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Where's the line between political blogging and political journalism?

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Roy Temple

A true-blue donkey, Roy Temple has served as executive director of the Missouri Democratic Party and as Jean Carnahan's chief of staff during her brief stint in the United States Senate.

Temple's blog, Fired Up! Missouri (www.firedupmissouri.com), features political commentary from the left-leaning likes of Carnahan and former U.S. Senator Thomas Eagleton, while also taking assorted potshots at Republicans. Temple says he may use the blog to raise money for state Democrats.

But according to the Federal Election Commission, Temple is not a party operative — he's a journalist. Last month the Washington, D.C., regulatory group quietly granted Fired Up! Missouri a press exemption, which means Temple does not have to report his expenses under campaign finance law.

Campaign finance-reform advocates are unhappy with the decision. They argue it essentially allows Temple's site to act like a political party — without being regulated like one.

"This ruling seems to allow him to solicit donations for candidates and advocate the election of Democratic candidates, in coordination with those candidates," observes Larry Noble, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington, D.C.-based political watchdog group.

"I don't think you can say they qualify for a press exemption without reading press exemptions so broadly that it's hard to see who will not qualify for it."

Temple says he's not in cahoots with the Missouri Democratic Party.

"The issue under the law is whether they exercise control over my Web site, which they do not," he says. "The Missouri Democratic Party can provide their talking points to the Post-Dispatch. It's up to the Post-Dispatch whether they print them. Same thing with me."

Temple compares himself to talk-show pundits: "Sean Hannity was on his show talking about how he was going to give to [New York U.S. Senate candidate Jeanine] Pirro, and urged others to do so as well."

Local right-wing political blogger John Combest supports the FEC's decision, and speculates it will lead to an infusion of cash into sites like Temple's around the country.

"Critics say it's going to encourage political groups and candidates to bankroll operations behind the veil, so to speak," Combest says. "And I think this ruling guarantees that in the 2006 election cycle."

Temple established his site in March. While he won't divulge its traffic, he says it has been successful enough to inspire him to start similar sites in Washington state and Maryland, as well as a national site, Fired Up! America (www.firedupamerica.com). And pundits agree that Temple has motivated state Republicans to launch a copycat site, Right Missouri (www.rightmissouri.com).

John Combest knows something about politically conservative Web sites, with his own johncombest.com collecting thousands of individual viewers each day. But he maintains that Right Missouri needs an overhaul.

"We need an answer to Temple's site that's more than a cheap knockoff," Combest says, specifically disparaging Right Missouri's graphic interface and anonymously authored content.

But Combest says that the FEC ruling gives hope to bloggers from all sides of the political spectrum.

"It helps protect people who are truly journalists and the idea of the citizens' press," he says.

About The Author

Ben Westhoff

Ben Westhoff is the author of the books Original Gangstas, Fentanyl, Inc., and Little Brother: Love, Tragedy, and My Search For the Truth.
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