Democrats on the Federal Election Commission (FEC) signaled Wednesday that they are prepared to forge ahead with new regulations on bloggers and others using the Internet to support candidates and influence public policy, the Washington Examiner reports.
Supporters of Internet regulation urged the encouraged the FEC to put together new rules to require even third-party internet-based groups to reveal donors, a move that would reverse a 2006 decision to keep the agency’s hands off the Internet.
The Washington Post's Dana Milbank
portrayed the atmosphere inside the hearing room as circus-like, with witnesses rambling on aimlessly about the "1 percent" who really control U.S. elections. One woman blamed unregulated "dark" money in politics for her fiance's death from taking an anti-psychotic medication that should not have been on the market.
Others railed against Sarah Palin and the Koch brothers or spouted gauzy platitudes about "justice, peace, humanity, productivity."
While the atmosphere inside the hearing room sometimes verged on the farcical, the key issue being discussed – giving the commission authority to regulate Internet speech – was no joke.
Ellen L. Weintraub, a Democratic FEC commissioner, said that three-fourths of the 32,000 public comments the panel received "thought that we need to do more about money in politics, particularly in the area of disclosure. And I think that's something that we can't ignore."
But former Republican FEC Chairman Bradley Smith warned that if the agency actually went ahead with plans to regulate the Internet – including widely read news sites like the Drudge Report – it would be deluged with negative comments.
FEC Chairwoman Ann Ravel has said she wants to regulate politicking on the Internet, and many conservatives and libertarians think she should be taken at her word.
"Regulation of the internet has not gone away inside the commission, it has just gone underground,” FEC Commissioner and former Chairman Lee Goodman said in an interview with HotAir.com.
“Three Democratic commissioners continue to vote to maintain regulatory authority over Internet commentary in a case-by-case basis in the enforcement process," Goodman said.
"That's not very transparent to the American people. That's why I have an obligation to call them out."
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