Washington State PDC and the Internet [cr-95/10/16]


Sender: •••@••.••• (Douglas Tooley)

Ms. Diviney's correspondence on election law (attached) is a fairly
straightforward interpretation of existing Washington State PDC
election law.  In spite of the presentation this is not new policy,
rather only an interpretation, and one that has been worked on by
others including myself, the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission,
and the League of Women Voters.  Ms. Diviney's claim of credit for
establishing this policy strikes this author as vain, though harmless.

The assertion however that this is the end of the story should be
viewed with some scepticism.  We need to keep a watchful eye toward
future developments in this arena on all governmental levels, from
municipal to federal.

Most notably missing from this policy is the treatment of the Internet
Service Providers, or ISP's, themselves.  As you are probably aware
different media currently face different regulations.  FCC regulated
media have a set of strict requirements regarding 'equal access'.
Public broadcast media have a similarly strict set of regulations,
while print media are relatively unfettered.  Individual to individual
communication methods such as personal letters and telephone calls are
also regulated, but as I understand it have been successfully
challenged on constitutional grounds.  (If you decide to spend $1000 of
your own money to promote a ballot item by writing letters to your
circle then that ought to be covered as an unregulated first amendment

Internet service providers have not yet been defined as a media and so
face a forthcoming regulatory process.  The connection of the internet
to public resources is also a concern, as there are often strong
restrictions about the use of government facilities in elections.  As
you may be aware many Freenets have some sort of indirect government
connection through local libraries and universities.

I personally am generally an anti-regulatory individual on questions of
speech.  Protections though that insure a fair electoral process are
crucial.  As the net continues to develop influence over political
opinion, potentially even leading to status as a voting medium itself,
these questions are crucial.

Discussing these questions and coming up with procedures we all trust
is crucial.  I'd imagine the bulk of this debate will occur over the
next 5-10 years in a variety of forms.  The actual community ownership
model/distributed rights approach used in the evolving internet service
market will likely be the single largest variable factor in deciding
the outcome, perhaps only second to pricing mechanisms.

The interpretation of PDC law provided by Ms. Diviney is clear and a
great place to start.  (Like the complete lack of ambiguity in the
recent PDC violations by Seattle School District officers.)  Her
policies also have relevance to ISP's who have clients who undertake
this activity.  But again there are many areas where illumination is
just beginning to appear and let us not pre-judge the future nor
discount it, some of which Ms. Diviney touches on herself.


In article <•••@••.•••>,
•••@••.••• says...
  Certainly worth repeating ...
  In article <•••@••.•••>, •••@••.••• (Pat Diviney)
  > New policy from the State Public Disclosure Commission regarding
  > candidates, their supporters and homepage policies.
  > Kudos to Sam Gallagher and Herb Effron for both inspiring my search
  > thus providing the impetus to the PDC to make this new policy.
  > I recently received a letter from R.S. Peterson of the Washington
  > PDC which stated their position concerning campaigning on the
  > Here is quoted the relevant portion of that letter:
  > "A *candidate* who has their own home page would assume a reporting
  > obligation if that home page contains campaign related information
  > stance on issues, solicitations, campaign events, etc.).
  > An *individual* (non-candidate) who has their own home page and
  > a hypertext link or other inconsequential information regarding the
  > candidate of their choice, would not have a reporting obligation.
  > Incidental in-kind contributions -- those in-kind donations that
  > singly or in conjunction with other in-kind donations, from the same
  > contributor do not exceed $25 in value -- do not need to be reported
  > added into the contributor's contribution total.  This means, for
  > example, that someone could allow the campaign to use his or her
  > conference room, copier, make a couple of local calls on the
  > contributor's telephone or have a hypertext link or a diminutive
  > of candidate information on their homepage without incurring a
  > contribution.  Obviously, since little things have a way of adding
up, if
  > someone frequently provides the campaign with small items or
services, a
  > record had best be kept so that it will be apparent if the $25
  > is reached.
  > Moreover, if an individual's homepage contains significant campaign
  > information or undertakes campaign activity on behalf of the
  > the individual would need to determine the fair market value of this
  > contribution.  This is to say, if an individual's homepage is four
  > long and one page is accorded for the benefit of a candidate for
  > purposes, the law would require the individual to divide the total
  > of whatever they are charging for their homepage by four.  This
  > would then be the fair market value assigned for this in-kind
  > contribution by the individual to the candidate for providing this
  > or service to the campaign.
  > The purpose of this letter is to address the concerns you brought to
  > attention.  The Internet is a new, exciting piece of technology with
  > unrealized potential.  We anticipate additional questions as
  > and candidates begin to more readily utilize this valuable
  > Here endeth the lesson.
  > He also gave a phone number by which he or others at the PDC may be
  > reached:  (360) 753-1111
  > --
  >               Pat Diviney - •••@••.••• - Graduate Student
  >               Dept. of History      Pacific Lutheran University
  Herb Effron                                           Seagopher, Inc.
  •••@••.•••                            •••@••.•••
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 Posted by Andrew Oram  - •••@••.••• - Moderator: CYBER-RIGHTS (CPSR)
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