Tags: Exclusive Interviews | Media Bias | MidPoint | Internet | campaigning | rules

FEC Chairman: Panel Dems Want to Curb Online Political Speech

By    |   Wednesday, 29 October 2014 05:40 PM

An inborn distaste for unregulated political speech in a medium that has few boundaries is prompting Democrats on the Federal Election Commission to demand "ominous" new rules for campaigning on the Internet, says the commission's Republican chairman.

Lee Goodman — who heads the six-member bipartisan panel that enforces U.S. rules on political spending — told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner on Newsmax TV on Wednesday that FEC Democrats see how freely political speech flows on the Internet, and it makes them highly uncomfortable.

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"The Democrats are concerned about any realm of human endeavor that becomes successful without government regulation," said Goodman.

The FEC's Democratic commissioners picked this fight, says Goodman, based on their objections to a pair of videos critical of President Barack Obama.

The clips from a conservative group called America Rising were aimed at Ohioans but were posted only on YouTube, where anyone could access them.

Commissioners deadlocked 3-3 along partisan lines last week on whether to force America Rising to identify who paid for the videos. A tie vote means no action is taken.

But the FEC's Democratic vice chairman, Ann M. Revel, followed up on Friday with a formal opinion declaring, "A re-examination of the commission's approach to the Internet and other emerging technologies is long overdue."

Revel will lead the panel next year, under the FEC's rotating chairmanship. She plans hearings on the measure that would exempt most Internet political messaging from donor-disclosure rules that cover print and broadcast ads, the Washington Examiner reported.

"Some of my colleagues seem to believe that the same political message that would require disclosure if run on television should be categorically exempt from the same requirements when placed on the Internet," Revel wrote. "As a matter of policy, this simply does not make sense."

Goodman argued on "MidPoint" that ideology, not policy, is what's really bugging Revel.

Citing a Pew poll that found half the country now uses the Internet as its primary source of political information, Goodman said, "The liberal perspective [is that] government abhors a regulatory vacuum."

"And so, because this type of speech has become robust and effective," said Goodman, FEC Democrats have decided it must be regulated.

"The problem with that is, we have no constitutional authority at the Federal Election Commission to regulate speech solely because it's effective," he said, adding, "We can only regulate large expenditures and contributions to candidates in order to protect the system against potentially corrupt politicians."

"But if we start regulating all of this populist political commentary on the Internet, we will be regulating low-cost free speech," he said. "We will be regulating speech, and not expenditures for speech."

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Goodman called it "folly" to send regulators into this wide-open medium.

"The Internet has facilitated hundreds of thousands of voices on a level playing field, and the specter of the federal government starting to regulate thousands of websites and YouTube postings and videos and chat rooms and podcasts and webcasts — and all of those ways in which the American people communicate over the Internet — is truly an ominous suggestion," he said.

"I can't imagine a regulatory regime where bureaucrats in a room in Washington, D.C., cull the Internet daily to see who's posting political commentary . . . and then [investigate] how much they spent on their website or how much they spent on producing their YouTube posting.

"Government needs to know when to leave well enough alone," said Goodman, "and that's what I'm vowing to do."

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An inborn distaste for unregulated political speech in a medium that has few boundaries is prompting Democrats on the Federal Election Commission to demand "ominous" new rules for campaigning on the Internet, says the commission's Republican chairman.
Internet, campaigning, rules, Democrats
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2014-40-29
Wednesday, 29 October 2014 05:40 PM
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