FEC Complaint Filed Against Daily Kos

Tuesday, July 24, 2007 at 05:18 PM

An FEC complaint filed Monday by conservative blogger John Bambenek claims that the liberal web site Daily Kos functions as a political action committee and should be subject to disclosure laws and other regulation of its activities.

Bambenek based his complaint on statements by Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas Zuniga and contributing editor Jake McIntyre that the purpose of the site is to put Democrats in office.

"Daily Kos is a website dedicated to electing Democratic candidates to governmental office," McIntyre wrote in a July 10 diary entry posted to the site's front page. "Daily Kos will not endorse or condone non-Democratic candidacies except in those very rare situations ... where there is not a bona fide Democratic candidate running for the office."

Bambenek wrote in his complaint, "They say they exist to get Democrats elected, and therefore fall under the purview of the FEC."

Adam Bonin, an attorney who will represent Moulitsas if the matter comes before the FEC, dismissed the merits of Bambenek's complaint in a Daily Kos post declaring him "wanker of the day."

An advisory opinion issued by the FEC in late 2005 established that blogs which are not funded or controlled by political entities qualify for the "media exemption" to disclosure laws, regardless of their endorsement or support for specific candidates. "If you're not compensated by the campaign, it doesn't count as a contribution to the campaign," he added.

Although Daily Kos functions like a news site and operates independently of political candidates, parties and committees -- two criteria cited for the FEC's media exemption -- the site differs from most political blogs by aggressively raising money for specific candidates and PACs.

In the last three election campaigns, Daily Kos has raised more than $1.9 million in political contributions for Democrats.

For the 2008 election, a Blue Majority fundraising campaign run by Daily Kos and three other liberal sites has raised $72,232 from 1,456 donors for two candidates and BlogPAC, a political action committee cofounded by Moulitsas in 2004.

"We may have re-taken Congress, but our work is by no means done -- in fact, this is just the beginning," states the Blue Majority donation pitch, which is linked in the sidebar of the Daily Kos front page. "Now, we need to support and strengthen our caucus."

In 2006, Daily Kos and two other sites raised $1,544,089 from 14,443 donors for 17 candidates, including Senate victors James Webb and Jon Tester, and BlogPAC.

In 2004, Daily Kos raised $366,947 from 2,235 donors for the "Kos Dozen," 12 Democratic Congressional challengers including Jeff Seeman in Ohio.

In its page urging contributions to Seeman, Daily Kos took credit for making him a viable challenger to Rep. Ralph Regula. "Like many other candidates sprinkled around the nation in a House were the vast majority are non-competitive, Seemann was a nobody going nowhere," it states. "Seemann has been a friend of this site, and it's been gratifying to return the favor."

Reaction to Bambenek's FEC complaint has been harsh across the blogosphere, as you might expect of a complaint that would burden blog with disclosure requirements. The right-wing Red State Project called it a stunt with "zero chance of success."

Eugene Volokh, a blogger and law professor, wrote, "the press exception as the FEC has rightly interpreted it is broad enough to cover blogs, even highly partisan blogs that aim to elect Democrats, just as it covers partisan magazines such as the National Review or The Nation."

Disclosure: In 2005, the author of this piece was a member of an ad network that included Daily Kos, a professional collaboration that crashed and burned.


"...blogs which are not funded or controlled by political entities...

Key word here is funded.

They raise funds, sure. For Dem candidates? uh-huh? ...and?

This makes them a PAC all of a sudden?

1.9 million raised for candidates nationwide isn't even chump change in the real world of PACs and lobbyists. Get real. Who'se freakin' initiative was this again?

John Bambenek


Spud hopes the FEC upholds the special exemption rule here but in this day and age Spud aint counting on nothing. Stay tuned on this one.

Be Well.

Kos is making an impact, obviously, hence the RNC fear and dread, hence the swiftboating tactic coming out. Rethugs cannot play fair, so, they play nasty. I say Kos plays back as nasty, but then, someone's got to!

Both the federal election law (2 USC sections 431 and following) and Bambenek's complaint are very poorly written. So poorly written, in fact, that resolving this could end up costing a whole bunch of time and money.

From Bambenek's complaint, it's impossible to tell what he objects to. There's no mention of any actual fundraising efforts by KOS, only that KOS "provides a gift of free advertising and candidate media services," which Bambenek alleges "amounts to over $1,000 per year."

The 2005 advisory opinion should be enough to overcome the free advertising complaint. But if KOS visitors actually sent campaign contributions directly to KOS (as opposed to the candidates themselves), KOS could have a problem.

One thing is for sure--we need our laws to be much better written. It's a shame that this is the best that congress could do with all that high-paid manpower.