Strategy Room: Sarah Badawi and Brian Morgenstern on how President Trump will handle open spot on commission.
Real FEC reform would be the opposite of what Ann Ravel and her Democratic colleagues want.
Jeremy Carl writes: When Ann Ravel, a Democratic member of the Federal Election Commission (FEC), announced her intention to resign Sunday, she received, as she has throughout her tenure at the FEC, a surprising amount of news coverage. While her departure may not immediately change the partisan balance of the commission, because traditionally her seat “belongs” to the Democrats, President Trump could upset that calculation if he broke with that tradition and appointed someone more aligned with the GOP (though he is not allowed to pick a registered Republican for the seat).
Ravel had become a minor political celebrity (even earning a Daily Show appearance) on the left by castigating the “deadlock” on the FEC allegedly caused by the GOP members, who wouldn’t go along with Democratic demands for campaign-finance fines.
Ravel’s resignation letter is filled with the same sort of tired Democratic rhetoric on campaign finance, demanding the overturning of Citizens United, pushing for expanded public (i.e., taxpayer) financing of political campaigns, and decrying the evils of “dark money.”
Yet President Trump showed the complete intellectual bankruptcy of the campaign-finance “reform” movement in his stunning presidential-election victory. According to the FEC’s own data, among large donors ($2,000+), Hillary Clinton out-raised Trump $175 million to $27 million, a ratio of 6.5 to 1. Despite this, and the almost unanimous support she enjoyed from our media and cultural elites, Clinton couldn’t defeat Trump. Furthermore, Bernie Sanders, an eccentric and aging socialist with no establishment backing, came close to beating Hillary in the Democratic primary despite being outspent among those same $2,000+ donors by a ratio of more than 50 to 1.
Meanwhile, in one of the most remarkable yet least reported facts about the 2016 campaign, Jeb Bush, who entered the race to a wave of publicity before going out with a whimper early in the GOP primary, raised essentially as much ($26 million) in his brief campaign from those $2,000+ donors as Trump did from this group during the entire primary and general-election cycle. Read the rest of this entry »
Mr. Rotunda is a law professor at Fowler Law School, Chapman University, the co-author, with John Nowak, of “Treatise on Constitutional Law” (Thomson Reuters, fifth edition, 2013), and a former commissioner of the California Fair Political Practices Commission (2009-13).
Ronald D. Rotunda writes: What Talleyrand once said of French royalty applies to Ann Ravel, the vice chairwoman of the Federal Election Commission: She has “learned nothing and forgotten nothing.” Ms. Ravel appears to be dreaming of imposing on the nation what she was unable to impose on California—the regulation of political speech on the Internet.
“The First Amendment protects freedom of speech and of the press equally—and the government cannot constitutionally discriminate against some forms of speech in favor of others.”
[Check out Ronald D. Rotunda’s book “Constitutional Law: Principles and Policies, 4th Edition” from Amazon]
In April 2012, when Ms. Ravel was chairwoman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission (a state agency comparable to the FEC) and I was a commissioner, she announced that the commission would issue regulations governing political speech on the Internet. The rules, she said, would even govern bloggers outside the state. Californians raised a fuss and her efforts got nowhere.
“The Federal Election Commission exists solely to protect the public against potential corruption of public officials. It has no authority to regulate pure political speech, which is what the Web does: It disseminates pure political speech.”
Now she’s back, and in a more powerful position in Washington. The FEC already regulates paid Internet advertising, but free Internet posts are exempt from campaign-finance regulations. On Oct. 24 Ms. Ravel stated that in doing so “the Commission turned a blind eye to the Internet’s growing force in the political arena.” She said that a “re-examination of the Commission’s approach to the Internet and other emerging technologies is long overdue,” and vowed to hold hearings next year on the matter—a clear hint that the goal is to remove the regulatory exemption for free online political speech. Read the rest of this entry »