What bloggers say isn't an issue, but should voters know if political campaigns are paying them? State officials are taking a go-slow approach.

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The rapid growth of political blogs and Web sites has attracted the attention of state elections officials, who are considering what, if any, new regulations should be imposed on the Internet.

The go-slow approach by the state Public Disclosure Commission (PDC), which collects candidates’ financial information and enforces elections laws, is applauded by most bloggers and campaign experts, though some say policing the Internet is unnecessary and all but impossible.

As early as this month, the PDC may consider new political communication regulations, with much of the discussion likely to focus on whether to extend federal rules governing the Internet to local races.

“Are we going to regulate what bloggers say? No,” said Jane Noland, one of five commissioners. “We are not interested in regulating speech.”

Last year, after a series of hearings, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) released new measures for presidential and congressional races that were heralded by advocates of limited government regulation.

The FEC said bloggers do not have to reveal payments directly from political campaigns, but the campaigns must disclose such payments as expenditures. Unpaid political activity on the Internet did not have to be reported as a free contribution to a campaign. Paid advertisements by candidates and parties on Web sites must be disclosed, just the same as with traditional media.

Federal action was spurred by the exponential increase in political Web traffic.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project found that for 15 percent of American adults, the Internet was the primary source for campaign news in the 2006 election. About 20 percent of those online users visited blogs, international news Web sites or candidates’ Web sites.

While blogs are often partisan, there are few examples of financial connections between the bloggers and the candidates they support.

Markos Moulitsas, founder of the pro-Democrat Daily Kos site, which attracts about 500,000 daily visitors, ran a voluntary disclosure on his blog’s masthead when he had a financial relationship with Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean.

In 2004, a group of conservative bloggers attacked incumbent Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle in South Dakota, who lost to GOP challenger John Thune. After the election, Thune’s campaign filed disclosure reports with the FEC indicating that his campaign had paid the bloggers.

Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies, a Los Angeles-based political research group, has not seen widespread abuses on the Internet, although that may change.

At the moment, however, the FEC didn’t want to curtail the growth of new technology, and that’s the right approach, at least for now, Stern said.

“Everyone recognizes that the Internet is the new kid of the block, so let’s go slow. Let’s not overregulate,” he said.

Stefan Sharkansky, who developed Sound Politics, a local blog with a conservative perspective, participated in a PDC panel discussion Aug. 15 on possible regulations.

He said the current disclosure laws are adequate to police the Internet, though he applauded the FEC’s moves, which generally left the Internet alone.

“I don’t see any need [for state rules],” Sharkansky said. “There’s nothing unique about the Internet that’s not covered in regulation for other media. It’s chasing ghosts.”

Alex Fryer: 206-464-8124 or afryer@seattletimes.com