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Bloggers lobbying to avoid regulation

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Are bloggers going mainstream?

Web log founders who built followings with anti-establishment postings are now lobbying the establishment to try to fend off government regulation. Some are even working with a political action committee, lawyers and public-relations consultants to do it.

They say they have no choice.

“There’s a certain responsibility I have to help protect the medium. I have the platform, the voice to be able to do so,” said Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, founder of the Web log www.DailyKos.com.

Moulitsas testified Tuesday at a hearing on a Federal Election Commission proposal that would extend some campaign finance rules to the Internet, including bloggers. He urged the FEC to take a hands-off approach.

“We have a democratic medium that allows anyone to have true freedom of the press. We have average citizens publishing their thoughts through research, through journalism, their activism and encouraging others to do the same,” Moulitsas told commissioners.

Moulitsas also is working with a lawyer who volunteered to help bloggers fight new government regulations and whose efforts were promoted in a PR firm press release Monday. Moulitsas is prepared to lobby Congress himself if necessary, and he is the treasurer of BlogPac, a political action committee formed last year by bloggers.

Federal election officials until now have steered clear of Internet oversight, siding with bloggers and other online activists who portray the Web as a laboratory of grass-roots political participation and an outlet for free speech that should develop unhampered by the government.

But online political activity has become increasingly more sophisticated since the FEC last examined it a few elections ago.

Since the 2000 presidential campaign, when Arizona Sen. John McCain made a splash by raising millions online, candidates have raised tens of millions of dollars, and online political ads, consultants and organizing have become commonplace. Political parties and campaigns have added blogging to their Web sites; some online political strategists raise their profiles through blogs, then get hired by campaigns.

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