Blog Summit, day 2.

I’ve just gotten home from the second and final day of the 2006 Summit on Blogging and Democracy in the Commonwealth. I had a wonderful time. It was great to see so many people that I haven’t seen since last year’s event, and it was particularly great to make so many new friends.

We Charlottesville bloggers invited everybody to breakfast at Bodo’s, and at least a few dozen of us convened on the spot at 8:15. It was great to see such an unusual mix of people sitting and sharing breakfast in the morning sun — people of ages and backgrounds and partisan affiliations that would never meet were it not for their common trait of political blogging.

Gordon Morse and F.T. ReaA pair of workshops started off the formal part of the day, one being Chris Piper and Claire Guthrie Gastañaga’s presentation on campaign finance law and the other being Josh Wheeler, Sean O’Brien and Shaun Kenney’s presentation on blogging ethics. I spent most of my time sitting in the ethics discussion, which was a lot of fun. The audience got pretty fired up, and they explored some really pertinent topics (not just all ethereal stuff) that will leave me thinking about them for a while. I looked in on the campaign finance presentation for a bit, and I was extremely impressed. Clearly things have changed a lot in the world of campaign finance since last year, and I speculate that I may have violated campaign finance law, based on what I learned. I believe that they’re going to make the slides available for download; anybody who was not at that workshop would do very well to spend some quality time looking through those when they become available. I know I will.

The next pair of panels was journalism and community. I was on the community panel, along with Debra Weiss and David Waldman. The journalism panel consisted of Gordon Morse, F.T. Rea and Danny Glover. I was disappointed to have to miss that discussion, doubly so when I learned after the fact that Mike Shear was drafted onto the panel when he entered the room halfway through the discussion. The community panel was great. The audience for that was half of the size of the journalism panel, so we had everybody sit down up close and turned it into an intimate conversation about how and why a blog becomes an online community, and how that can benefit readers, bloggers, and the community at large. I learned quite a bit from Debra and David, to say nothing of our audience.

Mike Shear and Jesse FergusonFinally, we headed for the last item on the agenda: lunch. It was every bit as tasty as dinner last night. Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling spoke for about fifteen minutes, followed by a half hour (or so) talk by Michael Shear. Though I enjoyed Lt. Gov. Bolling’s comments (and I appreciated that he was able to stick around for the rest of the event, rather than leaving straightaway), I really enjoyed Mike Shear’s talk. He gave a no-holds-barred assessment of blogs and their relationship with the media. Though I’m sure some will be unhappy with his take on where we bloggers are at right now, I think he was spot on.

And that was the end of the program. Many of us hung around for quite some time afterwards, though, with Del. Brian Moran socializing with the attendees and Lt. Gov. Bolling getting to know folks. There were drawn-out goodbyes, some really fascinating discussions between unlikely groups of people, and come 3pm everybody finally cleared out.

I’ve got a lot to chew over after the events of the past 24 hours. I learned a great deal from a good many people. There was so much energy among this group that I’m feeling a little hopped-up right now; I know I should take a nap, but there’s just too much to act on, too many good ideas that were generated by the conversations among the group.

Oh, and I found my camera — somebody grabbed it, thinking it was theirs. All is well.

I’m so grateful to everybody who came, and everybody who spoke and served on workshop panels. The collective knowledge and energy of this bunch is just amazing. There was much talk of those who were not able to be there today, so even if you missed it, don’t worry — we missed you, too.

Vivian Paige and Del. Brian MoranLastly, The Sorensen Institute has podcast a few of the speeches. The remarks made by Attorney General Bob McDonnell, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and Michael Shear are all available as MP3s. No doubt there will be a great many photographs of the affair available soon, too — perhaps a Flickr group is in order?

5:50pm Update: Here’s that Flickr group. I’ve got fourteen pictures up there now, and I hope y’all who attended will add your own pictures.

13 thoughts on “Blog Summit, day 2.”

  1. The event was fantastic, and like Vivian said in the previous post, putting faces to names was fascinating. I just wanted to thank everyone that came, because with every additional participant, the discussions became exponentially better. I look forward to running into these people again at some point in time… Like at the next summit.

  2. I doubt it very seriously. Virginia campaign law is very unrestrictive, as long as there is timely disclosure. Or are you talking about federal, in which case the reference to ‘last year’ is confusing…?

  3. Actually, I’m talking about state law. State campaign finance law was restructured by a series of bills that passed this year. More important, the SBE has been faced with many questions about the relationship between blogs and candidates in the past year, questions that they never had to deal with before, so I imagine that the interpretation of existing law has changed.

    Not having been at that presentation, I’m afraid I’m not equipped with enough information to say anything else. Perhaps a participant can explain further — or the PowerPoint slides will do the trick.

  4. Actually campaign finance law is a bit tricky from what I’ve learned. It is something that political blogs need to become familiar with. Bloggers are an unusual nitch in that most are advocates of issues and/or candidates.

    Virginia state rules lag behind the federal rules. The Feds can provide some guidance for the state in how they have approached this. Basically what is important to understand (from what I found out) is are you an “agent” for a campaign or committee, are you “coordinating” what you publish with a campaign or committee and how much money are you spending advocating for a candidate.

    The rules are becoming more restrictive as of July 1 (for Virginia). The SBE does not have any investigative powers.

    Actual compliance with the law for most should not a problem as far as I can tell. However, what if a political party, PAC or someone with a reserve of cash to burn decides that the political blogs for a particular election cycle is better off shut down as much as it can be? How many bloggers have legal insurance? What would you do if you had a serious law firm that sued you?

    As the rules become more restrictive, it is not so much compliance with the SBE and the Feds (in my estimation) that are a concern, but the potential legal liabilities for bloggers from a politically motivated and funded source. Even if a lawsuit is without any real basis and can be defeated, consider the timing as it relates to a political campaign.

    As bloggers impact to the political process increases, expect corresponding resources to be mounted to counter that impact. You should really take a close look at the new rules being promulgated and it never hurts to have legal insurance of one form or another.

  5. Waldo:

    I’ve included some info on the campaign finance issue on my post re: the summit. It may be helpful (or not?). http://changeservant.blogspot.com/2006/06/2006-va-political-bloggers-conference.html

    Regarding Mr. Kane’s post, I’d really hate for any blogger to think that there is insurance out there to cover alleged campaign finance violations by bloggers. Liability insurance might cover a blogger alleged to have libeled someone if one buys the right policy.

    And, while the State Board of Elections says that it doesn’t have investigative authority, it can and does refer campaign law violations to the Commonwealth’s Attorney for investigation and prosecution and Commonwealth’s Attorneys can investigate such allegations on their own motion (where the allegation amounts to a criminal violation).

    So, it does pay to stay informed and to operate within the law.

    Good news is that the principle responsibility for campaign finance law compliance is on the candidate or the political committee rather than the blogger. So, if you’re paid to blog by a candidate who doesn’t report the expenditure or the in-kind gift of your services, it’s the candidate who’s really in the bullseye not you.

    Claire

  6. Waldo – It was great meeting you. We did have a few 5 second conversations. I have a Digital Rebel too and was relieved when you found yours. I would have cried if I lost mine.

  7. Hey, if mine hadn’t turned up, I would have been a mess. :) I don’t think I could explain it to a non-Rebel owner, but you know: these things are beautiful pieces of technology. Given the company we were in, though, I knew it wouldn’t have been stolen—I could easily see myself having picked up somebody else’s Rebel, thinking it was mine.

Comments are closed.