FEC Vice Chair Ann Ravel released a statement on Friday afternoon that included a very unexpected announcement. According to Vice Chair Ravel, who will Chair the agency next year, the FEC “has failed to acknowledge the importance of providing transparency to the public no matter what the medium of political communication. A re-examination of the Commission’s approach to the Internet and other emerging technologies is long overdue.” Loosely translated, the Vice Chair thinks we need more reporting and FEC oversight when it comes to political speech on the internet.
The FEC’s Republican Commissioners countered here.
Washington Times (2)
The Vice Chair, who previously served on California’s campaign finance regulatory body, the Fair Political Practices Commission, refers in her Friday statement to a 2003 report issued by her former agency on internet political practices. That report preceded efforts in California to impose new regulations on internet political speech that focused on the supposed problem of campaign-paid bloggers and reporters. Ravel drove an unsuccessful effort “to require news websites and bloggers to disclose payments received from campaigns and political committees.” She later revised that proposal, and the FPPC adopted new regulations just before Ravel left for the FEC. The Los Angeles Times reported on Ravel’s California regulations here.
UPDATE: Washington Free Beacon: “Republicans on the Federal Election Commission are vowing to fight regulations on online political advocacy that they say would chill free speech and potentially lead to politicized targeting of Internet writers and video-makers. . . . [FEC Chairman Lee] Goodman said the panel’s Republicans are united in their opposition.”
UPDATE: Republican Commissioners ask the public to submit comments on Vice Chair Ravel’s statement regarding further internet regulations.
UPDATE: Vice Chair Ravel’s former colleague at the California Fair Political Practices Commission, law professor Ronald Rotunda has written an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal. Rotunda writes, “Ms. Ravel appears to be dreaming of imposing on the nation what she was unable to impose on California—the regulation of political speech on the Internet. . . . Before Ms. Ravel became chairwoman, the California commissioners investigated whether there was a problem with so-called dark money on the Internet. We held hearings, and the bipartisan group of commissioners found nothing warranting regulation. But Ms. Ravel insisted that there was a problem, and claimed that bloggers admitted to her that they receive undisclosed funding from partisan interests. That sounded ominous, and reporters asked her who these bloggers were. She refused to identify them but asserted, ‘I suspect it is fairly common.’ . . . In the end Democrats and Republicans on the FPPC objected to her proposal, and it never came to a vote.”