FEC Republicans Allow Public a Chance to Comment on Free Speech on the Internet

Wednesday, the Federal Election Commission approved a draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Internet Communication Disclaimers and the Definition of "Public Communication":

The Commission approved a Draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking requesting comment on two alternative proposals to amend its regulations concerning disclaimers on public communications on the internet that contain express advocacy, solicit contributions, or are made by political committees. The approved draft notice also requests comment on proposed changes to the definition of “public communication.” Comments must be received on or before 60 days after the date of publication in the Federal Register. The Commission will hold a public hearing on this notice on June 27, 2018.

Thanks to the steadfast defense of the First Amendment and the rule of law by the Republican FEC commissioners, the Democrat commissioners have not be successful in their efforts to expand and change the rules regarding Internet advertising ex post, in response to complaints about Internet activities that are clearly legal and/or unregulated under the FEC's current regulations and policies.    The FEC Democrats have, at times, also supported unrealistic requirements that would make disclaimers take up the entirety of small Internet ads (such as those on Twitter or mobile devices).  

Through the efforts of the Republican commissioners, the FEC is going about regulating this important area in the correct way, through notice and comment rule making with ample opportunity for the regulated community and interested parties to speak on the issue and with plenty of notice to the regulated community on any changes in the rules.  All along, the Republican commissioners have supported a reasonable, common-sense approach to regulating Internet communications that protects the public's interests and comports with the goals of campaign finance regulation while taking into account the constraints and opportunities provided by changes in technology, all while protecting the political speech rights of Americans.

The RNLA will provide in-depth analysis of the proposals in this NPRM in the coming weeks.  But its very existence is a testament to the leadership of Chair Caroline Hunter, Commissioner Matthew Petersen, former Commissioner Lee Goodman, and the many Republican FEC commissioners who have gone before them.