web sites, news media's web sites, individuals' web sites, and corporate, labor, and organizations' web sites.

The deadline for comment, originally set for January 4, 2000, was extended to January 7.

Legislative Activity

See also, Tech Law Journal Summary of S 1747.

This topic is also being addressed by the Congress.

Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT), along with Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) and Sen Mitch McConnell (R-TN), introduced the Internet Freedom Protection Act, S 1747 IS, on November 19, 1999. This short bill would protect certain individuals' political web sites, sometimes called "fan sites," from regulation by the FEC.

This bill would exempt "any communication or dissemination of material through the Internet (including electronic mail, chat rooms, and message boards) by any individual," provided it is not a paid advertisement, is not paid for, and does not solicit funds for a candidate or political committee. Also, it must be an "opinion of such individual (including an endorsement) regarding a political issue or candidate".

Chronology with Links to Related Materials