FEC to Review Campaign Activity on the Internet

(November 8, 1999.) The FEC is examining what kinds of political activity on the Internet it will consider to be campaign contributions or subject to reporting requirements. Meanwhile, several Senators introduced a bill that would exempt certain individuals' political web sites from FEC regulation.

Related Pages
Tech Law Journal Summary of FEC proceeding regarding campaign activity and the Internet.
FEC Notice of Inquiry, 11/1/99.

The Federal Election Commission (FEC), which is the federal agency charged with enforcing federal campaign finance laws, issued a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) that it will examine issues raised by the use of the Internet to conduct campaign activity.

The NOI was issued on November 1, and published in the November 5 issue of the Federal Register (Volume 64, Number 214, Pages 60360-60368).

The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (FECA) requires candidates, parties and PACs to file disclosure reports regarding their election-related activity. It also imposes restrictions and limitations on the amounts that may be contributed to candidates, parties and PACs by individuals, corporations, labor organizations and other committees.

The NOI states that the FEC "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 deadline for comments is January 4, 2000.

The scope of the inquiry includes the use of web sites and other Internet technologies, including e-mail and discussion groups, by candidates, campaign workers, individuals, news media, corporations, unions, and organizations.

Related Pages

Tech Law Journal Summary of S 1747.
Text of S 1747 IS, 10/19/99.

However, while the FEC is considering how to regulate the political activity on the Internet, some members of Congress have introduced legislation to limit the authority of the FEC.

On October 19, 1999, Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT), Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT), and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-TN) introduced a bill that would amend FECA by exempting certain individuals' web sites. These sites are also sometimes referred to as "fan sites".

Sen. Bob

The Internet Freedom Protect Act, S 1747 IS, 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".