News & Politics

FEC Commissioner Who Wanted to Regulate Political Speech on Internet Resigns

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

Ann Ravel, who regularly attacked political speech on the internet and sought to regulate it, announced she is resigning from the Federal Election Commission.

In 2014, Ravel, one of three Democrats on the commission, called for “a reexamination of the commission’s approach to the internet and other emerging technologies.” This was widely interpreted to mean that she wanted the FEC to regulate political speech on the internet.

Two years ago, Ravel made her intentions clear in a statement:

CNS:

“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 alone. As a matter of policy, this simply does not make sense,” Ravel said.

However, the commission’s three Republican members – Lee Goodman, Caroline Hunter, and Matthew Petersen – responded to Ravel’s comments in a joint statement.

“Despite the Internet’s growing importance as a tool for all citizens to engage in political debate, and notwithstanding this Commission’s promise to take a ‘restrained regulatory approach’ with respect to online political activity, [Ravel] apparently believes the time has come to impose greater regulation on political speech over the Internet,” the group wrote.

According to Commissioner Goodman, who served as chairman of the FEC last year, regulation of content placed on the Internet is a very real possibility.

“The commission has seen proposals to regulate even issue advocacy referencing federal candidates that is disseminated on the Internet,” Goodman told CNSNews.com.

“That could reach YouTube videos, blogs, and websites like [the] Drudge Report,” he warned.

Thankfully, Ravel’s schemes were thwarted by the three GOP members of the commission. But it’s interesting to note that following that dust-up with the commission, Ravel began to mail it in.

The Washington Free Beacon reports:

Ravel has also been a no-show from FEC public meetings in recent months, phoning it in from California after being passed up for the attorney general spot in the state. During one meeting, Ravel seemed so distant that the Democratic chair of the commission asked if she was awake.

Despite Ravel’s absence from the meetings, she attempted to call for a special meeting that would allow a vote on whether or not she could attend a foreign-funded junket to Ecuador to observe their elections.

After being contacted by the Washington Free Beacon seeking comment on the demand, Ravel’s special counsel said that Ravel had reversed her decision to participate in the trip. If Ravel did not rescind her demand and the trip were approved, she would currently be in Ecuador.

“Ravel had become a frequent no-show at Commission meetings since late last year, phoning into 4 public meetings (one from a train) and completely skipping two executive sessions in January,” a source close to the Commission said in an emailed statement. “That did not stop her, however, from requesting a special meeting to obtain Commission approval to travel to Ecuador, at foreign expense, a request she later withdrew after the Free Beacon wrote about the matter.”

By law, President Trump must name a Democrat to replace Ravel. Tradition dictates that the president ask the Democratic minority to name a replacement, but Trump is under no obligation to agree.

Given Trump’s criticism during the campaign of wealthy donors controlling the electoral process, it’s likely that the president will name a commissioner less in tune with the GOP than many on the right would prefer.

Given the gridlock on the commission, it probably doesn’t matter whom the president names – just as long as Trump doesn’t saddle us with another commissioner like Ravel with authoritarian urges and an irresistible desire to regulate speech.