After backing down amid concerns she wanted to regulate political speech, and even new sites like the Drudge Report, the chairwoman of the Federal Election Commission has renewed talk about targeting campaign and political activities on the internet.
Ann M. Ravel, discussing election regulation during a speech in New York, suggested it was time to produce "thoughtful policy" targeting internet political activity. She also expressed frustration that her last bid was met with "threatening misogynist responses to me."
She was speaking at a day-long conference hosted by the Brennan Center for Justice, the New York City Campaign Finance Board, and the Committee for Economic Development when she was asked about regulating the internet, Google and Facebook.
Ravel said that it would be under the "purview" of the FEC to oversee internet political activities such as fundraising and donations.
Her speech was just posted on YouTube.
Under current rules, the FEC regulates paid campaign ads on the internet just like they do on TV. However, videos or other social media posted for free are not regulated.
When the Democrats on the FEC first raised the possibility of regulations, opponents feared they were going to target conservative groups, activities and news sites. A proposal to delve into the issue died in a 3-3 vote.
Republican Commissioner Lee E. Goodman, the previous chairman, warned that regulations would silence voices on the internet and that sites with a political bent, even in the media, could face rules requiring them to disclose donors and finances.
But in answering the question this week, Ravel indicated she wants to pursue regulations. "It would be under the purview of the FEC to look at some of the issues that arise in new media and the impact of new media, in particular with respect to disclosure and ensuring that there is no corporate contributions, for example excessive contributions or contributions to a particular candidates for example," she said.
Recalling her past effort, she added, "it would be important for us to talk to technologists, talk to others in the community, and come up with thoughtful policy about the internet and other technological advances that are being utilized for essentially campaign finance purposes."
Question. So what appears to be left of campaign finance regulation applies to traditional media outlets and broadcast outlets, so what is the reach of, can we just have an overview of the reach of the FEC is in terms of private organizations and new media outlets like Google, Facebook, the like, and also is there concern that it's unlikely, but say, Google or Facebook completely impartial regulations about propriety or something that could have a disparate impact on the political arena and silence certain political voices and emphasize others and what could the FEC do to keep the political arena fair and is the FEC sort of in conversation with these organizations.
Ravel. It's a complicated question because clearly there is no prohibition and and it would be under the purview of the FEC to look at some of the issues that arise in new media and the impact of new media, in particular with respect to disclosure and ensuring that there is no corporate contributions, for example excessive contributions or contributions to a particular candidates for example. But I'm saying that with a little bit of carefulness because we have had some issues arise relating to campaigns on the internet and i myself wrote a statement that I thought was fairly innocuous at the time saying that it would be important for us to talk to technologists, talk to others in the community, and come up with thoughtful policy about the Internet and other technological advances that are being utilized for essentially campaign finance purposes. And I was, I should say vilified, and it was said by one of my fellow commissioners that I was trying to censor the internet and as a result there was a barrage of really angry, threatening misogynist reponses to me about it and suffice it to say nothing has happened.Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.