When I took out papers to run for the U.S. Senate in California, I figured I would probably have to give up blogging for this magazine. I couldn't quite see what would be wrong with it, but it's just not something that's done at a respectable news organization like the Washington Post Company (which owns Slate
). A few web commenters likewise
assumed that a "lack of comfort"
or Post Co. would kill the idea.
In the event, that's not how it turned out. My Slate editors were actually quite willing to keep me on to write what would in effect be the Diary of a Longshot. The hangup was me. In part the problem was legal, but mostly it was a purely practical calculation that made me decide to take the blog off Slate (though I reserve the right to come crawling back).
First, the legal hangups. There seem to be two big campaign finance issues surrounding a candidate blog on a magazine like Slate . One is whether by letting me use its valuable real estate, Slate would in effect be giving me an illegal in-kind campaign contribution. Both my editors and I believe the answer should be "no," and that we would eventually prevail in court on First Amendment grounds if we were challenged. (Is it an illegal campaign contribution to let a candidate write an op-ed? To endorse a candidate in an editorial? That's all valuable publicity, worth many thousands of dollars. But it's speech. So is giving a candidate a blog.)
The second issue was whether if I was paid to blog it would be an illegal cash contribution from S late to me. The relevant Federal Election Commission regulation, at 11 CFR 113.9 (g) (6) (iii) (A), requires that any compensation result "from bona fide employment that is genuinely independent of the candidacy." Would it be "independent" of the candidacy if I were blogging about the candidacy (even if I'd previously been blogging about other things)? Interesting case!** I can't afford an interesting case, even if the Washington Post Company can. In order to avoid that interesting case, I would always be blogging with an eye over my shoulder, worrying I might annoy the F.E.C. by, say, asking for money. Or votes.
But the main reason I concluded I had to take the blog "private" had nothing to do with these arcane legalities. It's simply this: I'm going to start a campaign web site, and the only reason anybody might go to it is if the blog is there. So I'm moving the blog there.
You'll still be able to get to the blog by going to www.kausfiles.com . That URL will simply no longer take you to Slate . It will probably initially take you to an inexpensive blog page. Then, if all goes according to plan in the well-oiled machine that is the Kaus campaign, it will take you to an inexpensive state of the art political site that will both harbor the blog and, yes, harness the power of social media on behalf of intra-party dissent. [ Tap into Tea Party anger?--ed Maybe some of that too]
**--There's an argument that paying a blogger could open the door to corruption, the way "paying" House Speaker Jim Wright by buying copies of his book opened the door to corruption. But this ignores the modern reality that politics -- including official, partisan politics--is often a good way for the press to make money these days. A TV network or newspaper would be financially foolish not to hire Sarah Palin to write or talk about her activities, even if she were a declared candidate. Palin brings viewers, and advertisers, and dollars. Why shouldn't Fox pay Palin thousands if it's making money off her, as opposed to donating money to her?