April 06, 2005

A Correction and a Request for More Information

In my Findlaw column yesterday, I wrote:

    In the last election, a few liberal bloggers did not disclose on their websites that they were being paid as consultants to Howard Dean, and other bloggers did not disclose that they were paid by the John Thune Senate campaign in South Dakota to blog against the re-election of former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle.

Jeff Hauser points out to me that the liberal bloggers in fact did disclose the payments on their site. See for example this discussion on Talk Left about Daily Kos. I regret the error. Apparently, the Thune bloggers did not disclose their role on their blogs.

I'm now interested in the question of how this information was disclosed on the Daily Kos blog. Was there a single statement in a blog post? Did it appear on the home page? On every web page dealing with the paying candidate's election?

(I don't take money from candidates, but I do sometimes work on election law litigation. When I do so, I include a disclosure on the right side of the blog and in each blog post dealing with that litigation.)

I'd like to see disclosure by paid bloggers along the lines of 11 C.F.R. 110.11, which, if applied to paid bloggers, would require something like a statement on each page view that says something to the effect of "Paid for by Smith for Congress, an authorized campaign committee." I don't think a single disclosure or disclosure on the home page is enough because those who follow a link to a particular page on the site won't see the disclosure.

The disclosure is important because readers can more easily judge the credibility of a blogger and blog post knowing the person is getting paid to write on the topic.
UPDATE: A number of readers have sent me examples of Kos's prominent disclosure (see, for example, here in the upper left). There are also some interesting posts on the Election Law listserv here, here, and here.

Posted by Rick Hasen at April 6, 2005 08:25 AM