Online political speech once again under attack by FEC

Democratic Party commissioners on the Federal Election Commission are once again going after online political speech, looking to blow up the internet and squelch political views they disagree with.

What they are advocating is nothing less than a revolution in how citizens receive information on politics and government from the internet. 

Washington Free Beacon:

Democratic Federal Election Commissioner Ann Ravel moved this week to deny a conservative nonprofit group legal protections that exempt most online political communications from federal political spending limits and disclosure laws.

Experts say the move is an attempt to undermine the “internet exemption,” as the provision is known, without going through normal legislative and regulatory processes. In effect, they say, Ravel was denying legal protections to the group simply because she disagrees that those protections should exist.

Ravel’s move came as the FEC weighed a complaint against the Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America, a conservative nonprofit that ran television ads last year attacking Sen. Rand Paul’s (R., Ky.) support for the nuclear deal with Iran.

The FEC’s six commissioners unanimously ruled that the group’s failure to report expenditures associated with the ads did not violate federal law, since they focused on a legislative issue and did not call for the election or defeat of a political candidate.

However, the commissioners split on a separate question. In its legal analysis, the FEC’s general counsel noted that four YouTube videos cited in the complaint against the foundation would have been legally permissible even if they had engaged in “express advocacy.”

Under federal campaign finance laws, people and organizations that engage in “uncompensated” online political communications that would otherwise trigger disclosure requirements do not need to report those communications to the FEC.

The foundation’s YouTube videos “would likely be exempt from the Commission’s independent expenditure reporting requirements under the Commission’s regulations, which exempt the costs associated with uncompensated ‘internet activity’ from the definition of ‘expenditure,’” the general counsel explained.

That analysis never made it into the commission’s official findings. All three Democratic commissioners voted against adopting the general counsel’s analysis.

According to Ravel, the sticking point was the section relating to the internet exemption. Ravel, in a statement on the vote, called on the FEC to reconsider the exemption, which she has previously opposed, but she did not deny that it exists or that it exempted the foundation’s communications from regulations on television or paid internet advertising.

That earned a rebuke from the commission’s three Republicans, who called Ravel’s statement “a familiar, if tired, refrain [that] fails to justify a public official’s failure to apply well-established law adopted unanimously by a fully-apprised Commission in 2006.”

This is absolutely chilling and not unexpected.  The only form of media where conservatives compete on a roughly equal basis with the left is online.  Destroying that rough equality would harm liberal online publications as well but leave the vast leftist-dominated mainstream media untouched.  We'd be back to a media universe as it existed in the 1980s.  With the exception of talk radio – itself under attack with threats to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine conservative voices would be stilled.

While the Commission is split 3-3 between Democrats and Republicans, the staff is hired by the party that holds the White House.  As we have seen, the FEC staff has the power to set the agenda and recommend action.  Needless to say, if Clinton wins the White House, that power will be used to silence her critics.

Democratic Party commissioners on the Federal Election Commission are once again going after online political speech, looking to blow up the internet and squelch political views they disagree with.

What they are advocating is nothing less than a revolution in how citizens receive information on politics and government from the internet. 

Washington Free Beacon:

Democratic Federal Election Commissioner Ann Ravel moved this week to deny a conservative nonprofit group legal protections that exempt most online political communications from federal political spending limits and disclosure laws.

Experts say the move is an attempt to undermine the “internet exemption,” as the provision is known, without going through normal legislative and regulatory processes. In effect, they say, Ravel was denying legal protections to the group simply because she disagrees that those protections should exist.

Ravel’s move came as the FEC weighed a complaint against the Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America, a conservative nonprofit that ran television ads last year attacking Sen. Rand Paul’s (R., Ky.) support for the nuclear deal with Iran.

The FEC’s six commissioners unanimously ruled that the group’s failure to report expenditures associated with the ads did not violate federal law, since they focused on a legislative issue and did not call for the election or defeat of a political candidate.

However, the commissioners split on a separate question. In its legal analysis, the FEC’s general counsel noted that four YouTube videos cited in the complaint against the foundation would have been legally permissible even if they had engaged in “express advocacy.”

Under federal campaign finance laws, people and organizations that engage in “uncompensated” online political communications that would otherwise trigger disclosure requirements do not need to report those communications to the FEC.

The foundation’s YouTube videos “would likely be exempt from the Commission’s independent expenditure reporting requirements under the Commission’s regulations, which exempt the costs associated with uncompensated ‘internet activity’ from the definition of ‘expenditure,’” the general counsel explained.

That analysis never made it into the commission’s official findings. All three Democratic commissioners voted against adopting the general counsel’s analysis.

According to Ravel, the sticking point was the section relating to the internet exemption. Ravel, in a statement on the vote, called on the FEC to reconsider the exemption, which she has previously opposed, but she did not deny that it exists or that it exempted the foundation’s communications from regulations on television or paid internet advertising.

That earned a rebuke from the commission’s three Republicans, who called Ravel’s statement “a familiar, if tired, refrain [that] fails to justify a public official’s failure to apply well-established law adopted unanimously by a fully-apprised Commission in 2006.”

This is absolutely chilling and not unexpected.  The only form of media where conservatives compete on a roughly equal basis with the left is online.  Destroying that rough equality would harm liberal online publications as well but leave the vast leftist-dominated mainstream media untouched.  We'd be back to a media universe as it existed in the 1980s.  With the exception of talk radio – itself under attack with threats to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine conservative voices would be stilled.

While the Commission is split 3-3 between Democrats and Republicans, the staff is hired by the party that holds the White House.  As we have seen, the FEC staff has the power to set the agenda and recommend action.  Needless to say, if Clinton wins the White House, that power will be used to silence her critics.